Monday, November 17, 2014

They call it a subculture for a reason

This week's silly story is the lumbersexual. Facial hair, plaid shirts and workboots. How a look that could have been seen on any university campus going back to the early 1970s is "new" I can't begin to guess.

We'll ignore the story. Most of it.

I would like to call your attention to this headline from The Daily Beast:
How Straight World Stole ‘Gay’: The Last Gasp of the ‘Lumbersexual’
Now, I could spend a lot of time advancing a detailed argument but I think the only thing needed to make the point that needs to be made is this:
Percentage of gay subculture that is not parasitic on heterosexual culture: 0
Get over yourselves guys. You're not that interesting except to one another. "Hey, look at me, I'm doing the same thing as you only I'm doing it an ironic, campy manner," is not an innovation. 

The gay subculture is a subculture. Like any subculture, it is entirely dependant on the larger culture for its existence. Yes there has been some trends that sprung up in this subculture and spread to the larger culture, but you would expect that. And do a serious comparison with a genuinely influential subculture, say, the impact that California surfer culture, numerically a tiny group compared to gay men, and you can get a grasp on how small the impact of the gay subculture has had on heterosexual men.

In fact, gay men have had a more significant impact on heterosexual women than they have on men. Think of the importance of the gay best friend in the life of chicklit heroines from Carrie Bradshaw on down. Think of the number of gay men who have been influential art directors and photographers at women's magazines. 

Finally, it's telling that the supposed influence gay men have had on male dress is confined to hipsters.

Here's the thing: when men are influenced by a subculture, it's aspirational. Most men take up a look because we aspire to be the thing that goes with the look. Plaid shirts are warm and comfortable. We wear them because we want to be warm and comfortable. We wear suits when we want to be businesslike and athletic clothes when we want to be athletic.

Is there often some delusion at  work? Do men by the clothes that go with some sport (we call it gear) meaning to get serious about it and never do the thing in more than a half-assed way?  Happens all the time. But what doesn't happen in mainstream heterosexual culture is adopting a look simply as a look. The guy who buys aviator glasses sees himself as thereby seeking after some of the virtue we associate with pilots. Go ahead and laugh at us for that if you want because we don't care.

But do note this: the only reason for a man to follow fashion trends set by gay men would be aspirational, because we wanted to be like gay men. That is why urban hipsters do it; they think that adopting these looks proves they aren't homophobic because it shows that they aren't afraid of being associated with the gay subculture. And maybe it does. Me, I think that anyone who'd go to all the trouble to try and prove they aren't afraid of being associated with the gay subculture would only do so because they are afraid. Most men wouldn't, and don't, even think about the issue, which is why the gay subculture has so little impact on our lives.

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