Ever see a bear and a shark get into a fistfight? Me neither, but it makes my beard grow just thinking about it. Why you ask? Because it’s manly. As manly as doing push-ups at a monster truck rally; manly as drinking a quart of motor oil before getting into a bare-knuckle brawl; manly as a mustache that doesn’t take no for an answer.
Unless you’ve been living under a pink rock lately, you’ve probably noticed a plethora of chest-beating manly men taking over the pop culture scene. Our televisions have turned into scenes of man dominating piles of food, man wrasslin’ alligators and man making mother nature his bitch. Music has been taken over by bearded bands named after bite-happy animals, belting songs about campfires and whiskey. People, REAL LIVE PEOPLE, have been participating in Mustache March, Facial Hair February, Cinco de Mustache, Mo’vember… whatever excuse is needed to grow something manly upon their face. The man is here and he’s got quite the pair on him.
So where did this need for testosterone come from? What are brands doing to strut their stuff? Where does it go from here? Rest your weary head, little boy… it’s time to become a man.
A large heave of manliness stems from the re-emergence of the blue-collar lifestyle among young adults. Generation Y is becoming more interested in an earlier era in America’s history when hands actually got dirty, computers were from the future and being a man’s man was a way of life. This refurbished blue-collar resurgence embraces a mix of values from your Grandpa’s “General Store” generation, the ruggedness of a logger and the coolness of James Dean flicking his cigarette into the wind. Trades such as butchering, farming, mechanics and carpentry are increasingly more popular among young adults. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Intelligence Group, 48% of Gen Y would rather get their hands dirty than work in front of a computer and 54% would rather learn a skill or trade rather than get an extra degree.
The first brand that really capitalized on the manliness trend was Old Spice. The brand gained a massive audience by taking stereotypes of masculinity, mashing it with absurdity and rolling it into a tight-abbed spokesman package. Whether utilizing Isaiah Mustafa, Terry Crews or Ray Lewis, watching these brosephs serenade your ladyfriend while swan-diving onto a motorcycle in a hot tub was a glorious way to gain loyal brand followers among young adults. Old Spice gained 1.4 billion impressions within the first six months of the campaign according to a case study by Wieden + Kennedy.
Dangerously stealing some of Chuck Norris’ swag, Dos Equis developed The Most Interesting Man in the World. A mix of James Bond and your cool uncle, The Most Interesting Man taps into masculinity by proving to friends and ladies alike just how interesting he is through sage advice and daring adventures. After the launch of the campaign, Dos Equis sales increased enough to become the fastest growing beer import in the country according to Dos Equis Brand Manager, Ryan V. Thompson.
You can see the embrace of a manlier lifestyle branching out from a spokesman into a general manly lifestyle. Nissan created a commercial vehicle for the blue-collar crowd that’s slightly creeper but useful as hell. J.Crew has a new section in their catalog named The Naturals that mixes the lumberjack-look with street style. Blue-collar retreats, where cubicle 9-to-5ers can get their hands dirty, are popping up in the form of Crop Mobs and trade classes. The Etsy revolution has blown up with (manly) artisanal goods from homemade beard face-warmers to beer soap to mustache everything.
But now that the trend has gained massive success for certain brands, a couple late stragglers are trying to cash in. Several men’s body washes have their own version of the manly spokesman pushing product and even Dairy Queen’s new spots are hosted by a mustached fella with a falcon. Many of these late-comers lack in quality execution and because of that, we foresee the demise of the manly spokesman.
Brands across various categories have stolen the backwards-riding horse and are in the process of beating it to death. But while we believe the brand-man parting is inevitable, we DO believe entertainment, social content and online man-shops will continue to thrive.
The blue collar culture shift among Gen Y is becoming a growing way of life and a large chunk of pop culture will continue to cater to this group. Facial hair will never go out of style (just ask my dad) and being a man’s man is an inherent trait men will always covet. A decline in the burly spokesman will happen, but the joys and uniqueness of being a man will stay.
Now go grow a mustache for crying-out-loud, your upper lip looks naked.