Wellcultured - Well Cultured is a men’s online magazine with advice and reviews on fashion, dating, finances, health, music, movies and many other topics, as well as a robust message board and the Well Cultured Guide, a freely editable community wiki.

Fashionably Surviving Snow

January 29th, 2011

Chances are, if you live in the United States, you’ve been dealing with snow. According to CNN, 49 out of 50 states have had snow, with some areas experiencing over 20 inches.

For the fashion-savvy person, snow is rather annoying. Snow usually requires not only cold weather gear, but also a good amount of weather-proof gear, as walking through snow and salt can absolutely destroy clothing unready for the abuse. Thus, in order to help the many people dealing with snow right now (and to help those who will do so in the future), here are some ideas and tips in order to stay fashionable in the snow.

Boots and other Footwear

By far, the most important thing to worry about when trudging through snow or ice is what to wear on your feet — the right footwear can make all of the difference.

Boots are by far the best choice for going through snow. Because boots cover the ankle (and in taller varieties the lower calf), boots protect more of your legs from cold and wet, which can make a lot of difference when walking outdoors for extended periods of time. Boots also tend to have sturdier soles and construction, allowing them to take much more abuse in bad weather than other shoes. Moreover, boots can also be remarkably fashionable, making them pretty much the ideal winter weather choice. Thankfully, if there was any time to invest in a good pair of boots, it is now — boots are trendy now, meaning there’s a huge variety on the market.

It should be noted, however, that few people actually need legitimate snow boots. Snow boots — lined rubber, leather, or heavy cloth boots with fairly strong soles — are invaluable in bad conditions, but are overkill for most commuters. Because such boots are intentionally large and clunky, they also look rather unattractive. Thus, unless you live in an area where snow and/or ice conditions are truly horrible, snow boots are generally unnecessary.

So what should you look for in a good pair of fashionable but utilitarian winter boots? Here are some ideas:

  • A heavy-duty sole. Soles on shoes take a beating, so don’t skimp on the brand or style. Rubber (or other non-leather) soles are a must. Most legitimate boot makers (Red Wing, Wolverine, etc) have phenomenal soles, but fashion brands (or dressier brands, like Alden) are not made for the abuse snow brings, so keep them in the closet for the winter. Under no circumstances should you wear leather or wooden soled shoes in the snow.
  • Solid, ideally waterproof construction. Cloth boots are pretty useless in the snow, so look for a pair of real leather boots with a well-made upper. True waterproofing is rare, but look for boots that will do their best.
  • Construction made to last. Many good boot manufacturers construct their shoes to last, and typically offer re-soling plans and other maintenance plans for free or for a small charge. If the manufacturer can’t fix their boots, this indicates a lack of craftsmanship that will almost guarantee a short lifespan.
  • An easy-to-clean and easy-to-polish design. Don’t buy anything with an odd or fake design, such as slouch boots or odd colors. Stick with something you can clean off and polish easily — at minimum, you will have to do this every so often in order to clean off water and salt residue.
  • A boot you don’t mind messing up a bit. Under no circumstances should you take $300+ Allen Edmonds boots into the snow. Buy a pair of boots that look nice and are made well (which generally means they will cost more than $100), but boots you won’t feel negligent in abusing. Remember, most boots are made to be worn and abused, not coddled.

Incidentally, if you can’t buy boots for whatever reason, the same rules noted above apply to normal shoes — look for something leather and reasonably waterproof with a sturdy sole.

Staying Warm

Footwear alone won’t save you from the ravages of winter — clothing is incredibly important.

As is the case with snow boots, it’s very unlikely that most people reading this article have a need for legitimate snow gear. While athletic ski brands like The North Face have developed some (inexplicable) popularity, the cold weather gear these brands sell is best suited to sporting and actual athletic use. In most cases, even in heavy snow, “normal” clothing and fabrics will do just fine. In other words, stylish outfits can still be made in order to survive the cold — it’s all about layering and choice.

Some tips and tricks:

  • Layer. Believe it or not, most warm weather clothing can be layered for the winter. For example, while summer weight blazers alone are pretty useless in the winter, when thrown over a sweater they serve as a stylish, slightly warm layer. Certain items, like sweaters, are phenomenal for layering — play around with them as much as possible.
  • Invest in a few good coats. If you live in a cold climate, invest in a few good coats. Because wearing a coat is an absolute necessity in cold weather, variety is nice and assists in outfit construction. At minimum, have one good dressy wool coat. Leather is nice too, but can get somewhat chilly. If you live in an area which has a penchant for nasty wet snow (i.e. half-rain half-snow type stuff), you may want to also purchase a rain coat of some kind.
  • Thicker sweaters are your friend. As I have noted in previous articles, thinner wool or cashmere sweaters are invaluable for layering with a suit; however, these sweaters do poorly in very cold weather. Purchase thick sweaters — while they may not layer quite as nicely, they make up for their size in the sheer amount of warmth they put out.
  • Always have gloves, a scarf, and a hat available. Not only do these articles of clothing keep you warm, but they also can add quite a bit to an otherwise bland outfit. Incidentally, avoid thinner fashion scarves like the thin t-shirt cotton scarves American Apparel sells — buy something substantial.

Other Considerations

Some other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Lug soles don’t exactly prevent slipping and falling much more than flat-soled shoes do. Nonetheless, avoid wearing skate shoes and flat-soled shoes in the snow as much as possible. Shoes like Chuck Taylors lack traction to the point of being ridiculously dangerous. If you wear flat-soled shoes to the gym (as you should if you do olympic lifts), consider swapping out shoes at the gym.
  • Winter weather can easily dry your skin. Even if it’s wet and nasty outside, don’t forget to moisturize — it makes a lot of difference. A humidifier is also a worthy investment.
  • Salt can be removed from pants and other clothing with a little bit of water and, if necessary, dish soap.
  • Wear good, thick socks. Few boots are lined enough to keep your feet warm.
  • Heavy wool and tweed blazers can serve as coats in moderately cold weather.

Dresscode for Clubs

December 17th, 2010

I’ll most probably going out for dinner with a couple of friends next week. It was planned to head to a club afterwards. I’ve not been to a club before and was wondering what the general dress code would be.

While it heavily depends on the club, I can give you a few pointers:

  • More than anything else, know your club. Different clubs have different ways of ascertaining who is dressed properly and who is not. For obvious reasons, metal clubs are going to be fundamentally different than classy jazz club-esque places, so do your research ahead of time. While the rules I’ll be giving apply generally to most clubs, you’ll want to know your audience. One good place to start is pictures of people in the club — see what those around them are wearing.
  • As a general rule, most places that cater to upscale adults tend to have a strict dress policy, and one thing they commonly look at is shoes, so wear good shoes. Don’t feel like you have to wear dress shoes, but avoid sneakers. Despite this rule, wear something that can be abused — people can and probably will step on your feet. A casual, stylish pair of oxfords, boots, or the like will probably suffice.
  • As a caveat to the above, if you’re going somewhere that hipsters or 20somethings wear, the trend is now increasingly shifting to allowing gaudy “fashion sneakers”. Such clubs may be an exception, though you won’t be hurt by wearing good shoes to clubs like this.
  • Lots of clubs now have anti-guido policies, so avoid guido wear. “Guido wear” nowadays usually includes but is not limited to Ed Hardy, True Religion, gaudy polo shirts, lots of man jewelry, bad tans, and the like. This is mostly an American phenomenon, but I’ve heard of overseas places banning the stuff as well. As a general rule, you should remember that as a male you are going to be more heavily scrutinized based upon your looks and behavior, so make sure you don’t give the club a reason to kick your ass out (or bar you from entry in the first place)
  • If I were you, I’d also avoid wearing t-shirts, athletic gear, wifebeaters, or anything like that. Outfits like this may be popular with some guys, but if you are reasonably well dressed you will be treated better and avoid looking like a problem to bouncers.
  • Wear sturdy, dark clothing if you can. Clubs can be dirty, sweaty, and messy. Wear something that won’t stain/be ruined if you sweat a little bit or otherwise have something spilled on you.

If you need a specific idea, I say wear a good pair of dark jeans (nothing nasty/stained, and ideally not heavily faded) with a black or dark-colored button-down and a good pair of black or gray shoes. If you want to wear a suit jacket or something, go for a lighter colored shirt.

Long Hair and Work

April 14th, 2010

Lots of my friends are telling me I should cut my shoulder-length hair before I go looking for a job. Is it that big of a deal?

Pretty much, yes.

In very few fields are you offered the opportunity to look however you want at an entry level position. If you are an artist or some other person in a creative field, you will likely have a lot more freedom as to how you dress. However, unquestionably, if you want to play in other fields — in business, finance, law, real estate, even retail positions — you’re going to have to look relatively normal and conservative. Until you are valuable enough to the world enough where people from your field would hire you if you wandered in without showering wearing stained pajamas, you should accept the fact that you need to play by the “rules” and fit into the mold a bit. As stupid as it is, most people in managerial positions — that is, typically, those over 30 — look down on long hair and other more relaxed looks, as such styles are typically associated with laziness and childishness.

Complain about it all you want, but it’s the truth. On a more aesthetic side, very very few men look good with long hair, and those same men typically look a bit better with shorter hair — you’ll probably improve your looks much more than you think.

That being said, unless you are the next Picasso, cut your hair. The “I want to be original with my hair” battle should not be fought to the detriment of your employ-ability during a recession.

Portrait of a “Pickup Artist” – James Sears

October 16th, 2009

dimitri-1James Sears, AKA “Dmitri the Lover” and born Dimitrious Sarafopoulos, is incredibly famous in the Toronto area as ”[the] world’s greatest lover” and “Canada’s greatest seducer”- both names he’s recently given himself. Alongside his website, dmitrithelover.com, Sears has recently created the Toronto Real Men (TRM) network- a “anti-feminism” club where he charges exorbitant fees to men in the Toronto area for “seduction” classes which can cost around $40 a pop. Naturally, his self-important and often firestarting nature has landed himself in newspapers and websites across North America. On his website, he calls himself everything from “elegant” to “sexy” to even “[a] sexually-obsessed animal”.

Nonetheless, there is something special about James Sears: he’s the best example of a “pickup artist” I’ve ever had. Why? James Sears, AKA “Dmitri the Lover” or “Joseph the Lover” or whatever he wants to call himself, is absolutely, in my professional opinion, insane. Don’t believe me?

James Sears pre-”Dmitri”

James Sears was born in Toronto to a troubled family- allegedly, according to one Toronto Sun article, one parent was an abusive alcoholic, the other struggled with mental illness. In Sears’ own words, “My father was very physically and emotionally abusive. My mother was just a borderline manic, histrionic, dramatic woman, and I did not grow up really understanding what love was”. Despite this troubled history, Sears nonetheless was revealed to be relatively bright, which allowed him to enter the University of Toronto medical school in 1986. During this time Sears also served in the Canadian armed forces.

During Sears’ work in the armed forces, it became remarkably clear that something was wrong with Sears. Initially, it seemingly began with a psychological evaluation of Sears by a Canadian military psychologist, who was called in regarding reportedly “erratic” behavior. It got worse. In 1991, sexual assault allegations regarding Sears’ medical practices began to come into light. According to the accusers, during his work, Sears made “verbal sexual overtures” toward his patients and “sexually assaulted them by attempting to kiss and embrace them”- all during routine checkups. Allegations also emerged that Sears would compulsively masturbate during work by going to the washroom between seeing patients. Sears pled guilty to these allegations in 1992, though he later would note that he felt “pressured” by his lawyer(s). He later appealed these charges, and was subsequently acquitted. Nonetheless, he did not re-acquire his medical license, as the authority on such things in Canada still supposedly found him too much of a live wire. Allegations also emerged during that time that during Sears’ work in the Canadian armed forces, he may have tried to forcibly enter a female officer’s room. Cops allegedly found empty grenade canisters, a stun gun and mace in his room. I cannot personally verify this information.

Essentially powerless without his medical accredidation, Sears immediately took to (relatively) behaving himself with a company that specialized in medical work (which somehow skated around the fact Sears is not an “official” doctor). In 2004, James Sears formally launched the “Toronto Real Men’s Network”, a purportedly “anti-Metrosexual” group supposedly helping men become more “masculine”, allegedly fighting some kind of “feminist alarm”.

TRM Network : The Pitch

The Toronto Real Men’s Network is, well… read it for yourself:

TORONTO REAL MEN AND THE WOMEN WHO LOVE THEM is a community dedicated to de-feminizing the men of Toronto, and encouraging women to become more sexually liberated. Real men are sex hungry studs and real women are bisexual sluts.

062808dimitriYep. It reads like a 12 year old’s concept of a dating manual, but it’s pretty straightforward: TRM has classes run by James Sears (going now by “Dmitri the Lover”) and his “girlfriend”, who provide a variety of courses oriented towards helping Toronto men feel less guilty about wanting to have sex and pushing them towards doing it as much as humanly possible. The selling point, much like other similar organizations, is that “Dmitri the Lover” sells himslf as some sort of dating/sex god, including noting to potential female browsers about his sexual abilities.

According to Dmitri, men are “born murderers and rapists”- and the only way to come to terms with that, to escape societal repression, and to ultimately get laid is to essentially succumb to those desires, at least in a manageable way. This somehow also seems to include not drinking alcohol for some obtuse unknown-to-this-author reason.

Also according to Dmitri, women are born bisexual sluts- meaning, yes, oversexed uncaring sexpots. Of course, much like the “born murderer and rapist” tagline, Dmitri’s concept of escape from the “prison” of societal control is just letting go- and presumably having sex with anything in sight, probably including him.

Naturally, there is a price tag to all of this. Whereas the bulk of what’s online is free, the courses themselves range anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to, of course, a weekend course for $5997.00 or a 5 day course of $97,500.00 (plus tax).

The Analysis

Here’s where I tear James Sears apart.

First off, let me do my traditional thing and create a disclaimer: I don’t personally know Dmitri the Lover. I don’t know James Sears from Adam, beyond the research I’ve done on the man. Realistically, I seriously doubt I would want to physically meet Sears, nor do I feel I would be able to hold a normal, logical conversation with him, medical degree or not. Some information here could very likely be biased by women who, rightly so, hate him enough to exaggerate his ”evil-ness”. However, that being said, court documents and newspapers do not lie, at least for the most part.

James Sears, in my opinion, is insane. Given the above facts, it is not only clear that Sears may possess behavioral issues and impulse control issues, but it is also pretty clear that he’s a misogynistic idiot. The ridiculous attempt at pop psychology Sears endorses is, frankly, vomit inducing. His concept of the world- with hyper dominant men and hyper sexualized women reminiscint of a Boris Vallejo painting- leads one to question the factors that may have led up to this perception of the world, as well as why he feels it necessary for men to hyper-exert their dominance to women.

Realistically, of course, his “tricks” and “methods” don’t really work- and when they are revealed to an impartial audience, they simply seem stupid. Don’t believe me? Women have recorded voicemails he left them- and yes, they are THAT bad.

Women are not “sluts” and men are not “born murderers and rapists”- this is Sears’ misreading of what is essentially part of Freudian psychological drive theory. Yes, all of us have parts in us who want to have sex with, kill, and eat everything not glued down. Both genders possess these drives to various urges, along with a huge number of other drives that govern our actions. Basic Freudian psychology endorses this idea- it is our looming Id which we bash down every single second of every day. It is, in another sense, part of our pleasure principle.

Does this mean that, in the any sense, we are to let our Id run rampant and operate entirely on the pleasure principle? Absolutely not. Doing so is incredibly ridiculous and childish, and it indicates someone who does not think through the full ramifications of such behavior. Would we all suddenly behave based on our bare impulses, the ability to constructively work for ourselves in the long term- and generally, the ability for us to work collectively- is destroyed. In the great sort of Judeo-Christian sense, it is our ability to withhold pleasure and to sacrifice ourselves in various ways for future pleasure or for the benefit of others that facilitates life as we have it now.

Sure, this theory might work on the club floor, as no doubt David DeAngelo’s books work in that realm- but the club world is not the real world. “Dmitri the Lover” may be able to swagger around a club picking up absolutely piss drunk women with his wide open shirts and his heavy cologne, but this is an incredibly limited and ultimately boring life.

Honestly, the way in which “Dmitri the Lover” constructs his world (or his ideal worldview) leads me to believe that he may have deep seated fears of women and a serious inferiority complex. The need to force upon the world a system where men are hyper-masculine and (in essence) control women leads one to believe that James Sears is afraid of his own masculinity- and, in essence, “needs help” with it. One might liken Sears to the stereotypical American “jock” who overcompensates his masculinity through sports and drinking to hide his fear of being perceived as feminine.

The Take-Away

What can we learn from James Sears?

First off, the most powerful lesson here is merely to not trust pickup artist clubs/schemes. James Sears is not the only mental ward patient running around claiming he can pick up women fueled by arrogance- there are a lot of them, some hiding their insanity better than others. These men may seem powerful and dominant and in control, but this facade is merely that: a facade. Oftentimes, these men only manage to get women through sheer luck independent of their “skills”- and being roped into obeying them (and worse, paying them) is to implicitly gamble on your own love life.

Second off, Sears is a great example of the folly of “manly” culture. Indeed, I (and many other people on many different websites and in many different blogs) wholly endorse being masculine without shame- but there is an upper limit to such behavior. Being truly masculine is often not necessarily feeling the need to scream your gender from the rooftops, but often rather merely the ability to, with dignity, be confident and cool and understand yourself.

An Introduction to Colognes

February 22nd, 2009

aqua_di_gioMany men find choosing the right cologne to be an intimidating and overwhelming task. If you’re new to it, no doubt you have some feelings of confusion and stress; even those with experience must navigate the new scents and new challenge each season brings. With these 10 key points, including the help of a professional beauty advisor, WellCultured.com has the advice you need.

#1. Personality

Have an idea in your mind of what kind of impression you want to give off.  Your scent should reflect your personality, first and foremost; if you’re a rugged outdoorsy type, you probably wouldn’t fare so well with a light floral.

#2. Night vs. Day

Having one single scent to carry you through your day is perfectly fine. But on important nights like when you have a date, it’s good to switch things up; would you wear the same clothes on a nice date as you wore earlier that day to school or work? No. A day scent should be lighter and understated whereas a night scent should be a bit sexier and dark.

#3. Seasons

Winter, spring, summer and fall all are linked to different sorts of scents. Sure, there are some you can wear year-round, but it’s sometimes best to just give in and have colognes designated for different times so they complement the weather better.
Winter – dark, heavy, musk
Spring* - clean, floral, green
Summer – citrus, fresh, water
Fall – oriental, woodsy, spicy

*=Use the spring months to experiment a little; the transition between the cold and the hot make it more acceptable for funkier fragrances.

#4. Plan your spray

Everyone has their own natural smell as it is. When choosing a cologne, keep in mind not only that, but the way your body smell mixes with your deodorant, soap, hair products, everything. Ultimately, it’s the way you smell with all of those combined that you’re basing your cologne to work with. Needless to say, if you switch hygiene products, be sure to test your cologne out on your updated odor.

#5. Try the scent on your skin

Fragrance ads in magazines show what their product smells like against paper, not you. Department stores, such as Macy’s, have counters that allow you to test products out for free, so take advantage of the opportunity. When first starting out, it’s helpful to bring along someone with experience in buying fragrances, or just someone whose general judgment you trust and value; be careful not to ask the salesperson for their opinion, since most of them work on commission.

#6. Samples

When you think you’ve found a scent you like, it’s sometimes hard facing the price tag. That’s why samples are so wonderful. Not only are they extremely affordable, but the small size allows you to try them out without making a full commitment. Discount department stores, such as Target, commonly offer good selections of samples.

#7. Where to spray

According to Theresa, Sephora.com beauty advisor, apply 2-3 sprays to your pulse points. The major points are your neck, the back of your knees, your elbows, your wrists, and your stomach. “Men tend to spray only above the belt area,” she says. “The thing is, the places on your body that create the most heat will give off the most of the smell, so feel free to go all the way to your feet.”

#8. How you apply is everything

So you’ve gone out and tested out different colognes and have found one you love. You bought it. You know where on your body to apply it, but how? Depending on your personal preference, application process will vary man-by-man. Some men who are looking for a lighter impression may choose to spray the air and walk through it, whereas men wanting a lasting fragrance would need an alternative in order to make more of a statement.

Spray. Do not rub. I repeat: DO NOT RUB. “One common mistake is to press the wrists together after spraying on a scent,” warns Theresa. “This actually ‘crushes the bouquet’ of your fragrance, altering the scent, though it may intensify it initially. There is no need to do this and for the truest sense of your scent, just let the wrists dry naturally.”
Another thing to keep in mind is to spray directly on your skin, not your clothing. The alcohol comes into play in this, due to it possibly eating away at the clothing, as does the fact that your shirt has a faint smell of detergent that will affect your overall odor.

The first sprays should be in the morning, but don’t forget to reapply it about 8 hours later in order to stay fresh.

#9. What type of scent to get

Perfume is the most intense form of fragrance at 15%-30% fragrance compound, followed by eau de parfum at 8%-15%, eau de toilette at 4%-8%, and eau de cologne at 2%-5%. The more fragrance oils, the longer the scent will last.
Some men even enjoy having an after-shave from the same line as their perfume. After-shave calms the skin after shaving and leaves the scent there in an understated way. Though not all retailers, offer after-shave for all their fragrances, some do, so be sure to take advantage when possible.

#10. Don’t let the cost scare you

If you’re going for quality colognes, you’re probably facing anywhere from $45-$100. Initially it may seem like a high price, but keep in mind how long it will take you to go through a whole bottle (roughly a year, if applying multiple times daily). There’s also the alcohol content and the fact that alcohol will allow you to have the same scent for a few years. My grandmother has had Chanel No. 5 since the early 1970s and it still smells almost as good as new bottles!

Masculinity Revisited

October 13th, 2008

I realized there was something painfully ironic today when I was walking down the street and I saw a few guys (from a local fraternity, I believe) trying to be masculine. Wearing huge football jerseys, horribly baggy jeans and beat up sneakers (seemingly a uniform around here for some guys), they walked around together still trying to maintain a little bit of masculinity- that is, everything they did seemed to scream one loud “no homo”. Of course, this made it almost more painfully ironic, because the more they worked against this self-perception, the more they embodied it- just in a creepy, somewhat anti-self-actualizing way.

And then it hit me. Masculinity has really changed over the years, especially in America- but also in Europe and Canada to a lesser extent. To be “masculine” now, men seem to try to fit into these little ridiculously stupid “gender roles” and do poorly at it- as if loudly screaming for Generic Local Football Team #56 somehow gave them credit for having a penis. Further, everything about them- the lack of decent clothing, the poor grooming habits, their messy vehicle (a truck, go figure), and even their speech continued to scream “I’m a guy”. But somehow it just didn’t hit the mark- for all of the effort and attempts, it just came off as poor, unwashed, and generally boring.

So, it’s time to work against the stereotypes. In this article, I’m going to explain where these nasty little expectations have come from, why they are ridiculous, and how you can work against them- not to come off as a “metrosexual” or something silly like that, but to come off in a confident, suave way.

The History of Masculine Gender Roles, Cliffs Notes Edition

It’s always easy to presume that the way the Western world handles masculinity is normal. This is as wrong as it could possibly be.

Back in the 1940s during WW2, masculinity (and patriotism) were cherished like crown jewels in the West- it was our crutch, a kind of proverbial launching pad that helped mobilize entire nations against each other. And, naturally, images of masculinity and strength began to come out in full swing. Of course, most are familiar with the image of Rosie the Riveter- a kind of self-reliant woman- which was used to encourage women to pseudo-independence to “help the work force” (among other things). But, more interesting for men, it began to facilitate a new kind of man- the grizzled, rough, and unkempt man. Of course, the pictures of American/British heroes were no longer ones of clean shaven strong men- they were of slightly haggard warriors, worn men with leather-like skin and strong hands who were ready to kill for their country.

Of course, this changed a lot. Images of these rough men in t-shirts (standard issue underwear for the U.S. Army/Navy) came home- and it became acceptable to wear. Before this time, men were expected to be clean shaven and well dressed- now the rules were changing. The idea of a muscular man in very little became sexy- and it came back home with the soldiers. Actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean helped them out, giving them a “rough” look- and thus, the sexy badboy was born in the American mind.

Of course, this didn’t really stop the roles from changing there. In fact, stuff got exponentially more interesting.

Flash forward to the 60s. Culture was changing drastically, and so was fashion and the idea of men. Culture all across the Western world became much more liberal and relaxed- of course, hand-in-hand with rampant drug use and anti-war movements. More pertinently, however, was the idea of James Bond- a suave, woman magnet super-spy. James Bond had everything a man wanted- cool technology, great fashion, more sex than a male prostitute with absolutely beautiful women, and the affirmation of an awesome job well done. He quickly became an icon- a kind of symbol for ultimate masculinity.

Jump forward to the 70s. Less of the 60s extremism, but music kept getting better and culture became even more defined- and thus came Dirty Harry. Made in 1971 (so somewhat loosely still part of the 60s according to some), Harry Callahan is a quick tongued man with a huge gun. Harry, following the archetype that would be abused for years to come in horrible Steven Segal movies, is a cop that breaks the rules and the red tape and shoots first- he’s almost an anti-hero. But he’s a badass- and though he isn’t as suave or as sexy as James Bond, he still acts as a cultural icon.

Now the 80s and the era of the hyper masculine. This is the era of the powerful wrestling shows- this is the era of Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone. One of the most powerful images in this era of powersuits is that of John Rambo, the hyper-muscular hyper-violent former Green Beret killing machine. Rambo is essentially indestructible- he talks even less than Dirty Harry, carries a gun three times as big, and wears very little- he’s a bundle of muscle and ass-kicking.

So, what’s so important about this? Well, to paraphrase a recent documentary touching on the topic, Bigger,
Stronger, Faster*
, the transition from the 60s to the 80s was absolutely enormous. In simple terms, we went from a country in the 40s that began to flirt with the ideas of the “rough badboy” to a country that, in the 80s on, is now clearly obsessed with becoming muscular and powerful with little words- and in some senses, with absolutely no attachment to females.

But how do I qualify these statements?

Why these roles are so stupid

Let’s take a look at three of the people I just mentioned that are representative of their culture- James Bond (the 60s), Dirty Harry (the 70s), and John Rambo (the 80s)- and let’s take a quick look at what makes them so interesting.

For you movie buffs out there (or those of you that played Goldeneye 007), you probably know that James Bond’s main gun for most of his movie shots is a Walther PPK- a small pistol that is legitimately tiny- a secretive sidearm, not a huge weapon. Bond talks a lot with women, but keeps his words simple and to the point- and he has a legitimate confidence and control over his scenario. As I’ve said before, James Bond is a great character for men to follow- and a pretty damn good role model for the 60s.

Dirty Harry is a big different. With about 4 or 5 inches added to his gun (now a huge revolver rather than a tiny pistol), Harry doesn’t talk as much, and seems to somewhat grunt through his teeth more than anything else. He’s confident and savvy, but not in the direct sense- he’s a rebel, the kind of guy who is really under control only in the sense that very little is under his control.

John Rambo is basically walking steroids (joke somewhat intended). Rambo barely talks and basically solves his problems by murdering them- quite literally. He’s strong and confident, but only in his own ability to make what he doesn’t like disappear. Women are conspicuously absent- he kills men, and women barely really stand him other than in the obligatory sense. His famous gun? A huge machine gun, with a nearly two foot barrel.

So why am I focusing on the guns, the talking, and the women so much? Because that’s what matters. Without sounding like a gender studies professor, there is legitimacy in saying that a lot of the scenarios in these movies are largely figurative- you can read a lot between the lines. Rambo wields a big gun because it is representative of a huge penis- Bond has no need for it for obvious reasons. Rambo is essentially proving his masculinity by having the “biggest”- it’s being contrasted to the small futile weapons of the people against him. Do note how even the knives he uses are absolutely massive. James Bond dresses well and looks nice because he has the confidence to- Rambo and Dirty Harry coddle viewers into thinking they can get away with not dressing well. The nasty caveat to James Bond is that most realize you can’t walk around in tuxedoes and (then) excellently designed clothing all the time- the later movies seem to focus less on class and charm and more on the action, as if such a thing is irrelevant. Women are (essentially) lacking in Rambo and Dirty Harry films as if to infer a fraternity-like “men only” atmosphere, whereas earlier films “blend” better. Face it- Rambo could be somewhat impotent for all we know- we’re simply urged to enjoy his base violence.

Of course, before I get nasty e-mails, I don’t hate Rambo or Dirty Harry. Hell, 80s-era action movies are pretty damn amusing, if only for their corniness. The problem is, simply put, that these movies carry a very heavy cultural weight with them- they are the reason why a lot of our culture is the way it is today. A lot of us as kids saw the Rambo movies and took them to heart- and we learned to emulate and admire our heroes, taking cues on how to act.

Having a big gun like in Rambo or a big car like in The Fast and the Furious is a way to protect against impotence. Wonder why the guy in the Enzyte commercials didn’t have a sportscar or carry a big gun? He didn’t need to (he was too busy being paid to promote what we now know is a BS drug). There is something true about the old adage that many cops like being able to carry a gun to make up for something they lack- and be it a size issue or simply an irrational worry of sexual impotency, it’s very clearly an attempt to protect oneself from lacking.

The worst thing? Practically, a lot of “masculine” things in today’s society are women-free in a way that is almost homosexual. There’s this ridiculous sense that a lot of these masculine things are women-free (think the “He-Man Woman Haters Club” from The Little Rascals)- that is, really “manly” things are forbidden from the female touch. Sure, women can be on the outside of such things (think the horrible female commentators on ESPN), but they never really get to be “in” the club- they simply get to look pretty and stay the hell away when it matters.

The idea here, in a nutshell, is that somehow you can become manly by carrying a big gun, driving big expensive cars, not talking much, and only handling women in the most distant way (which one could say leads to a lot of guys objectifying women and having difficulty with serious relationships). Further, it encourages guys to pretend they are masculine by doing these very things- it can range from something as simple as watching sports because “the guys” do or going overboard and actually developing an obsession for guns or “manly” food.

Of course, these are not things that always mean you are trying to be manly- but if you really sit down and think about it, not all guys are into what they are into out of genuine interest- many just seem to attach to whatever seems to “fit the bill”. The problem with this is pretty obvious- it’s lacking of confidence and it’s just lame.

How to go against the grain

So how do you get out of this nasty trap of “masculinity”?

Simply put, you rationalize and try to break your mind free from the media.

This isn’t saying that you should abstain from what I’ve mentioned before- sports can be fun, and hell, guns and cars are damn cool. The important thing to do, however, is to have a solid reason for liking them rather than just “my friends do”- that is to say, to try to enjoy it for itself rather than doing it because others do.

Don’t build up ridiculous definitions of what “is” and “is not” manly- try to be open. Sure, you shouldn’t go spooning with men in your underwear, but don’t automatically presume “female” things (shopping, musical theatre, design, fashion, dancing, parties, television shows, even certain kinds of music) are beyond your realm- be willing to cross into them. Being willing to go into realms like that is not only really masculine and confident, but it will also help you find women- because that is exactly where they are. You are more likely to find an awesome girl at something like a nice jazz club rather than finding one at a shady bar- that’s just how like works. I know plenty of guys who capitalize on Yoga clubs in this way- one guy for every 30 hot and very fit women is a damn good statistic if you’re looking to find someone.

Of course, I’m not saying you should bend to this whole “feminine male” thing- in fact, I hate that, and I’ve expressed that before. Dress like a man, act like a man, enjoy yourself like one. Don’t paint your walls pink and go around trying to “get in touch with your feminine side”- just be a man and be willing to go anywhere you damn well please.

This idea of “Being a man but being open to women” is a tough concept- too often guys are pidgeonholed into the binary of “woman” and “man” to the point where they think it’s a proverbial turf war, establishing boundaries and territories and killing anyone who crosses them. Instead of thinking of things like certain activities as “female” or “male”, rather consider them neutral territory, and simply something for you to explore.

Being a real man means you have the guts to be able to stand up to a lot more than what we may fantasize men fought- while the adrenaline-packed escapades of John Rambo are impressive, it doesn’t take half the courage or masculinity that actually balling up and taking on responsibility does. Real life is rarely about such clear cut black-and-white worlds as seen in movies- and it’s intensely more masculine to be able to make decisions and stick to them rather than adhering to a bland world of “them” and “us”. In the world of Rambo and Dirty Harry, pulling out a gun and shooting fixes things- but in the real world, that never works. There’s certainly a time to beat someone down and even a time to go into full out killing machine mode- but it’s understanding the other times that matters as well. It sounds stereotypical, but even having the guts to stand up and take responsibility for your actions is infinitely more masculine than pulling out a hunting knife and killing things indiscriminately- no matter what movies may infer.

But let’s make this more simple. Face it: as crazy as this sounds, male ballet dancers are badass mofos, mainly because they get to feel up extremely hot/flexible women all day, and in contrast, they have gallons of testosterone. Ignore the tights. They are just hiding a guy who is so damn bold that they are willing to dress up like cokehead clowns to show off their packages. I doubt even I would have the guts to do that, even if I was promised hot women. So think of it this way- which is more manly?- John Rambo, semi-naked penis replacement toting psychopath who seemingly abstains from the female touch, or Joe, the fairly decent guy somewhere in someone’s Yoga class right now around 40 women who all think it’s great to have a hot guy to look at and would essentially all die to go on a date with him?

I think I’d say the latter. Joe, you lucky bastard.

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