”What the fuck are you wearing? You look like you´re gearing up to shuffle coal in an 1830’s locomotive. What is it, laundry day?” It is not laundry day. It's the day I’ve decided to flaunt my brand-new retro-style Levi’s Vintage Edition Engineer-Shacket, a retro-style shacket I in fact payed about 275 dollars for. This evil stab at my exquisite fashion sense demands a swift and fierce retort: ”Wait, why are you even here – isn’t this tee-off-time for you? By the way – Carlton Banks from Fresh Prince in Bel Air called – he wants his wardrobe back”, I answer, gesturing to my friend’s pastel Ralph Lauren-polo shirt and preppy hairdo. This is nothing new. We’ve been having the same back-and-forth for years, him making fun of my fetish for overprized workwear and me busting his balls over the ivy league-off-campus vacation-style
You look like you’re gearing up to shuffle coal in an 1830’s locomotive
he insists on sporting. But I can’t help thinking, maybe he’s right? Have I let things go too far?
I wasn’t always like this. There was a time I would’ve laughed at the very notion of my Pinterest-account filling up with photos of re-soled Red Wing-boots, Japanese selvedge denim and bearded men in beanies. A decade ago, I would rarely leave home in anything less than a well-fitting tweed blazer, tan brogues and a button-down oxford shirt. Ironically, when I made a living as a bartender over-serving drunken hillbillies’ room-tempered Red bull-vodkas – I dressed as a Harvard law professor. But the moment I became a chief editor at a local newspaper, I started dressing like a drunken hillbilly.
Not so coincidentally the term “Lumbersexual” was coined around the same time. In 2010, the Urban Dictionary defining it as: “A metro-sexual who has the need to hold on to some outdoor-based ruggedness, thus opting to keep a finely trimmed beard”. The Lumbersexuals often combine this with red-plaid and/or blue-collar shirts, worker boots, dry selvedge jeans and old school-tattoos depicting a long and rough life at sea or loading ship on the docks. Oddly, many of the same men work as copywriters at ad agencies, enjoying the comfort of a well-lit office milieu, espresso machines and ergonomic desks with adjustable heights. This is a pretty accurate description of me, although my style has since evolved to appropriating attributes from other masculine settings as well.
“Oh, you’re into sailing?” I freeze in my seat, trying to assess the situation. Is this guy making fun of me? No. He seems genuinely curious, and you can’t really blame him for mistaking me for a fellow seaman –
what with me having an anchor-tattoo on my ring finger AND wearing a black beanie with a golden anchor stitched on it.
I’m at a client meeting in a garage (no, I’m not a prostitute or in the mafia – the client just happens to be a local car-messenger business), surrounded by tools, auto-parts and all things manly. To use a nautical term: I’m out of my depth. “I grew up on an island, working in the docks and helping summer guests with their sailboats. I just moved back there, renovating an old Danish 40-footer”, the client continues, waiting for a response from this fellow boat-enthusiast. I panic, venturing into a long and mumbling monologue on “the beauty of old wooden sailboats” trying to fit in every boat-related term I can scramble in my distressed state.
It is painfully obvious the closest I’ve ever gotten to being “into sailing” was a three-day drunken tour of the Stockholm archipelago on my friends’ boat. It pretty much consisted of us sitting around getting a vicious sunburn drinking beers and passing out on the deck, but I looked like a true boatman doing it. The “marine-look” is sort of a spin-off to the “army-look”, which in turn is a spin-off on the “lumberjack-chic”. I’ve also dabbled in a more outdoorsy look – knitted Fjällräven-sweater, hiking boots, cargo pants – but I came to the conclusion it was a bit over the top. Every style-choice evidently has its backlash, because people will inevitably assume you actually KNOW something about boats if you dress like an off-duty sailor.
“There’s nothing quite like setting sail on a clear august morning”, I hear myself saying as I slowly drown in self-loathing. Lesson learned. If you are going to be a poser, commit to learning the basics. A conservative estimate: you’ll need to be able to keep a conversation on the subject going for at least ten minutes.
As for my personal style-evolution, I’m apparently going to have to learn the basics of how a 19th century locomotive works. If you’re going to dress like an 1830’s railroad worker, you need to know the fundamentals of a steam engine. And I do love my Levi’s Vintage Edition Engineer-Shacket, I guess you could call me “Trainsexual”.