It’s easy to say that the degree of what constitutes being a manly-man has changed from generation to generation. If Ernest Hemingway was able to witness the atrocities that skinny jeans, tanning beds, the word “swag,” the entire cast of Jersey Shore, and Ryan Seacrest’s make-up drawer has done to the male gender, he would drop his glass of brandy, kick somebody’s ass for good ol’ sport and kill himself all over again. The old school type of man is an endangered species that may become extinct after Clint Eastwood kicks the bucket. However, there is still some hope, some have gone out to preserve the XY chromosome before it’s too late and every swinging dick walks around as a “pseudo-man” with perfectly plucked eyebrows.
Illustration from the 1905 guide on shaving made easy. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A ray of light shining down on this problem comes from Oklahoma. A husband-wife duo have stripped down all of the bullshit floating around in popular culture, suffocating anyone who once believed that the gym was for exercise, not to develop a “beach body.” They have created an online magazine explaining what it truly is to be a man. It is simply titled “The Art of Manliness.”
Sure, the first thoughts that would typically come to mind when introduced to the concept of an entire magazine dedicated to everything manly would be articles dedicated to beer consumption, breast admiration and physical prowess. Blame it on Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel. However, AoM is as informative as it is classy. Founder, Brett McKay, created the magazine after being dismayed by the growing amount of superficial content aimed towards the male gender. Proof in point lies in the first third of all GQ magazines consisting of advertisements of oiled-up, half-naked men lying on the deck of sailboats. Seriously, who wears briefs while sailing?
On the site’s about page McKay explains: “…I was standing in Borders bookstore looking at the men’s magazines. It seemed to me that the content in these magazines were continually going downhill, with more and more articles about sex and how to get six pack abs. Was this all there was to being a man?” This inspired him to create AoM.
“In our search to uncover the lost art of manliness, we’ll look to the past to find examples of manliness in action.” Mckay says on the page, “We’ll analyze the lives of great men who knew what it meant to man up and hopefully learn from them. And we’ll talk about the skills, manners, and principles that every man should know.”
With the help of his wife and writing team, they contribute articles that “help men be better husbands, better fathers, and better men.” They do this in a variety of ways.
AoM is broken down into several sections that cover the entire spectrum of what it is to be a man. The first one, titled “A Man’s Life” is a grab bag of information that includes a plethora of fun and useful information from life lessons learned in military basic training to a list of “Manly Last Words” to “A History of the American Bachelor.” “A Man’s Life” is a healthy dose of brain candy for your mental sweet tooth.
Other sections are pinpointed to the rest of the important areas of a man’s life. One could learn how to adequately trim their mustache in “Dress & Grooming,” develop techniques in strengthening their grip in “Health & Sports,” finally figure out how to patch a hole in drywall in “Manly Skills,” receive a rundown on whether a person should buy or rent in “Money & Career,” or get the basics on becoming a better listener in “Relationships & Family.”
Wyatt Earp may laugh at the fact that men today need to read about these subject matters, but as long as Chris Brown is winning Grammys and shirt collars are intentionally in the popped position, McKay and team will need to educate the masses for years to come.
What constitutes manliness is a subjective argument; people will offer varying definitions on the matter and opposing viewpoints can hold real value. McKay doesn’t claim to be an expert on the matter but offers a simple definition in one of his articles: “(Manliness is) striving for excellence and virtue in all areas of your life, fulfilling your potential as a man, and being the absolute best brother, friend, husband, father and citizen you can be.” Even all the members of 98 Degrees couldn’t argue with that. So, stop watching re-runs of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” pour yourself a glass of your favorite spirit, dust off The Old Man and the Sea and take some tips from AoM before going to bed. The future of mankind is depending on it.