Why Hipsters Dress Like Lumberjacks: The Story of the “Lumbersexual”

imagesI recently came across this article that describes the trend of the “lumbersexual”, which describes the appearance of an “lumberjack” many hipsters and other trendy males have adopted. The rampant incidence of beards, flannels, long hair, and work boots being sported by young, urban males is the basis for the term “lumbersexual”, which brings back memories of the equally inane term “metrosexual” to describe fashionably conscious and well-groomed males of the early to mid 2000s. My issue with the article in question is that the author failed to truly investigate how this whole trend came to be. Time for a history lesson.

How to be an urban lumberjack. 1: Selvedge denim, just like the railroad workers used to wear 2: Flannel cap 3: Axe (not the body spray you used in grade 8) 4 and 5: ??? 6: Diemme work boots 7: Flannel shirt

In 2008, North America experienced the worst financial crisis since the stock market crash of 1929. Millions were laid off, businesses underwent massive restructuring and organizational changes, and society as a whole became a lot more conservative with their money. People no longer could afford to live a life of excess.

Consumer tastes demanded longer-lasting, quality goods that would last them many years into the future. It was at this time that the “Workwear” trend in men’s (and to a lesser degree, women’s) fashion took hold. Instead of new, shiny, elegant clothing, male consumers of the world demanded rugged clothing crafted from a quality manufacturing process.

Almost overnight, large fashion houses started cranking out workwear inspired pieces. Entire brands based around a workwear focus even started to pop up. Japanese influence also took an upswing, as the staple garments of the Japanese blue collar industry became the darlings of numerous menswear brands in the form of “repro” (short for reproduction) designs. Even American workwear legend Levi’s decided to get in on the fun, and launched their LVC (Levi’s Vintage Clothing) line to produce a variety of high quality reproductions of classic workwear pieces.

Bottega Veneta FW/08: The most expensive pair of coveralls you'll ever see.
Bottega Veneta FW/08: The most expensive pair of coveralls you’ll ever see.

Bottega Venetta produced workwear inspired pieces like luxurious cotton coveralls and cashmere fingerless gloves. Ralph Lauren launched their double RL line, RRL, to mimic what LVC was doing. Engineered Garments, launched by Japanese designer Daiki Suzuki, is influenced by the sturdy and cropped garments worn by pre-WWII Japanese blue collar workers. Selvedge denim became a huge trend, and numerous companies were created; some still exist to this day, many have seen their revenues wane with the times. Red Wing boots, long seen as an American classic for their construction and durability, started to be seen on the streets of New York and Los Angeles on the feet of the fashion conscious.

Daiki Suzuki of Engineered Garments showcasing a blazer from FW/11
Daiki Suzuki of Engineered Garments showcasing a blazer from FW/11

For two years, the workwear trend boomed. Like all popular fashion trends, eventually the workwear tastes of the fashion savvy eventually trickled down to urban trendsetters. It was at this time that mention of the “urban lumberjack” was first seen in publications outside the fashion industry’s inner circle. Flannel shirts, selvedge jeans, duck cotton coloured pants, and sturdy leather boots became popular amongst the hipster crowds of Williamsburg, Portland, and Queen West.

This influx of workwear inspired clothing was closely coupled to societal tastes at the time. Urban young adults grew tired of the “fake” and modern direction that many cities were taking. Many young males and some females were affectionately drawn to the more authentic side of things: this included all things rural, outdoorsy, and rugged.

What trends were common around this time?

1) Shopping local, supporting your farmer’s market

2) Urban farming/gardening

3) The craft beer industry started to take off

4) Beards became en vogue, as did growing your hair longer, perhaps sporting a man bun in the process.

5) Country music became the most popular form of music in North America

6) Folk Music went mainstream; Mumford & Sons won a few Grammies

7) Many TV series were created to reflect these tastes: Duck Dynasty, Mountain Men, Yukon Men – really any “blue collar” themed show was the result of the jaded urban inhabitant’s yearning for a more authentic, rugged sense of self. Dirty Jobs was a great reflection of this.


This myriad of trends gave birth to the lifestyle of the urban lumberjack, or what is now apparently known as the lumbersexual. Contrary to what the article in question referenced, the lumbersexual did not arise out of gay culture. The urban lumberjack is largely one borne out of the larger hipster countercultural movement, which has evolved from comically large sunglasses and keffiyeh scarves to dressing like lumberjacks and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon or craft beers.

The hippies of the 60s/70s...
The hippies of the 60s/70s…

As Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter describe in The Rebel Sell, Countercultures are created simply as an alternative to the mainstream; there is no true stance or constant activist principle behind them. If we examine perhaps the most famous counterculture example, the hippie, we associate these individuals with environmental activism and freedom from government control. Ironically, these same youth who were so against destroying the environment and big oil were also the primary consumers in the 1980s when the SUV – perhaps the most destructive vehicle for the environment ever created- was conceived. These same bell-bottom wearing flower children were now suburban adults driving their kids to soccer practice in their 4 wheeled tank that seated 7.

...became the SUV driving suburban parents of the 80s.
…became the SUV driving suburban parents of the 80s.

Of course, there were the genuine (read: authentic) individuals who truly did care for the environment and still hold the same stance today as they did 50 years ago, but the vast majority of individuals who participate in countercultural movements do so as a means of social leveraging.

As described in Potter’s The Authenticity Hoax, to be authentic, to be “cool”, is a large motivator in our society. Our society is comprised of numerous sub-cultures, all who hold a certain belief and standard of what is “cool” to them. For those who have grown weary of the hustle and bustle of the city and yearn for the simpler country life,  the lumbersexual community gave them a sense of belonging, so they ascribed to it.

Even H&M, which used to be a store for "metrosexual" men, has jumped on the urban lumberjack bandwagon.
Even H&M, which used to be a store for “metrosexual” men, has jumped on the urban lumberjack bandwagon.

The feminization of society in the last 50 years has also contributed to the rise of the urban lumberjack. In The Better Angels of our Nature, Steven Pinker states that feminization is one of the reasons violence has declined in our society. Consequently, this has also left many men without a sense of what their masculine identity is. Dressing like a lumberjack, one of the stereotypically “manly” occupations is their attempt at trying to capture some of that bygone testosterone, even if they’ve never held an axe before.

Five years from now, we probably won’t see as many beards, flannel shirts, or work boots being sported by hip young adults across North America. Most of these individuals will have moved on, grown up, for a countercultural lifestyle in a capitalist society has a limited lifespan. The generation after them will find their own problem with the world, their own quest to be “cool”, and their tastes will reflect that. It’s what happened with the hippies in the 60s, the punks of the 70s, Grunge in the 90s, and now hipsters in the 2000s and beyond.

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Moto Rave says:

    If you actually believe one word of this crap I am convinced you have never been anywhere but a city on a coast.

    1. john7 says:


    2. Lumber Sexual says:

      I *hate* to tell you this, buddy boy, but you’re a lumbersexual just for saying that.

  2. cameronbenz says:

    Largely, I agree with this based on my observations EXCEPT the craft beer movement. I’m not sure where you’re from, but the craft beer movement, in my area, started taking off around 2002.

  3. Mardi says:

    Bahaha….I have to start this with a laugh! It’s funny to me to call this a trend and then a dying trend to come. Obviously you haven’t spent any time on dirt roads, cornfields, hunting and in small country towns! If you have, you would know this is not a fashion statement for most… It’s a look that has captured small towns for years. Just visit a remote area during hunting season! Beards, flannels, boots and beer! It not a trend for most of us, it’s a look that fits our lifestyles. Which I’m guessing you can find many years back, and you’ll find in many years to come.

    1. I’m from a town of 2,300 people. I’m well aware of the look.

      This was about city folks dressing like lumberjacks.

      1. Adam says:

        Born and raised in a city, never been hunting, barely been fishing. I’ve only legit camped once because it was cheaper than a hotel, but I have helped cut down a tree before, but really I just held the rope that kept the falling branches from taking out the power lines.

        I grow a beard and monster handlebar mustache because shaving is a pain in the ass and handlebars are bad ass. The fact that they’re trendy is a plus because it makes it easier to shut people up when they tell me to shave, but realistically this is how I’d look even it wasn’t.

        I started wearing plaid when I started my first job doing receiving at a department store. It was comfortable, casual, but professional enough that nobody bitched when I wore it on the floor. This was back in 2007, and the shirts weren’t flannels, they were typical thin button downs. I bought a few flannels from a thrift store in 2012/2013 when I needed some warmer clothes for the winter, including one red gap flannel that has become my absolute favorite, and fell in love with the look, not because of the trend, but because of how it looked on me. So again, the circumstances which led to this lifestyle choice would have happened regardless of the “movement.”

        Now I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m not saying you’re right, but I will saying that in 5 years I’ll probably still be wearing plaids and gingham flannels, and if it survives all the washes, probably that same red gap flannel as well.

        Side note: I’m not a fan of denim and work boots hurt my feet, so I don’t wear them often.

    2. Theo says:

      No he’s talking about people in the city who’ve adopted this style….with every style there is always a group of people who have always had that style and people who merely adopted it.

      Theodore Dallas, M.A., M.A.T.

  4. Phil h says:

    Thank You,
    I actually, ‘rulely truely’ work my own a private forest enterprise, and those who parody my living, posturing locally as ‘Lumbersexual’, who are typically ‘too rude for school’, too costume conscious to be cool. ‘Diss’ me on the street, WTF ?
    A parallel: I ride motor cycles.
    Purchased my first, aged nine, having saved and slaved away with choirs around the neighborhood. Cykle riders ‘share a lived in space’ and motor cycle riding experience, which does create a very real sense of community among us, our being in commune with each other. Hollywood got it right with the ‘wild hogs’.
    Looking at the ‘Lumbersexual’ image: Buffalo Tartan (Red, Black; It deserves an explanation, education for the fashionista), ‘way too stiff’ leather accouterments (gloves , boots, belt), and an obviously ‘un-oiled timber axe handle’, speak to insincerity with this ‘clothing trend’, fashion, cultural posture.
    I would like to believe the axe handle is of ‘hickory / pecan nut tree’ timber, if authenticity or historical relevance is of any importance. Even if not, ‘muppet please’ put some oil on it !
    Sorry if I am carrying forward some of the negativity I have endured this afternoon.
    I have always felt that ‘retro fashion and counterculture’ was in some way, (consciously or unconsciously), acting in support of the values held and expressed in those days, and even in the roles, ‘typically blue collar’; chosen to be replicated, model in apparel and accouterments.
    There seem, many contemporary social issue, I can not get a handle on.
    Zombie Apocalypse, probably first, with so many young people dwelling on it?
    A lot further down the list is the anti social posture of local ‘lumber-sexual’.
    Just a random note, some feed back from a grey bearded man, for whom saw dust is most frequently his ‘man glitter’.
    Phil h

    1. Joe M says:

      I love this answer.

  5. Booman7736 says:

    Quote: “Five years from now, we probably won’t see as many beards, flannel shirts, or work boots being sported by hip young adults across North America. Most of these individuals will have moved on, grown up, for a countercultural lifestyle in a capitalist society has a limited lifespan. The generation after them will find their own problem with the world, their own quest to be “cool”, and their tastes will reflect that. It’s what happened with the hippies in the 60s, the punks of the 70s, Grunge in the 90s, and now hipsters in the 2000s and beyond.”

    THANK YOU. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who sees the big picture in regards to fashion trends… I predict by the Mid 2020’s, the hipster trend will be dead, and society might return to the post-Grunge/pre-hipster look: Fake, basic, color-coordinated, dark, clean-cut, baggy, punky, gothic, gangster, ghetto fabulous, etc… (Think Mid 90’s – Late 00’s: Guy Fieri, early Linkin Park, early Eminem, early 50 Cent, 2pac, Franchize Boyz, early Britney Spears & Avril Lavigne, etc…)

    How can I be so sure? You see, Trump’s presidency will affect everything, including culture and fashion, as society adapts and adjusts. With Trump in office, we will see the opposite of hippie/hipster culture in tomorrow’s youth & culture when today’s youth eventually grows out of their hipster phase due to the influence of our new Republican President. Aside from politics, it’s just a matter of time before the next big thing arrives. What’ll it be, you might ask? One thing’s for sure: It’ll be the complete opposite of hipster. Right now you probably don’t understand, but give it 4-8 years and you’ll definitely see these changes. The hipster and lumbersexual trends are long overdue for their demise… For the douchey, stupid-looking crap they are.

    Just think: All those hipster clothes, faux-vintage, and skinny jeans you see in department stores and shopping malls will be rare, deadstock vintage on eBay in less than 10 years. Beards and undercuts will be outdated, and hipsterdom will be a thing of the past. Right now it’s big, but like the old saying goes: “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” I’ll be glad when it’s over, and hopefully the next big thing will be cooler.

  6. Charlotte Toth says:

    Beards are dirty and disgusting. It’s like growing pubic hair on your face.

  7. That guy says:

    Isn’t Lumberjack style pretty much from the Outdoorman fashion? You do know Outdoorman and hipster fashion are different, right? lol

  8. Hi I am a 4th generation timber faller….lumberjack…i am 64…i was a hippy and still practise many of its edicts…like sustainability , love, empathy, ego death…i live in the country, i ride big bikes…i never drove kids to soccer in a gas guzzler or became a suburbanite….i remain true to the spirit of Cerennosnof freedom as a guide to how to behave…counter cultures are more resilient than fashion…i nevercwanted to drop out. I never wanted in…in the dissassociative processes of urban industrial negativity….

  9. To assume alternative counter culturescare ephemeral is untrue. Turn on tune in drop out. Well i did. All cultures have overlap. I grew up in Powys Wales. E needed the markets of the city lunatics for our products. I dare say its isolated heart has eroded now. I have lived in Australiabfor 50 years. The expanding urban processes impose their values on isolated cultures. Country people are the Wests equivalent of Amazon tribes. By encroaching on our space the urban hominid identifiescwith us. We meet them and transfer reality to them.

  10. Lumberjacks are shaman.

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