Masculinity – A 21st Century Makeover

A brief look into the evolution of the modern man.

What it Means to be a 21st Century Man 

In his three-part exploration of masculinity, All Man, British artist Grayson Perry presents three types of men: the ‘hard man’ (think combat), the ‘top man’ (police and politicians) and the ‘rational man’ (finance). In reality, of course, being a man in the 21st century often lies outside this arguably small group of traditional “alpha” types, with modern men increasingly ready to take on these traditional ideas of masculinity and turn them on their head. As Perry notes, traditional masculine roles simply don’t work anymore. But while some things have changed, for the best, others remain the same, and for good reason – take a pleasant smell for example – a timeless factor that many men pursue by selecting the right scent which perfectly balances elegance and with the requisite (sophisticated) amount of maturity and sex appeal (so not just about the latter).

Greater Work-Life Balance

Research shows that millennials, currently entering the workforce in droves, deem development and the work/life balance as more important than financial rewards. They seek personal learning and development, followed by flexible working hours. A bit of extra cash is always welcome, but it comes third in their list of priorities. Flexibility and working from home allow men to balance health and work obligations, ensuring they have enough time for fitness, sound nutrition, and building a strong support system.

A Rise in the Number of Stay-at-Home Dads

Some men are even foregoing work altogether and choosing to be stay-at-home dads. In the UK, numbers of fathers who look after their children and home full-time have doubled since the early 1990s, while the number of women at home has fallen considerably in the same time frame. The latest ONS data reveals that there are currently 232,000 men opting out of the workplace.

An Interest in Holistic Health

Keeping yourself in fighting fit shape isn’t necessarily about beating your best time at running or completing the London marathon; new crazes such as Broga (yoga for bros) are taking over many yoga schools and retreats, in order to cater for growing male interest in what has come to be known as a panacea for stress: yoga. With its emphasis on stretching and endurance building, yoga is a challenging activity but also one known for its unique health benefits. Much of the secret of its success has to do with controlled breathing, which leads yogis into a mindful state in which emotions (even negative ones) are not pushed away, but rather, acknowledged and welcomed.

Style Matters for the Modern Man

If, in the past, matters such as interior design were frequently left in the hands of the “missus”, but modern UK men are taking a far keener interest in their homes, with demand in the interiors market currently dominated by masculine minimalistic, simple styles. Since men are also taking more charge of keeping the home presented to a high standard and preferring uncluttered homes that can easily be tidied up this is now all the rage in home magazines and visual media, domestic aethetics are in vogue and the littered man-cave of old are now out. Men are also taking their cue from celebrity designers, rather than just make-do with a few tweaks here and there, who encourage gender fluidity as a form of maximum expression. Skirts, and so-called ‘feminine’ fabrics, and sophisticated new cuts are turning fashion into the walking art form it has always aimed to be. Fragrance is increasingly important in the masculine world too; the meteoric rise of the metrosexual has made a big mark on the fragrance industry. The inspiring work of Tom Ford has seen him rise to global prominence on the back of his signature range of scents and fashion lines. The culture of male fragrance retail now caters to an increasingly sophisticated and informed individual who knows his fragrance families, demands long-lasting power from his favourite cologne and seeks to attract attention from partner of his dreams without the need to resort to an overpowering scent.

The new millennium has brought the kind of freedom that so many men in generations past have failed to enjoy. Men are finally free to openly pursue meaning over materialism, fatherhood over a career and health over wealth. With greater freedom to tap into their creative and holistic sides, men are closer to real living than they ever were before. Long may this trend continue.

With thanks to Jane Sandwood for providing us with this blogpost.