The Style Gent knows how good it feels to put on a great suit, but he also knows that what really matters comes from what a man can give to the world.
I figured that the title of this post might ruffle some feathers. This subject has been bugging for quite sometime. Many men’s magazines continue to perpetuate the lie that connects the word “lifestyle” with over-consumption and materialism. This word has been overused and has become a marketing tool to make most people (men in particular) appear insufficient and mediocre.
It’s safe to say that most men’s magazines you flip through are filled with these “aspirational” photos of vintage luxury cars, tailored suits, beautiful women, exotic and unpronounceable destinations with soaring aerial vistas or engaging articles like: “Bed Shaking Advice From A Real Life Sex Coach” or “How To Pick Up Women (The Right Way).” All of this sounds kind of ridiculous. I know we’re visual beings (nothing sells magazines faster than a beautiful woman in a bikini with a popsicle melting in her mouth) but we are not that one-dimensional.
The truth is, I have subscriptions to some these lifestyle magazines and although I know these advertisements pay for some of the publishing, I always come away thinking that they’re all the same. In reality, most guys seek to define themselves not in the luxury of thread counts, labels, passports, exotic destinations or dating prowess. Nor in the skill at building a fire, diagnosing problems with his car or finding North without a GPS unit. In real life, the average guy is working hard, trying to make ends meet, pay his car note, student loans, and feed his family.
He may not subscribe to the plethora of men’s magazines, or may not know where Ibiza is or could care less about his “relevance” on Facebook or Twitter. He may or may or may not be in a committed relationship. He may or may not be in that neat little post-grad, twenty-to-thirty-something demographic. I won’t go waxing poetic about the everyman but my point here is this: There seems to be an over-emphasis on appearances or how a man’s life should look, how he should seem to his boss, his friends, his girl, etc.
Marketing agencies and Twitter spammers abound with suggestions on how we can improve our personal “brand” and finally meet our full potential. With all this info coming at us in print and digitally at blazing speeds, it’s easy for these messages to confuse and get lost in translation. Some of them have smart writing on some great social topics but that’s the exception and not the rule. Even on the web there are a sea of them out there. There are, fortunately, a few men’s magazines that get me thinking on topics that have depth and meaning:
To me, it feels important to want to dress well and live life to our fullest potential. However, it’s more important to discuss what kind of lifestyle we want to focus on rather than selling the illusionary lifestyle.
I love the fit of a good suit, a great well-worn pair of jeans and all those things that can make a man look and feel great but I’m all for a life of balance. I don’t want to lead the “lifestyle”, I just want to lead a purposeful life.
When I look at the recession we’re in, the high rate of unemployment, the struggles that most people like you and I are having, its important to remember that the “Joneses” are bankrupt and trying to keep up with them is futile. It’s cool to aspire to improve ourselves financially, but if you’ve ever seen an episode of The Real Housewives or VH1 Behind The Music or TVOne’s: Life After you’ll see that wealth and prominence won’t make you lastingly happy. It’s more important to leave a legacy of character and achievement based on values and purpose. Those two words are powerful because they hit on something more substantive.
The ability to create a lasting, enriching life that gives us satisfaction comes from building and developing relationships with our families, our friends and our communities. It’s not based on some fashion buyer or marketing agents ideal of what they think you should look like or wear or what they think we should aspire to be. One of the greatest accomplishments in life is finding our purpose and passion. As we are on that journey it’s important that we examine whether that purpose is based on things selfish and insular, or enriching and encouraging.
Fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles—we can do tangible things now like giving our time and wisdom in mentoring or volunteering in our hometown. Lifestyle magazines may offer the appearance of fulfillment through things, but we all know that our happiness is connected to what we can do to help others. So to all those men’s blogs and magazines who are encouraging and inspiring us to do better and be better, thank you. Your voice is being heard.
But we still have much much more work to do.
Photo: Flickr/Horia Varlan