Of the many possible concerns resident in the committed paddler’s oeuvre, grooming and fashion rarely even make it into the mudroom of consciousness. Therefore, you’d be forgiven if you weren’t aware that the canoeist’s traditional accoutrements, including plaid flannel, sensible boots and designer axes are fashion accessory items in vogue. Yes, it’s time to wade into this quagmire of social trends. We’re talking lumbersexuals, fair readers, and it’s about time.

Lumbersexuals adopt canoeist haute couture

When Canadian Canoe Museum friend and America’s favorite DIY funnyman, Nick Offerman, turned up on the cover of his 2014 book, Paddle Your Own Canoe, mustachioed in jeans and a fetching blue flannel shirt and apparently at the helm of a homemade stripper canoe, I immediately picked up the book and was impressed to learn that he’d made the canoe himself.

I admit, I didn’t think much about his outfit. Soon after, however, I discovered I didn’t have to follow Nick far through the Twitterverse to find a growing segment of men in downtown New York, Paris, L.A. and Toronto who dress exactly like him, yet who’ve never made a tea stand in grade school industrial arts, let alone split a cedar board with a hand-stropped blade.

The trend hasn’t confined itself solely to hipsters in urban centers. I’ve since seen the look—our look—on celebrities, in ads and then on the street. The wilderness’ woodsy aesthetic has been borrowed with renewed vigor over the last two years to sell everything from suspenders to cologne. I can’t be the only one who has seen social media feeds turn into a litany of bush-lust-inducing images stamped with twee tags like #campvibes, #modernoutsdoorman and #liveauthentic.

The canoeist’s traditional accoutrements have been adopted far and wide by fashion-forward lumbersexuals. | Feature photo: Waldemar/Pexels

Coined by GearJunkie a year-and-a-half ago, lumbersexual was a tongue-in-cheek term to reference the growing popularity of the rugged outdoorsman look. Last year it was shortlisted for Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year. Today, if you type it into your favorite search engine, Ryan Gosling, Chuck Norris, Jake Gyllenhaal and the Brawny Paper Towel guy lead an astonishing parade of fashionable men with beards, acres of body hair, flannel shirts and various paraphernalia that would lead a casual observer to think they were Nick Offerman, Bill Mason, Ray Mears or maybe even Kevin Callan wannabees. Bless them all.

Clothes alone don’t make the man

Here’s the rub: There’s the look, and then there’s the lifestyle. Take a recent print ad for gear and clothing manufacturer Fjallraven on the back page of outdoor magazine giant, Outside. All the right visual elements were included in the ad—red canoe, rugged dude, outdoor backdrop. Unfortunately, the chap in the canoe is sitting awkwardly while paddling across a mountain lake and wearing a sizeable backpack—ready for the upcoming portage, one can only assume.

The ad should have come with a fine print warning: Wear a PFD. Just as importantly, the ad and this entire trend should come with a proviso for anyone who might be tempted to channel this rugged look to consider that it is in the active outdoor lifestyle where the real charismatic power and lasting beauty lies, not in mere aesthetics.

By all means, buy the plaid shirt, grow your beard long and heft your sharpened axe if you must, just don’t forget to then also head out your door into the great beyond and get on with outdoor living. You’ll be better for it.

James Raffan is Director Emeritus of the Canadian Canoe Museum. He’s credited with coining #bushchic.

cover of Canoeroots Mgaazine, Early Summer 2016 issueThis article was first published in the Early Summer 2016 issue of Canoeroots Magazine. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

The canoeist’s traditional accoutrements have been adopted far and wide by fashion-forward lumbersexuals. | Feature photo: Waldemar/Pexels



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