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Dec 17, 2013

The Urban Lumberjack Look -- YEA or NAY?



Friends, I know that for many of you -- particularly you Pacific Northwesterners -- the urban lumberjack look isn't really a look at all; it's just the normal way men dress.

Let me assure you that from an Eastern perspective (as in, New York City, not Tokyo), the urban lumberjack is a look: a way of dressing that is definitely from someplace else.  I mean, how many lumberjacks reside in a city with as few trees as New York?  (And the trees we have we're not looking to chop down anytime soon.)

You know a particular look has reached its saturation point when you can buy a Halloween costume version.

 

Naturally, there's a sexy female lumberjack too!



I'm not sure when this Paul Bunyan-inspired aesthetic first laid down roots in the big cities.  Maybe in the early 90's and grunge?  It's not like nobody wore buffalo plaid flannel before the 1990's, it's just you wouldn't see it paired with a watch cap, work boots, suspenders, a scruffy beard and "ironic" vintage eyeglass frames.



 
Designer labels like Burberry offer upscale versions of the lumberjack.  H&M offers fast-fashion versions.  Your local army navy probably sells a lot of this stuff too.







I must admit that I'm partial to the urban lumberjack look, primarily because it requires very little in the way of personal grooming and it's a good silhouette for a short man: high water jeans, ankle boots, and A-line overcoats and jackets.

Plus who doesn't look good in plaid flannel?



Readers, what's your take?  Do you find the urban lumberjack look to be a little too twee for your taste, or does it look appealingly masculine even if it's a kind of cultural appropriation?

Are you offended when you see a man in work boots whose idea of physical labor is hailing a cab to the office and perhaps picking up a latte-to-go? 

Should urban lumberjacks hang up the buffalo plaid and return to the gray flannel suit?

The urban lumberjack look -- YEA or NAY?

Junya Watanabe

59 comments:

  1. Can't have a real opinion. It is just the way a lot of guys dress here. Yes, I live near Seattle, the home of grunge. We dressed this way before Grunge. We dress this way now.

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    1. Born and raised in the Northwest and currently residing in Portland, OR…. I agree with Lynn. Although there is a fashion twist going on with the urban-hipster-lumberjack-1890's thing.

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  2. SeamsterEast@aol.comDecember 17, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    As a man who has swung an axe on fire wood who now lives in The City, I'd throw the stuff out before wearing it. It's like wearing Dickie jeans and a Carhartt coat to a swing club, couples only. Can I say "Nay"?

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  3. I must admit some of those outfits just made me laugh. I live in the Appalachian boonies and plaid flannel shirts are just common work shirts, as are work boots. But what on earth in up with the too short pants? That, I do not get at all.

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  4. I'm a TOTAL fan of the lumberjack look...when pulled off properly. And to pull it off properly you can't be trying too hard to create a 'look' because that isn't what the lumberjack is all about. So, I guess I'm saying 'nay' to the urban lumberjack...UNLESS a lumberjack is visiting the city :) But then again, I'm from Minnesota, home to many a Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues and flannel shirted man going hunting or fishing

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  5. That sexy girl look is APPALLING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. The guys are just funny in an urban setting .I like the essence of lumbar jack in some of the runway examples . I guess that in the snow amongst those deep green pine trees it would look just right .

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  6. Totally hot. Modern mountain man. I'm massively suburban, however, so I can't really answer the urban part. Nor have I seen anyone dress this way in real life.

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  7. ^^Yeah. PNW chick here, and those last three pics are too dorky for words.

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  8. Some yea and some nay. Give me a pair of jeans and a plaid flannel shirt, colored T, and I'm good. That lumber jack look I'll wear but you can keep the runway looks. I've been wanting to make a few plaid flannel shirts but haven't been able to find a decent woven plaid fabric.

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  9. I'm another PNW girl and will attest that the flannel-shirt look is just guys dress here (my husband being an odd exception for some reason). Where did the rolled up jeans come from? No one here does that. I will add, that when I finally save enough money to take a trip to New York, I'l be hoping to find that the majority of people are wearing something more exciting than plaid flannel and ankle boots.

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    1. My rolled up jeans, in the 60's, came from my older brother!!! While my mom had a Singer 221 (the first machine I sewed on at 13) she would never hem a pair of "good" jeans, they might last for one of my 3 younger brothers.

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  10. If it's what you wear fishing, or camping, or operating a brushhog, that's cool.
    Nay to it as a "look." To me, it projects insecurity, like the men wearing it are desperately trying to channel some spec of rugged capability, independence, strength, and masculinity.

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  11. Oregonian by way of the Midwest. Actual lumberjacks wear Carhart coveralls. I love flannel shirts and jeans. Very comfy and practical. Always in style for women and men of all ages. Some of the runway looks are kinda silly.

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    1. Laughing at the Carhart reference--so true. Bluegrass night @ the Laurelthirst? 90% of the men will be wearing plaid flannel shirts.

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  12. Urban lumberjack? Nay. I live in Oregon in a small mountain town and most of the men around here work in the timber industry so I see the real thing every single day. I'm not digging the urban thing, sorry. It looks like a costume on those guys.

    Nothing wrong with plain old jeans (ones that are long enough) and a flannel shirt though. That looks good on men and women.

    Sewpdx is right, Carhartts are preferred over jeans by real loggers.

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  13. In the urban context, the lumberjack look is risible. So that's a "yea" because laughter is a good thing.

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  14. I think overall most men look nice dressed in that attire no matter where you are geographically located. There is a time and a place for everything though, and I respect anyone dressing for the occasion.

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  15. Close to the Australian subculture 'bogan' (google it)
    CD

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  16. SeamsterEast@aol.comDecember 18, 2013 at 6:19 AM

    "But what on earth in up with the too short pants? "
    "Where did the rolled up jeans come from?"
    ===================

    Rolled up "high water" pants hems are a signal of social availability, most usually on fitted blue jeans.

    They can be seen most often on freelance social entrepreneurs of a commercial bent (along with the requisite messenger or camera bags, and slip off/slip on shoes). In that context, they are most often seen on those in their 20's.

    Yet, non-commercial usage is also common, particularly those who simply like their lovin' and who may be inclined to make friends quickly. In this context, age of wearer can be teenage to into their 70's, and men and women alike can wear them. Most usually fitted blue jeans, but non-blue jeans can be seen among the older crowd as well.

    I'm not sure why the display of the bare ankle brings thoughts of exciting company, but it's there. Maybe like the flower over the left (right?) ear of South Sea maidens?

    Note: "High Water" hems can be seen on **some** mens suits, but that is a clear -- if subtle -- statement of specific intent. Corporate business suits, by comparison, have the cuff "break over the instep". Suits with high water pants hems usually are the wrong and off color for corporate wear, are tailored a mite too tightly for such, are set off by non-corporate brown shoes (sometimes without socks), and often topped with an expensive, non-corporate haircut. High Water suits can often be seen outside high end hotel bars and at theater and charity events, the suit wearer facing the crowd and drinking nothing stronger than club soda.

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  17. On young slim guys it's a great look, on middle aged guys with a paunch not so much

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    1. It reads to me as "earnestly butch" on any age, frame or physique. Perhaps my judgment is clouded on such issues.

      A bona-fide Phyllis Phan

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  18. it totally depends on the guy. Some can carry it off - but most can't

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  19. It's a great look for October 31. Would you dress like a postman? How about a butler? Or a surgeon? Occupational clothing should be worn by those in the occupation. That's the point. I've never meet a lumberjack, but I've seen several arborist and not one was dressed in plaid. Besides if you really were a lumberjack OSHA would require a neon safety vest and a hardhat.

    It’s as silly as the Best Made Axe nonsense. I think I’m going to start buying old Singer cabinets and painting stripes on the legs and then selling them for stupid prices.

    Peter, in the motorcycling world their is a saying that friends don’t let their friends wear fringe. I think the saying is apt here as well.

    Your blog is part of my daily ritual. I look forward to reading each new entry. Keep writing and sewing. You have a gift.

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  20. Variety is the spice of life!! Given the right guy and setting: Bravo!

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  21. I love the look, it's fun. What's not to like about flannel shirts? However, I insist the both guy and shirt be clean and groomed. Otherwise, thumbs down

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  22. Yea. What's not to love about a man in a soft, flannel, huggable shirt and jeans? Plus, my husband wears flannel shirts and jeans on the weekends in the winter.

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  23. My ol man spent the first fifteen years of our life together looking like this every day, day in day out. One day he woke up declared he hated all his clothes and never dressed like it again. C'est la vie!

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  24. I'm not a fan of buffalo plaid or costume fashion. People wearing legitimate working clothes simply because it is somebody's idea for this year's fashion falls into the costume category for me. I grew up with men who had to wear Dickie's and flannel shirts because they work at dirty, hard manual labor.
    I'm okay with the general idea that everyone wears jeans and flannel shirts on the weekends, or when they aren't working. But those high fashion looks are kind of offensive to me - they belittle the hard working folks who dress like that because they have to.

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    1. I'm curious to know why you think it belittles hard working folks -- couldn't it be seen as celebrating their style?

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    2. As is typical for me, I can give you no logical reason why my gut-reaction is that the designers who created these looks were not honoring the men who must spend their working lives wearing them. Having said that, you are right, they probably didn't mean to belittle working men either. To steal a thought from Eleanor Roosevelt, they probably weren't thinking about what I consider real working men one way or another.

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    3. I think on some level, men who may not work with their hands or engage in physical labor for a living, look up to men who do as sort-of masculine archetypes (aka. "real" men). Dressing like a lumberjack, a lineman, or a construction worker makes them feel more manly.

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  25. LL Bean built a retail empire on this look. Enough said.

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  26. My boyfriend indeed wears the look, but he's a carpenter. Who cuts his own firewood....so for him its legitimate. For the record, I don't think he likes people who dress that way for fashion. I like really well made versions of the typical work boot or flannel, but by companies who do it for legitimate outdoorsman-ness, like Filson (YUM). But fashion is fashion, n'est-ce pas?

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  27. The Lumberjack look as considered by the Monty Pythons
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL7n5mEmXJo

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  28. If you dressed this way in Sydney you'd look like a bogan, and I'm pretty sure bogans don't do irony. Don't do it!!! I can't comment on the New York angle though...

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  29. My sister spent ten years living in Alaska and the last twenty in Seattle where they all dress this way. . .not even a look really. I think it's much cuter than suits.

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  30. You could design handbags shaped like chainsaws!! Oh I crack myself up-

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  31. Ha! I'm sure my husband doesn't consider himself an urban lumberjack -- he work indoors in Brooklyn and wears sneakers, not workboots. But he does wear a lot of plaid flannel button-downs in the winter, and he's a short man so his pants are usually cuffed. It wasn't until looking at the photo array that I realized that cuffed pants were part of the look... I'm pretty sure he cuffs his jeans because it's hard to find 29" inseams and we're both too lazy to get them hemmed.

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  32. This is actually a really hard thing for me (I mean, as far as fashion can be hard. I guess I shouldn't be hyperbolic). I grew up in the post-hippie era, in Quaker meeting, with bearded guys in Army surplus, wool overshirts, overalls, etc. I'm pretty much hard-wired to like hairy men in work clothes. However, what my childhood tells me this look should say, and what it now says, are so different that I'm more or less permanently confused and disappointed by it.

    So, aesthetically . . . Hell, yes. But then I'll find out that it's all either designer, or all thrift store and he hasn't been outdoors since Cub Scouts, and I'll feel cheated. If I could rein in my expectations, I'd love it a lot more. It's all hipsters now.

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  33. It depends. Being from the boonies myself plaid shirts are just something you see everyday. I guess I feel about the "urban lumberjack" (man am I behind I didn't even know it was that big of a thing) as the urban cowboy. A little goes a long way.

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  34. Double Yea. I have more than a small crush on the guy who did the fabric waxing video that I watched to learn how to make fabric wax. He totally rocks the lumberjack look.

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  35. Wouldn't you say the too tight, too short thing is independent of any other style thing these days, more the silhouette of the era, like the big hair and shoulders of the 80s? It certainly doesn't seem confined to the worker-wear look, which on its own and at its best has much to recommend it to this child of the east-coast suburban 50s and lover of all things topstitched and made for the weekend.

    We called buffalo-plaid shirts lumberjack shirts even then (the 50s) but what we meant was something to rake leaves in, or to declare independence from the prevailing fashion with, rural grandparents more likely to be brought to mind by the look than some never-glimpsed actual lumberjack. As a sewer I'm really enjoying the current emphasis on small-mill revivalist utility fabrics and Bilt-To-Last topstitching, and the emergence into daily language of terms like selvedge and chain-stitching. And all those pockets; it's like the Jazz Age for the Patch! As yet another strike against The Business Suit and all who rob with a fountain pen, I'm finding the worker look particularly congenial; much more so than, say, the Miami Vice look, golf clothes or the Casual Friday effect. But then I don't currently live in a big city and have to have it rubbed in my face as a Thing. And I've never lived on a planet where runway men's fashion was ever to be seen in real life. That Junya Watanabe trio feels like a Kiss of Death, but I expect real utility clothing to survive the assault.

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    1. [*gasp*] You really do exist.

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  36. At least the hats on the last three guys are better than the one on the right in the next to last photo. I think if I passed him on the street I might giggle.

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    1. Yeah, from the neck up Watanabe's not violating my eyes:)

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  37. I did not ever consider this look to be "lumberjack' inspired. My husband wears a lot of vintage flannels, work/hunting pants, boots, wool caps, etc. along with a beard in the winter (starting when hunting season starts). Granted we do not live in the city, but we do not live on a farm (however much he wishes we did). It goes with my vintage (40s-50s) look and I really love it. It would make less sense if you were not outside a good portion of the day though. It would be a bit odd (and sweaty) for sitting in an office. hehe. Out in the woods though I don't think you could ask for a better outfit (yea, I'm not big on the realtree look).

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  38. PNW around here and that is not a real lumberjack look!!! That is a campy version of it. Why is it that high fashion is so childish??

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  39. Portlander here. I'll just mention that weather-wise the "lumberjack" look works here. It rarely gets very cold and layering makes sense rather than a heavy coat. I spend the winter in twill or flannel with a cardigan. Hats are popular because of the rain. That said, the haute lumberjack looks there are pretty absurd. Also, now I want a large scale a-line plaid coat.

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  40. My dad was a carpenter in MA, and I grew up with work clothes, plaid Pendleton wool shirts, jeans, cords, boots. But I've lived in the PNW since 1967, work with lawyers in downtown Seattle and see very few plaid shirted men in the city. I feel suits are costumes. Love clean jeans, cords, plaid shirts, work boots.

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  41. Urban lumberjack??? meaning designer clothing to mimic the bush look? that would make me laugh if I saw that whether it was in city or country. I can tell by your footwear and clothing if you are a true non-urbanite. As a female, I did the lumberman look because I was working in the bush.

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  42. I remember this look pre-grunge in the mid-seventies Midwest. It was hippy counter-culture meets the Smokey and the Bandit. Beards, 'stashes, flannel shirts, work boots, CB radios, all those trucker songs, yecch. When I arrived in NYC in the early 80s, I was so happy to see all of those well-groomed guys (with haircuts! And shaves! Who took you to an actual restaurant with tablecloths!) rocking that American Gigolo Armani look.

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  43. The only time I've seen the lumberjack look was on Project Runway about a year ago. http://snakesandkittens.tumblr.com/post/35392814718/adorable-lumberjack-bears-judging-project-runway

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  44. This is so Portland, Oregon. Actually, I don't think this is as much a style here as a uniform :)

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  45. It surprises me that people actually get offended by the fact that people in urban areas sport this look. Does that mean that only business men can wear suits and athletes can wear sneakers and sports attire etc?
    I live in Europe in an urban area, I love dressing in this style when the winter kicks in as it just makes sense and looks good, as long as grooming is maintained.
    People in urban areas and especially those who are in their 20's and 30's love fashion, I see nothing wrong with following it if you're into that, it's not for everyone.
    What I can't imagine is looking and dressing the same way all your life, that's very boring to me..

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  46. Shall we look for all of the Village People as future fashion "looks" for men. Grew up in Northern Michigan, now in Oregon. Love to see men in SUITS, because it's so rare! I want a glitter gun to shoot glitter into all the ironic & generally incredibly unmaintained beards here in Portland...so over it.

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