Machismo and architecture

Admit it: Men do care about aesthetics

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 30, 2010

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Admit it: Men do care about aesthetics

Arrol Gellner
Inman News

When it comes to aesthetic matters, some men seem almost embarrassed to express their opinions. That's not too surprising, considering the longstanding stereotype of males who deal with the look of things.

Architects, designers and other aesthetes are typically seen as being, shall we say, a long way from the guy on the Brawny package. You needn't look any further than the popular media to find them routinely depicted as effete prima donnas.

Rather than risk such associations, many males feign disinterest in how things look, and instead make a pretense of concern for the more manly nuts and bolts of building. They feel compelled to ask questions about lumber grades or circuit breakers, pointedly leaving those sissified aesthetic judgments to their fairer partners.

This is all pure swagger, of course. Men are at least as susceptible to appearances as women are, and one look at the things typically bought or used by males will confirm this. Power tools, pickup trucks, bulldozers -- even items that ostensibly are pure function, such as jet fighters -- are all carefully designed to include the aggressive styling cues that are known to push men's buttons.

Strong colors, chunky lines, and a visual suggestion of weight are all used to impart a look of masculine toughness and durability that panders to the male's own wishful self-image.

Nor is it accidental that so many tools have names suggesting firearms or other things that explode -- hence the names nail gun, screw gun, caulking gun, spray gun, heat gun, drywall bazooka, water blaster.

I own an electric drill -- a relatively harmless tool as these things go -- that's nevertheless sold under the name "Magnum Hole Shooter." Well, hell yes, pardner -- what kind of pasty-faced wimp would settle for just drilling when he could be out shootin' himself some magnum holes?

The point is that men are just as easily moved by a certain curve or color as women are -- we just feel weird admitting it. We might buy that Magnum Hole Shooter for its fire-engine-red case, or its muscle-bound styling, or even its swagger-filled name, but we'll never admit as much.

Instead, we'll mumble something about how Dad's old Hole Shooter lasted for 30 years, and even then it was only the switch that busted.

Given all this macho posturing, it's no wonder that when it comes to the aesthetics of his own home, many a man will pointedly stay out of the conversation. He'll leave it to his gentler partner to hobnob with the architect, who's probably been classed as a bit deficient in the macho column anyway. And he'll profess that he doesn't much care what the place looks like, as long as the garage will fit his table saw.

This reluctance to take an aesthetic stand is too bad, really. After all, a home, beside being a man's castle, is very likely also the biggest investment he'll ever make. Since he's going to have to live in the place, he needn't fear having an opinion on how it should look -- even if he comes off a little pasty-faced now and then.

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