What does the word “masculine” actually mean?
According to the dictionary, it means "having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men, especially strength and aggressiveness.” But according to men’s clothing brand Bonobos, it’s something else entirely.
"I doubt most men truly resonate with that definition of masculinity, they just silently bow their heads to fit in.”
Bonobos customer David Betres
The brand’s new ad campaign attempts to redefine masculinity as it’s traditionally been known, and the results are nothing short of powerful. The clip shows different men reading the description of the word along with some of its synonyms — “macho,” “manly,” “muscular,” “strong” and “red blooded,” to name a few. They overwhelmingly agree that this description of what a man is “supposed” to be is limiting, to say the least.
“I think that definition is a little scary,” says one man.
“I think that’s what gets us in trouble — when we say there’s only one way to be a man,” agrees another.
"Our goal was to crack open a real conversation or dialogue about what it means to be a man today,” Bonobos co-president, Micky Onvural told TODAY Style of the inspiration behind the ad. "#EvolveTheDefinition was a culminating moment for this journey over the past year and, really, this is just the beginning. We're challenging stereotypes and encouraging everyone to get involved and share their point of view. We want to hear from everyone and maybe together we can change the definition to reflect a more diverse and accepting perspective."
In general, Onvural said the reaction to the ad has been overwhelmingly positive.
"I doubt most men truly resonate with that definition of masculinity, they just silently bow their heads to fit in,” David Betres, a longtime Bonobos wearer told TODAY of the ad, which he says turned him into “an emotional mess” the first time he saw it. "They’re more comfortable pretending that they are defined by how masculine they are for fear of judgment or not knowing any better. Men are brainwashed into thinking this is the only way."
Body positivity and inclusivity has increasingly become a part of the conversation surrounding women’s fashion brands — Aerie, Tommy Hilfiger and Christian Siriano have been some recent examples in this sphere — but the men's fashion world still has some catching up to do. For their part, Bonobos has been at the forefront of the movement.
Earlier this year, they launched an ad campaign called Project172 that celebrated men’s body diversity, featuring 172 men of different races, gender identities, ages and body types wearing the exact same style of pants.
"Fashion, while very inclusive in a lot of ways, has historically been very exclusive for years. Whether it be outright pushing of buying a specific product or subtle messaging that features models who are a certain body type, skin color, haircut, whatever. It seems really hard to connect sometimes to men's fashion brands,” said Onvural. "For us, it was about acknowledging and celebrating the diversity of men and all they are in a market that normally doesn't receive that communication. We as a brand at Bonobos believe there's no one way to be a man and certainly no right way, so let's figure it out together with everyone out there.”