We’ve all heard about the ‘new man’ - the one touted since 2000 as the metrosexual, family-loving, feminist; more likely to be caught swigging a Fairtrade Ethiopian brew than a pint. But have men moved on from lad culture for good?
The announced closure of archetypal lads’ mags FHM and Zoo – purveyors of blokey humour and semi-clad ‘babes’ – prompted many to wonder whether the ‘lad’ is dying or whether he has simply taken up his stag-like residence online.
The ability to pull up graphic depictions of your most depraved sexual fantasies from the comfort of our own home mean sites such as the Lad Bible still clock millions of views each day. But at the same time, we may be witnessing a wider trend towards a different kind of masculinity - a more mature, politically correct kind. That’s right; the lad may have just grown up.
A surprising success story to emerge from the ashes of the lads’ mag industry is the infamously NSFW Playboy. By cutting the nudes and intellectualising their content, they saw a jump in readership from 5.5 to 21.5 million in just six months. Even the Lad Bible - assumed to be taking up the mantle of lad culture in the digital age - has updated its brand to reflect wider cultural trends.
Mimi Turner, the Lad Bible’s marketing director, told Quartz that while “young men are always going to want to see exciting pictures of beautiful women”, Lad Bible wants “women to feel happy about those pictures as well.” She uses the fact that 20 per cent of 18 to 24-year-old women follow the Lad Bible to illustrate her claim that their content “spans the gender divide.”
Indeed, this seems to be key in the shift away from lad culture. In a society where trans-people are celebrated, ethnic minorities and women are achieving parity like never before and political correctness is king, casual misogyny – once the bed rock of laddishness – is not only seen as unacceptable, but also outdated.
“Brands can still appeal to men with ‘lad banter’ as consumers still enjoy that type of humour, but they need to find a way of leaving the misogyny behind,” says Richard Buchanan, co-founder of brand consultancy The Clearing, in an interview with Marketing Week.
No brand had the lad sewn into their DNA more than deodorant company, Lynx, but even this iconic name is taking on a new mascot. “The ‘lad’ as an archetype simply isn’t as desirable anymore for guys to aspire to or for girls to be attracted to,” Jonathan Bottomley, chief strategy officer at BBH told Marketing Week.
“Rather than the classic lad stereotype, men want to be seen as worldly and having achieved things; that feels culturally more on the money for male-focussed brands now.” In this vein, Lynx will be setting up a ‘concept store’ in trendy East London where retail will be complemented by pop-up cinema viewings, gigs and even seminars. It seems the lad is truly vanquished - and his executioner? The hipster.
Words: Laurie Clarke