OUR HOLIDAY ISSUE, FEATURING COVER STAR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, HITS NEWSSTANDS TODAY.
To see my ride, this beautiful, hulking piece of Detroit muscle, one might assume I was burning down the I-90 on some decidedly manly adventure. Outrunning a pack of goons maybe, or off to rescue a beautiful woman I had only met once before, outside a bar in Pittsburgh, who told me I was the only man she could trust. That’s the kind of narrative that would fit this car. Superman blue, with red race-ready seat belts, and a Neanderthal hood, it remains the manliest automobile I’ve ever driven.
Frankly, the car was incongruous to my mission. The 2016 Dodge Charger SRT 392 wasn’t built for literature-inspired road trips. It acquitted itself perfectly, but the drive was beneath it. I was driving to Syracuse to interview George Saunders, an author I respect so much I named my dog after him. Saunders (the author) is a favourite of the NPR set, a recipient of the MacArthur grant, the most generous man you’ll ever meet, and a writer who can consistently make me cry in that subdued, inevitable way men in their late 50s cry, only I’m not in my 50s. Basically, I was a living contradiction, barrelling (safely) down the highway: hard on the outside, earnest on the inside.
Only, that’d be true no matter what car I happened to be driving. As much as we talk about how style, which extends beyond what clothes we wear, is a representation of who we are internally, the fact is no one brand is able to fully embody every aspect of a man’s identity. Manhood isn’t a monolith. We can be dispiritingly predictable, sure, but assumptions based on style, or recent purchases, or one’s Instagram feed, are rarely fully accurate.
To look at me, you wouldn’t know I can quote When Harry Met Sally as efficiently as I can Die Hard (two great holiday movies, by the way). Or that I have a stereotypically male fascination with fire, especially when it’s used on meat, but I can clean a bathroom better than most.
Most assumptions we make based on outward signifiers are harmless — like the non-sequitur recommendations of Amazon. Still, one of the goals of life is to embrace the nuance of others. To project less, and listen more. It’s actually not a bad message during the holidays, as the best gifts are the ones that show a full understanding of the person we’re giving to.
I think about the contradictions of manhood whenever we put together a new winter issue of Sharp. We devote pages to cars, women, and the biological pull of Cool Stuff, along with coverage of literature, entertaining, and, yes, fashion. So, yeah, it can be dangerous to make assumptions based on a man’s preferred brands. Unless that brand is Sharp.