What the hell happened to men’s style blogs?
I let the site’s two-year anniversary slip by last year with absolutely zero fanfare. But I didn’t want its three-year anniversary – which actually is today – to get the same treatment because I have a lot to put out there.
And the truth is that I’ve been anticipating and thinking about this post and how to write it a lot over the past few weeks. I’ve jotted down several pages of notes, had multiple conversations about what exactly it is that I want to say and fretted exhaustively over what tone I should (or shouldn’t) take. So I’m just going to lay all my cards on the table and say what I really feel: what the fuck has happened to men’s style blogs?
Heavy, right? And certainly a statement that deserves some explaining and context.
Everything I’m thinking about has to do with what I feel the terms ‘blog’ and ‘blogger’ represent and how that’s changed and evolved over the past three years. Literally one day after I published my first post on HSS, Leandra Medine offered a prescient and pointed critique of the blogging business.
In it, she blamed a changing fashion industry and bloggers’ questionable integrity for the bastardization of the term ‘blog’ and posited that the way forward would include Darwinism at its best. So here we are three years later. Has anything changed? I really don’t think so. In fact, I’d say we’re even worse off.
When Leandra wrote that post, the old-guard was up in arms over this new class of self-styled and self-made fashion “experts.” Who the hell did these people think they were? They didn’t pay their dues. They didn’t start at the bottom as an intern at a major fashion publication and work their way up to relevance and importance. But they get to sit front row and we don’t anymore? Fuck these bitches. All they are is popular.
The establishment was getting turned on its head and had to come to grips with a major recalibration and reality check. So it followed, logically, that these people – these bloggers – became the subject of much derision and ire. Add to that a shameless (and sometimes mindless) approach of not disclosing gifted items and sponsored content – a complete lack of transparency – and the terms ‘blog’ and ‘blogger’ began to acquire a very dirty connotation.
But whether fashion’s traditionalists liked it or not, blogs fundamentally changed their industry and have challenged and shaken up traditional advertising and long-established ways of doing things. And that change – the democratization of fashion – has, in my opinion, been an overwhelmingly positive one. It has given more or less regular people, myself included, an opportunity to share a passion, to participate in a global conversation, to have a seat at the table (or runway show) and to have a voice.
Of all of these things, the latter is the most important and where I think men’s blogs are failing miserably.
I launched HSS during a time of unprecedented promise and excitement in the online men’s space. It was our moment. It was our time! (And it would be all over the second we rode up Troy’s bucket… A small bit of levity brought to you by this Goonies quote.) And the success of HSS and a handful of other upstart men’s style sites rested squarely on the merits and quality of one thing alone – our blogs.
In the three years since we launched, the changes in that model have been palpable. Many, if not all, of the bloggers I “came up” with have all but abandoned their blogs, in favor of cultivating an extremely narcissistic and self-aggrandizing social media presence – a new class of D-list Insta-celeb – and only posting to their actual blogs when their scope of work dictates they must.
Why do I think this has happened? Simple: blogging is hard. And there’s quick money if you’re a “social star.” Blogging requires thought. It requires planning. It requires the ability to write. It requires a host of other skills and proficiencies beyond the scope of simply possessing the ability to edit photos in VSCO (which, I will concede, can be something of an art).
So maybe Leandra was right. Maybe Darwinism has prevailed and those of us still grinding in the blogosphere – those of us who are still writing content because we have something to say, because we start conversations and listen to our readers, because we want to provide something useful and of value to the world, because our currency is brand loyalty and not the dollar, because we’d prefer to say “listen to me” rather than “look at me!” – have survived while the weak have been weaned off and are trying to find and reinvent themselves as something else. But whatever that something else is, let’s not confuse it with being a blogger.
And that’s really it. ‘Blog’ may have become a “dirty word” three years ago, but I, for one, would like to take back the term because what real bloggers do deserves some respect.
Thanks for reading.
He Spoke Style