When launching a magazine, the first question to consider is “Who’s it for?” and the second is “Why do they need it?” Eighteen months ago, it was quite clear to me who it wasn’t for: there were two big outdated stereotypes I wanted to avoid.
The first is the Alpha male – preening, obsessed with being “number one”, unable to accept the supremacy of an ego other than his own. The most enduring Alpha representative is James Bond, who might make a good movie, but has two hugely unfashionable characteristics: no one likes him and he has no friends. As for his legendary irresistibility to women, take away the ones who are paid to try and kill him, and count again.
The other type I wanted to avoid was the beery “bloke”, friendly and self-deprecating on a good day, but totally unable to express his insecurities, desires and authentic self in the language of banter.
To confirm I wasn’t alone in thinking fewer and fewer men found the above definitions as helpful to them or as something to aspire to, we commissioned some research. The results confirmed that in working out how to be a man in 2016, a majority of men have rejected imitating role models, stereotypes or remote, taciturn fathers, and have instead opted to build their own personality, using the infinite possibilities that a digital society provides, and that emphasises personal satisfaction over frantic career building, unrewarding social obligations and competitive car purchasing. We’ve called this person Alta-male – “Alta” as in higher – a step further up the evolutionary mountain.
This is not Coach saying how you should be – far from it, I urge you to be who and what most makes you happy (and as one very astute consultant pointed out, all definitions of men eventually find themselves to be targets of mockery).
Neither does it signal an end to shocking male behaviour – as far as this magazine is aware, the competition for “Utter Tosser” is still thriving at regional, national and “World’s Most” level.
Rather, these are trends that our research has identified and that chime harmoniously with Coach’s goals of “fitter + healthier + happier”, not least because all men we spoke to, without exception, felt they should be doing more to improve themselves. – Ed Needham, Editor
RECOMMENDED: QUIZ – What Type of Man Are You?
1. Traditional masculinity is out
Our research showed fewer than one in four men want to be thought of as “masculine”. The Alta-male is less interested in having typically “masculine” traits (strength, toughness, instant respect and the ability to grow a moustache by sundown), and is more interested in qualities such as friendliness, intelligence, being interesting and caring.
2. Experiences trump new material things
Of course, he still buys stuff – lots of it – but when buying a car, for example, he might think about its ability to transport mountain bikes, rather than whether it might make women think he’s a professional footballer.
3. He feels he has the freedom to be himself
He no longer feels the compulsion to be what society wants or expects him to be, or conform to a past stereotype or label. He’d rather connect with other people than “create a good impression”.
4. Success is self-defined, not what other people say it should be
See: various MasterChef contestants turning their back on years of medical training to open a macaroonery.
5. Who cares what other people think?
He’s worked out that being comfortable with who he is on the inside is more rewarding than being obsessed with outward appearance and “what people think”.
6. He does the things that make him happy
And those things, whether on a bicycle, on an X-box, in a record shop or an infinity of other locations are not awkward “hobbies” to be vaguely ashamed of, but a confident statement of “this is me”.
7. Kids before career
He rejects the model of “a-bit-of-sport-and-loads-of-telly” parenthood his own father favoured. The Alta-male would even be open to changing his career if it meant he could spend more time with his family.
8. There’s more to life than work
The goal is to not just progress one’s career and communicate with family members through hard cash, but to engineer a rewarding mixture of family and self.
9. Age is no barrier
Those changes don’t have to begin by making a sudden 90-degree handbrake turn, but can often be achieved by making small adjustments to his wellbeing and lifestyle, such as cutting out the After Eights, running to the first lamppost, or deciding that he’ll be the judge of whether he has another drink, not his colleagues on the sales team.
10. Improvement comes from health and exercise
When he thinks of making changes for the better, he thinks that physical activity is the key to lifestyle change and feeling better about himself.
Alta-Males in Their Own Words
“The world is a smaller place, and I’ve the opportunity to see so much more of it than my dad ever had. I go travelling regularly, and have even left jobs to go travelling – it’s just so much more of a motivator than getting a slightly bigger flat or a slightly nicer car. I’m not saying I want to live in a hut, but for any man under 40 there is much more a mentality of working to live and not living to work.” – Sebastian, 28, editor
“Men are a bit more accepting that you need to make choices with your quality of life in mind. I think the martyr complex has faded away – that idea that the man must make sacrifices. I don’t want to sound like Cosmopolitan, but we do now think we can have it all.” – James, 30, management consultant
“I think ‘masculinity’ has become a bit of a toxic term. If you define yourself by it, you’re kind of rejecting all the attributes society has traditionally seen as ‘feminine’, and in these gender-conscious times, that’s kind of uncool.” – Alex, 33, civil servant
“I worked as a lawyer for years, and hated it and I knew I needed to change. It sounds a bit cheesy, but the feelings of job satisfaction I get now just dwarf any pay cheque you could give me. I genuinely feel much more successful now, despite earning less than half what I used to.” – Andrew, 36, charity worker
“I have a demanding career, and a six-month-old at home. The work culture in the company I work for has perhaps historically not been too sympathetic to new parents. I’ve been meeting with my bosses and trying to sort out their policies on things like paternity leave and flexible working, things like that. I’m very career-driven, but I see no reason why starting a family should contradict that” – Will, 32, investment banker
“I moved from being an accountant to opening my own restaurant with a childhood friend. A radical step, but in terms of lifestyle, the gamble has more than paid off. More prosaically, I quit drinking when I turned 40 and started to take a bit more care of myself. It was such a surprise seeing what impact just small lifestyle changes could have.” – Michael, 44, restaurant manager
The Alta-Male in Numbers
- 82% of men agree that “there is no set path in front of me for life”
- 92% of men agree that “life could be seen as a series of different chapters”
- 60% of men have tried to get fitter, and 53% have exercised specifically to lose weight
- 32% of men aged 25-34 and 26% of men aged 35-44 have started to run regularly in the past couple of years
- 84% of men agree that “I would rather make small changes to my wellbeing/ lifestyle than completely overhaul it”
- 38% have started to cut down on alcohol, and 25% have begun counting calories
- 94% of men aged 35-44 are more likely to agree that “I would be happy for my partner to earn more money than me”
- Only 10% of men feel pressured to dress a certain way. Only 21% want to be seen as attractive
- Only 11% of men feel that material possessions make for a successful man in 2016
Get the Coach Newsletter
Sign up for workout ideas, training advice, reviews of the latest gear and more.