Last night a group of us Broadly types were at a bar when we were accosted by the glowing appearance of a smiling, extremely good-looking man. He dazzled us with his sparkling blue eyes and sharp, inspiring jawline, and then he opened his mouth and revealed himself to be British.
We were beside ourselves. What is it about British men that makes women comfortable enough to openly giggle about them in their presence? The accent certainly plays a role—it softens them, making them seem sensitive and accessible. (Perhaps too sensitive and accessible.) But it is also probably something about that apologetic confidence; it's not the aggressive, in-your-face manliness the American people imbibe from a young age. And indeed, this week, the UK-based market research firm YouGov released statistics that confirm some of these romantic fantasies about British men: They increasingly think masculinity is bad and don't really associate themselves with it.
According to the statistics, which surveyed 819 men and 873 women, 42 percent of British men aged 18-24 have a negative association with masculinity. In older age groups, that percentage drops sharply. (So Hugh Grant is probably not among the more enlightened.) What's more, British men are much less attached to the concept of masculinity than American men; when asked to rate themselves on a scale from 0 (completely masculine) to 6 (completely feminine), 42 percent of American men considered themselves masculine, while only 28 percent of British guys did.
Is there something about American culture and priorities that yield more masculine dudes? "It's intersectional as hell for me—but mainly because I really do identify as an American in terms of culture, as well as identifying as a man," said Harry Cheadle, a VICE US editor who identified himself as a 1 on the masculine-feminine scale. "There are more or less universal markers of masculinity, like being strong and sporty and relatively unemotional and not gay, but you see some national differences. UK men are definitely expected to dress better than American men. (I think?)"
Read more: Vape Culture Is Real
Historical and cultural ideas also figure into each country's impression of masculinity. "What America has is the cowboy archetype—you are supposed to be self-sufficient and sort of anti-society, which seems super cool to me because I am a helpless product of the culture that has shaped me," Harry said. "It's sort of similar to the 'stiff upper lip' thing British men have going on, but there are definitely differences."
According to Joe Bish, a VICE UK staff writer who said he was a 3.5 on the scale ("I'm really hairy all over my dad bod, but I wear glasses. I also cry semi-regularly, but not at episodes of Broad City or Nashville or whatever ladies watch."), Harry has it all wrong. "Britishness in a stereotypical way to the outsider is not considered very masculine, whereas here masculinity takes different form depending on who you ask and where," Joe told me over email. "We have little to no industry here now, so traditional masculinity I feel is on the wane and giving way to a more tech-heavy, vaping type of man." Joe found little crossover in his gender and national identities. "[Being British] informs things like my humour [SIC!!!!] and worldview, but I don't think it has a lot to do with how many wheelbarrows full of smashed up bricks I can lift into a dumpster."
Another VICE UK editor outlined some further masculine archetypes. "There's definitely a very British set of masculine tropes/stereotypes," he, a 3, said. "Football-watching pub lad or Northern hard man who used to work in a mine or whatever. I fall more into the Blur era, Damon Albarn-y, artsy, soft, middle-class southern grouping than the Noel Gallagher, Northern hard man thing. Overall I fear people see me as more Hugh Grant—a bit wet and awkward." One of the sexier qualities of British men is how they speak English like it's a different language.
Regardless of their country of origin, however, most men agreed that working at VICE was not manly. Regarding gender associations with our place of employment, Joe said, "I feel like I may as well have a giant back tattoo that says, 'I am weak please punch me until I'm dead.'"