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New Men's Media: Bringing Back the Art of Manliness

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h1Be useful. Don’t just rant about stuff or spout off your opinion. Newsflash: No one cares.

Brett McKay, Art of Manliness

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We've long been fans of The Art of Manliness, a site devoted to helping men be better husbands, better fathers, and better men. It's earnest, useful and highly entertaining – without sinking to the linkbait you'll find in classic laddie mags. It's also what we love about Gear Patrol and this list of men's style and gear sites on the SAY 100 too.

AOM is one of the original new men's media sites founded in 2008. We checked in with the creators, husband and wife team Brett and Kate McKay, to ask them how they define manliness, what their most popular posts have been, and the trouble with comments on posts. In a nod to the sweaty summer season we also asked them a burning fashion question: when is it ok for men to not tuck their shirts?

Why is being manly a lost art? We take our definition of manliness from the ancient Greeks and Romans. For them, manliness meant living a life of virtue, honor, and excellence, fulfilling your potential as a man, and being the absolute best brother, friend, husband, father, and citizen you can be. That’s what manliness meant in the West for nearly 2,000 years. You can see it used that way all the way up through World War II. But then the meaning of manliness changed. The noble idea of manliness was replaced with a cartoon version of it. Today people associate manliness with drinking beer, exploding stuff, and being a dumb muscle-head. We’re trying to bring back the more noble meaning of manliness with our site by showing men the skills and virtues they should develop to be the best man they can be.

What are the most popular posts you've created? And was there a “breakout post” that helped expand your list of followers? Here’s a list of the most popular posts we’ve published on the site:

100 Must Read Books: The Man's Essential Library

How to Shave Like Your Grandpa

100 Must See Movies: The Essential Men's Movie Library

How to Tie a Tie

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9 Ways to Start a Fire Without Matches

Bringing Back the Hat

Stop Hanging Out With Women and Start Dating Them

10 Worst Products For Men Ever Created

Do More Than One Stinking Pull-up

Rediscovering the Barbershop

The breakout post for us was “How to Shave Like Your Grandpa.” That’s what put us on the map. It was the first post I published on the site. A few months later it was picked up on Digg and Reddit and a whole host of other sites. I think in about a month we gained 4,000 subscribers from that post. Ever since then, the site has been growing by leaps and bounds each month.

How are you different than the other men’s lifestyle brands out there - and how has that contributed to your success? We don’t write about six-pack abs, we don’t have photo galleries of half naked women, and we encourage a lifestyle that’s affordable for the average Joe. We do some fun and humorous stuff, but at its heart the site is very sincere in its mission of helping men become better. We talk about building character in a very earnest way. And I think that’s been the big part of our success. I quickly discovered that there are a lot of men out there who are, like me, tired of the content that’s marketed towards men. They’re looking for something more substantive than, say, interviews with Megan Fox on what she looks for in a man.

You’ve talked about the limited ROI of comments on blogs - how important are comments on Art of Manliness and what do you learn from them? It really depends on the post. Sometimes the comments aren’t very useful. Just people arguing over what’s manlier - whisky or scotch? Other times we get some really insightful comments from our readers that really add value to our original content or even change my mind about the opinions expressed in the post. I think the biggest thing I learn from the comments is what readers do and do not like. But even then you have to keep in mind that people who disagree with something and have something negative to say are far more likely to comment than those who liked the article.

What’s your best advice for new publishers/bloggers getting started? Don’t wait to start until you have a perfect plan. Just get started and adapt along the way. Be useful. With most of our posts we try to provide information that people can put into practice right away. Don’t just rant about stuff or spout off your opinion. Newsflash: No one cares.

Tell us about a manliness trend you’re excited about right now. I’m just happy to see so many men who are interested in bringing back a more substantive idea of manliness. I’m seeing more blogs that have the same theme as ours which is great!

Who or what influences you? My grandpa is a big inspiration for the site. The man was far from perfect, but he sure knew how to do a lot of things that I don’t. He can shoe a horse and skin a deer, but then get dressed up later that evening for a night of stimulating conversation. Theodore Roosevelt is another big influence for me. He really epitomizes a man that took the ancient idea of manliness and Americanized it. His “Strenuous Life” philosophy really captures what I think manliness means. Do hard things and always be striving. Even if you fail, you’re a better man for trying.

Set the record straight: Should men tuck in their shirts or leave them out – what are the rules? Depends. T-shirt? Never. Polo? Sometimes. Dress shirt? I say always, but if you’re sailing a boat in Nantucket, you can get away with leaving it untucked.

Follow Brett and Kate on Twitter @ArtofManliness.

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