It was bound to happen: "manly" veganism is a thing now. It's the newest trend carried by masculinity’s widespread wings, swept along with brosé and brogurt, a powerful alternative to yogurt, designated as “chick food” by Men’s Journal.
Masculine veganism, according to Dutch advertising company Marielle Bordewijk, is hot in 2019. Along with eco-conscious packaging and mushrooms, man-approved veganism makes the annual list of food trends predicted for the upcoming year. In 2019, men are heading for plants. In 2019, real men are vegan.
There’s no shock that men are late to the game. Veganism is missing one vital pillar of machismo: meat. True men are carnivores. They don’t just eat meat; they need it.
This narrative is all too familiar. When women catch onto a trend, it’s considered frivolous, annoying, and overused.
Look at yogurt. At first, the protein-packed food targets women with pastel colors, fruity flavors, and the ever-popular weight loss trope of a yellow polka-dot bikini. The male version is the exact opposite. Powerful Yogurt (by the company Powerful Foods, created specifically to target dudes) boasts 25g of protein, is “made by men, for men.” Its black, stout packaging doesn’t list calorie counts.
MJ Flott, owner of punk-centric vegan pastry business Wolf Teeth Donuts and house baker at Kaibur Coffee in Polish Hill, laughs at the notion of masculine veganism.
“The things that girls like are stupid, basic, and trendy, but once a man catches on, they become elevated and re-defined,” jokes Flott.
“Hegans,” the moniker for men who swear by veganism, turn a female-targeted and socially weak diet into a strong, sex-driven, powerful lifestyle. Advocates for hegans stroke the male ego. Articles brag that “Vegan Men Have 13% Higher Testosterone Levels!” and “23 Hot Guys You Didn’t Know Were Vegan.” Menus emphasize generous portions and satisfying results, balancing out meatless meals with descriptors like gunpowder and caveman. It’s a de-feminization of vegan food.
“If more men want to be vegan, cool!” Flott says. “The marketing end of it is pretty silly. If you are so concerned with being weak because of food, then you have a greater issue than food. I don’t think veganism is going to suffer for lack of masculinity.”
The baker is right. With or without men, veganism is on the rise. In the past five years, Pittsburgh has seen a spike in accessible vegan food. Restaurants like Onion Maiden, B52, and Apteka raised the city’s standards for plant-based diets. Neighborhood grocery stores are making vegan food convenient, stocking shelves with dairy-free cream cheese and nut milk. Veganism has been polished, taken under the wing of influencers, food-bloggers, and now, men.
Masculine veganism is a transparent attempt to get social permission for men to lose meat. (Unfortunately, it also means a surge of the term “Hegans” on social media.) Plenty of men are vegan — for health, moral, or ecological reasons — not because of targeted marketing. Gendered or not, it’s just food. Veganism may be masculinity’s new frontier, but nothing else has changed. And while men struggle to catch up, women can sit back, relax, and enjoy their chick food.