A history of the man cave and how to elevate yours
Let's banish the navy sheets, people!
words Rhys Thomas
Here's a mandate for loving yourself. This week we're encouraging men to get into the habit of dosing up some self love. Whether that's admiring their own beauty, exploring what feels good to them and why or finding out why they have crumbs in their beds, this is a week of self exploration, because you can't love anybody else if you don't love yourself...
The term "man cave" was first officially coined in 1992, by Joanne Lovering, writing for the Toronto Star: "With his cave of solitude secured against wife intrusion by cold floors, musty smells and a few strategic cobwebs, he will stay down there for hours nestled in very manly magazines and open boxes of tools. Let's call the basement, man cave."
But these spaces have existed for far longer. Often, they seem to be spaces where men do things that would be annoying to do in any other room of the house: have a massive train set, use power tools, exist. The idea of a bachelor pad has been around since 1960s issues of Playboy, but little nice phrases aside this has been around forever. Mark Twain, who died in 1910, famously had an entire top floor of his home dedicated to billiards.
These days, man caves still exist, the subreddit r/mancave (which describes itself as "the last bastion of masculinity" has 58,700 members. But with many of us renting, the man cave (and workspace and library and yoga studio and lounge and side-hustle studio and place where you do weights) have all become one room. The bedroom. This doesn't mean we’ve made them any cosier, far from it.
And it isn’t just for having to cram more of our things into a single 3x4m box. You’ve seen the memes of navy or black bed sheets covering mattresses on the floor, next to a little pile of unfolded clothing. Messy rooms can worsen sleep, a study conducted by New York’s St. Lawrence University has proven it can decrease sleep quality and improve anxiety. The more clutter, the longer it takes to switch off.
With this in mind, it’s curious that men simply enjoy relaxing in a room that looks unfinished. A room that keeps you slightly on edge. Why? In case you have to wake up and fight off a predator still? Well, maybe, actually. Messy or less comfortable rooms are shown to increase cortisol levels, and men are known to ignore or try to override their cortisol levels – even if it's generally detrimental to their health. Men also produce more cortisol than women. And cortisol is the stress hormone that invokes the 'fight or flight' response, which was a mechanism humans designed to protect themselves against predators. So yes, it's fair to say we keep our man caves less relaxed in order to maybe have to fight off predators. But we don’t need to be doing this in 2023. We can choose to make our room a bit nicer to exist in, call it self-care if you want.
As well as showing yourself some love, any partners or people staying over might appreciate it, too. (Some polls suggest it can be a dealbreaker). Here’s a few ideas on how to evolve that man cave into a nice bedroom for a nice bloke.
Dark bedding can make a room feel smaller and darker, as it absorbs light. Opting for lighter colours will make the room feel a bit more airy. If you want something calming, opt for neutral or pastel shades. For a bit of fun, go vibrant. Additionally, you’d want good material. Cotton and silk generally king – very breathable, easy to wash, and soft. Ideal.
If you have acne, use skin care, or have frizz-prone hair, silk pillowcases are a godsend. Also, if you have someone coming over whose hair gets frizzy or wears night creams, well they’ll appreciate you having a silk pillowcase or two very very much. This one comes in a variety of colours, and is made of mulberry silk. They’re good at keeping you cool in bed too.
Getting the vibes right
Sleep hygiene is a whole thing. From smells and lighting through to just having a room that feels happy and peaceful, it makes a difference for your ability to snooze. But that aside, if you're bringing someone home you want them to be as into your room as they are your wardrobe (and other things of course). So here's some pointers
good ol mother nature
Plants are great. You get to look after them, they’re nice to look at, and many of them help to purify the air in a room. This Kentia Palm offers a bit of a tropical slant to your ‘man cave’, maybe having a look at it will help you think of the beach and a sea breeze. It comes with a pot too, nice and easy.
a book that's also a look
You may already have a load of books in your room, but whether you read or not, a few beautiful coffee table books about interesting things go a long way to elevating the vibe of the place. This book is part visual part text, so you can flip through it or actually enjoy reading. And it’ll look great on display all the same.
There are some things you might have overlooked that make for a great, and practical, starting point on elevating that man cave. From a lamp (that's also an alarm clock) to a bottle of lube, here's the first things to check off the list.
eye know you'll like it
Even if our room is on point, we can’t always control the world around it. If you’re somewhere with lots of light coming in or you just generally can’t unwind, a lavender eye pillow might be a shout. Lavender is great for promoting sleep, while blocking out light will also help you to switch off more effectively. They’re great for meditation sessions.
Soft lighting, much much better for helping you to unwind in the evening than a big old ceiling light, and preferred by people visiting whether they tell you other not. This has an additional benefit, it’s an alarm clock which wakes you up by simulating sunlight. It also simulates sunset in the evening if you want it to, half an hour before you go to sleep. This promotes the production of melatonin, which will help you sleep better.
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