by Brett & Kate McKay on January 6, 2010 ·
in A Man's Life
Back in the day, leisure time was not thought of as a chance to “veg out,” but as opportunity to pursue one’s passions and interests, an outlet for the sides of a man that were not stimulated in one’s career. Unfortunately, we now often spend our leisure time camped out in front of the TV or computer. We say that modern life has become too stressful, that when we have free time, laying on the couch is all we can manage.
The truth is that spending our leisure time in satisfying pursuits, “fun work,” will refresh us far more than a non-stop marathon of playing Call of Duty. Hobbies can bring you joy, increase your eye for detail, keep your mind sharp, expand your creativity, and help you meet friends and learn valuable skills. They add interest to your life and help you become a more well-rounded man. If you’ve been feeling depressed, restless, or apathetic, the problem may be the lack of having something in your life you feel passionate about, something that brings you needed fulfillment.
We’ve gotten several requests to put together a list of manly hobbies, and we decided that the start of the new year would be a good time to publish such a list. Many of you are thinking about what you’d like to accomplish this year. How about putting “start a new hobby” on your resolution list? Here are 45 hobby ideas; hopefully one will stick out and grab you. But of course there are many more out there as well.
Almost every hobby listed has a corresponding Group in the Art of Manliness Community. So if you have questions about how to get started in the hobby or if you’re already involved and what to talk shop with other enthusiasts, be sure to join in the conversations going on there.
Note: When we talk about “manly” hobbies, we’re defining manly in terms of activities with a manly history or traditions, activities that help you gain manly qualities or just make you feel manly, and activities that are generally enjoyed more often by men than women. If you’re favorite hobby isn’t on the list, don’t get your knickers in a knot. Rest assured, any hobby that you’re passionate about is manly.
Men have been playing chess for thousands of years in order to fine tune their concentration, critical thinking, abstract reasoning, and problem solving skills. AoM favorite Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay back in the 18th century entitled The Morals of Chess. In it Franklin argued that playing chess created “valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, [that] are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready for all occasions. For Life is a kind of Chess…” What better way to pass the time with a friend than to play a game that makes you a better man. If you don’t have anyone to play with, check out chess.com where you can play online. And be sure to join the AoM Community Chess Group.
Looking to be a part of a tight knit community with a focus on radio and communication? Look no further than ham radio. While the internet has taken radio’s place as the dominant form of communication, a vibrant community of amateur radio enthusiasts still exists. Radio hobbyists enjoy communicating directly with people from all over the world while expanding their knowledge of radio theory. In addition, most ham radio operators provide a public service to their communities by acting as relays in the event of emergencies or natural disasters. Radio operation is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, so you’ll have to be licensed to use a radio. Licensing isn’t difficult at all. You just have to take a multiple choice test that covers basic regulations, operating practices, and electronics theory. And of course you’ll need the equipment. Buying new will set you back a pretty penny, but you can find good deals on used radio equipment on eBay. For more info about getting started with ham radio check out the National Association of Amateur Radio and stop by the AoM Community Group-The Manly Art of Amateur (Ham) Radio.
Men today just don’t read, but there couldn’t be a manlier hobby. Theodore Roosevelt was a voracious reader and so were most of the great men of history. Reading allows you to connect with the great thinkers and writers of history and exposes you to new ideas, consequently making you a more intelligent and well-rounded man. If you have access to a library card, reading can actually be a completely free hobby. If you need some ideas on what to read, look no further than our awesome reading lists. And you can get even more suggestions on good books and also talk about the books you love in the AoM Community Book Group.
Playing the Guitar
Instead of spending your time playing fake guitar on Guitar Hero, learn how to play the real thing. It’s a skill that will provide you and those around you with years of enjoyment. Oh, and chicks like a guy that can play guitar. Personally, I’ve used my guitar skills to get myself out of the doghouse with Kate by serenading her. And later in life you can gather the family around for some awesome sing alongs. Learning to play any instrument is manly, of course, but guitars have the advantage of being relatively cheap and having an easier learning curve for beginners. There are tons of resources online that provide free guitar lessons. Be sure to stop by the aptly-named AoM Community Group: Guitar=Manly.
Your grandpa knew how to dance, so why not harness your inner Fred Astaire by taking up ballroom dancing, too? Ballroom dancing can help increase your self-confidence, poise, and posture. It’s also a fun way to get some cardiovascular exercise in. And of course, ladies dig a gent who knows how to dance. Most cities have ballroom dancing studios. Just Google to find the ones near you and then go talk to the instructors to get a feel for their style and check on their credentials. Private classes go for around $50 a pop. If you’re married or have a girlfriend, ballroom dancing is a great date night activity. If you’re a bachelor, ballroom dancing is a great way to meet new women. Join other men with dancing feet in the AoM Ballroom Dancing Community Group.
I’ve always admired men who could take pieces of plain ol’ wood and shape them into something useful and beautiful. They’re the men who make their own Christmas presents instead of buying them and can proudly point to furniture in their house and say, “I made that.” You can be that man by taking up the wonderful hobby of woodworking. In addition to giving you a useful skill, many woodworking hobbyists report lower stress levels and increased patience. When you’re taking a chisel to a piece of wood, it’s easy to enter into a zen-like state. Many technical schools offer woodshop classes. Woodcraft stores also offer classes on woodworking basics for about $50 each. Interested? Be sure to join the AoM Woodworking Community Group.
Perhaps one of the most powerful manly images in America is that of the yeoman farmer- he’s the self-reliant man who cultivates his own land to provide for his and his family’s needs. You don’t need a homesteading plot to start getting in touch with the land; a small square in your backyard will suffice. If you have a job that keeps you cooped up in an office all day with artificial light and stale recycled air, gardening is a great hobby to pursue in order to get some exercise, sunlight, and fresh air. As you watch your garden grow from seeds to plants, you’ll find yourself becoming more in tune with the seasons. When you harvest your small crop, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that beats any high score on a video game. And when you make your first meal with vegetables grown in your very own garden, you’ll feel a surge of manly pride. If you’re looking to get started with gardening, check out this informative and well written article by J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly. And be sure to stop by the AoM Community Group: A Man’s Garden.
Classic Car Restoration
In days gone by, men would stay in their garages for hours at a time tinkering with their cars. As cars have become more sophisticated and reliant on computers, home mechanical work is going the way of the dodo bird. However, if you have an itch to become a grease monkey, you can always take up classic car restoration as a hobby. With classic car restoration you’ll learn a bit of engineering, improve your problem solving skills, and experience the sweet feeling of success when the engine you rebuilt purrs like a kitten. Car restoration is an expensive hobby to get into. Not only do you have to buy the car to restore, but you’ll need the tools, space, and custom parts to finish the job. However, the time and money can pay off as fully restored classic cars sell for a pretty penny (even though you probably won’t be willing to part with your baby). For more information about classic car restoration check out Second Chance Garage.
Metalworking has all the benefits of woodworking, except instead of the sweet smell of sawdust, you surround yourself with the delightfully noxious smell of burning metal. My brother-in-law picked up metalworking in high school, and it’s amazing the stuff he can make: cast iron headboards for that room your wife wants to decorate shabby chic, hanging pot plant holders, and garden archways are just a few of the things he can whip up. Your local vo-tech should offer classes on metalworking. Metalworking.com is a great place to find more info. They have a list of local clubs dedicated to metalworking.
If hunting isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the pleasure of shooting a gun by taking up a shooting sport and becoming an expert marksman. Marksmanship requires pure concentration and a steady hand. Shooting clubs exist all over the country that emphasize different gun sports. Take your pick among clay pigeon shooting, hand gun and rifle shooting, and even Frontier and Cowboy shooting. Shooting can get expensive. Guns are expensive and the cost of ammo has gone up dramatically due to increased demand. You’ll also need to find a place to fire your weapon safely, so if you don’t have property to do it on, you’ll have to rent some time at a gun range.
If you’re not sure about forking over the dough right away on a real gun, consider getting started with marksmanship with air guns. The basic principles and skills used with real guns are the same with air guns, except you can fire an air gun in your suburban backyard and a round of 100 air gun pellets cost just a dollar or two compared to the $10- $15 you have to drop for real ammo. Check out this informative article on using air guns as an alternative to getting involved with shooting sports (the article addresses the recoil factor).
Collecting things is something a lot of men love and most women just don’t get. Females are multi-taskers, while the male brain likes to single-mindedly zero in on something. We tend to get obsessed with things. Take this tendency and couple it with man’s primordial desire for the hunt, and there you have a man’s love for collecting. A man can spend a lifetime looking for that final item to complete his collection. It becomes his obsession. His White Whale if you will. Of course, completing a collection is usually anti-climatic. In collecting, the thrill is in the chase. Pick your poison. Duck stamps, baseball cards, antique typewriters, whatever. Just don’t get too carried away with it.
Modern man is restless and unhappy because he’s lost touch with the great outdoors. Every man should seek to regularly connect with nature for the sake of both his physical and mental well-being. He needs to break away now and again and sleep out under the stars. Leave your cubicle behind and spend a few days breathing fresh air and sitting around a campfire. In this recession, camping is one of the most economical ways to “get away from it all.” It’s a great way to hone your outdoorsman skills, reconnect with your buddies, and get some alone time with your significant other. We’ve done some articles on camping tips and backpacking tips, and you can also join the Camping Group in the Community.
Ship in a Bottle
It’s the classic old man hobby: putting intricate model ships in a glass bottle. Amaze kids with your ship in a bottle displays! They’ll spend the rest of their childhood trying to figure out exactly how you did it. Placing a ship in a bottle (or impossible bottle) is a task that takes dedicated focus, patience, and a steady hand. You usually build the model ship on the outside of the bottle with the mast down. After you insert the ship into the bottle, you raise the mast with a pair of long forceps. In addition to placing ships into bottles, you can create impossible bottles with other objects like a deck of cards or tennis balls. Find out more about impossible bottles here.
For millennia, a man’s role in his family was to provide. For most of human history this was done through tracking down and killing wild animals. The hunt was a way that many cultures and tribes initiated boys into manhood and provided men with an opportunity to bond and connect in a completely male setting. Fast forward to today. The way most men get their meat is wrapped in a piece of paper that says “Big Mac” or packaged in plastic at the grocery store. And usually the meat is injected with hormones and antibiotics. There’s a huge disconnect between man, his food, and nature.
If you’d like to reconnect with the “Circle of Life,” it’s high time you go on a hunt. The benefits of hunting are innumerable, but here’s just a few. First, it gives you a chance to give you and your family a source of quality lean meat free from the antibiotics, hormones (and even ammonia!) that lurk in most factory farmed meat. Second, it gives you a chance to get back in touch with nature. Third, you’ll be supporting wildlife conservation as your dollars spent on hunting licenses and equipment goes to fund state wildlife agencies. And fourth, even if you don’t kill anything, hunting provides an opportunity for male bonding and friendships which is an important part of your overall happiness.
Maybe the idea of killing a deer or bear isn’t your thing. You can still enjoy the benefits of providing your own food and getting outside with fishing. Fishing is an iconic man hobby. It’s a great way for friends to bond (See Grumpy Old Men) and father and sons to spend time with each other (See Andy Griffith). It doesn’t cost too much to get started with fishing. A decent pole and reel will set you back about fifty bones and lures and bait are just a few dollars. Every state in the U.S. requires fishers to get a fishing license before they drop their line into the water. Check your state’s game and fish department for costs of licenses and information on the best fishing spots.
What if you want to start working with wood, but don’t have the money to get into real woodworking quite yet? Try whittling. All you need is a knife, a piece of soft wood, a rocking chair, a corn cob pipe, and most importantly, plenty of time. Whittling is one of those activities that can really help you relax and settle your mind after a hard day’s work. Stop by the library and pick up a book on whittling. You’ll find plenty of ideas and plans to help get you started.
Never grew out of your love for the game of hide and seek? Always wanted to go on a treasure hunt? Then the hobby of geocaching may be for you. People around the world hide objects or containers in all sorts of places and post the coordinates for the location online. People then go out with their GPS devices, seeking these well-hidden “treasures.” It’s a great way to get out of the house and explore parts of your town and area that you’ve never been to. For more info on geocaching and to find a list of geocaches in your area, go to geocaching.com.
Every man, whether nerd or meathead, should have some sort of physical activity in his life. The dichotomy between brains and brawn has always been a false one. Physical activity boosts your testosterone level (which men today really need since our T levels have been slowly dropping), keeps you healthy and in shape, staves off depression, and soothes your stress. Sports where a man’s competitive spirit can find outlet are particularly beneficial to one’s manliness. Tape part in pick-up games of football, basketball or soccer in your hometown, or form your own. I started playing weekly games of ultimate frisbee this year and absolutely love it. But solo activities-weight-lifting, running, bouldering-also have a lot of merit and allow you to space to think and get right with yourself. It doesn’t matter what the activity is as long as it gets the blood pumping and heart racing.
Model building-building replicas of cars, planes, and ships-might have been something you enjoyed as a boy. But there’s no reason not to take up the hobby as a grown man. Model building helps you hone your eye for detail and will inspire you to learn more about the history of the things that you’re working on. Plus, you’ll end up with something cool to put in your office or man cave. Community Member Paul wrote up a great post about scale airplane modeling that is chock full of great tips and information.
The smell of leather always brings out the frontiersman in a man; the part of him who loved the stories of Davy Crockett as a boy. Leatherworking is a great way to get in touch with your inner-cowboy and learn an uber-manly craft. A skilled leatherworker can make a variety of manly goods- wallets, leather pouches, belts, gun holsters, and saddles to name a few. The downside? This can be a pretty expensive hobby. You’ll need all sorts of special tools to really make a go of it. To get started, try buying a starter kit from the Tandy Leather Factory. They include everything you need to make small stuff like a wallet and key fob. That way you can gauge your interest before plunking down big time cash to get into bigger projects. Be sure to read this thread in the Community for more info and join the Leatherworkers Group.
Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson, Ralph Kramden, and the Dude. What do these iconic TV and movie men have in common? They bowled. During the 1950s, men flocked to bowling alleys to join league teams. It was a way for men to spend some time with other men, drink some beer, and smoke a cigar. The bowling alley became a refuge of masculinity in homes that were feminized by the constant presence of the stay-at-home mom. What’s great about bowling is that it’s a hobby you can share with your buds. Plus, it gives you an excuse to wear a kick ass, manly bowling shirt. So call up your buddies and put a team together.
While guns almost completely supplanted the bow and arrow in both hunting and self-protection, sometimes going back to the old ways can bring great satisfaction. A gun is to a sledge hammer as a bow and arrow is to a paintbrush. Archery allows you to connect with one of the most primitive of weapons; it works entirely on manpower. It’s the kind of quiet, repetitive, focused activity that can truly settle your mind. While the bow and arrow is rarely used for hunting anymore (although that’s certainly an option), great satisfaction can be found in target shooting, in training your skills to the point where you can hit an apple off someone’s head (metaphorically speaking, of course). Simple, beginner bows can be had for relatively cheap, so it’s a hobby you can start trying right away in your backyard (makes sure it’s a safe area!) There are also archery parks like this one, where 3-d targets that look like animals are scattered in the woods. Cool.
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