The History of Buffalo Plaid, the Bro-Hug, and More: Today’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the Internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘Net are doing, too. Today, we’re highlighting cultural examinations of buffalo plaid and the “bro-hug,” an essay questioning the nobility of putting down your smartphone, and a profile about the most important woman in Iowa politics you’ve probably never heard of.

The New Yorker ‘s Matthew J. X. Malady wrote a thoughtful counter-point to immeasurable number of articles evangelizing the act of “taking a break” from the Internet.

Levy writes that when we choose to cast aside “the devices and apps we use regularly, it should hardly be surprising if we miss them, even long for them at times.” But what I felt was more general. I didn’t miss my smartphone, or the goofy watch I own that vibrates when I receive an e-mail and lets me send text messages by speaking into it. I didn’t miss Twitter’s little heart-shaped icons. I missed learning about new things.

FiveThirtyEight profiled Anne Selzer, a political pollster the statistics-centric site calls “the best pollster in politics.”

When Homer wrote of his hero Odysseus, he was “that godlike man.” The D.C. poets use the same laudatory epithet-style when they sing of Selzer; she is uniformly “the great” or “most respected” or, as I saw on a book jacket recently while walking through the Des Moines airport, “Iowa’s ‘polling queen.’”

Atlas Obscura‘s Claire Landsbaum seeks out the history of the manly handshake-and-hug, anthropologically referred to as “the bro-hug,” which was popularized by rap culture.

According to Houston, who studies hip-hop, the bro-hug was originally an African-American cultural practice. Its initial spike in popularity probably occurred in the 1980s, when channels like MTV, BET, and Video Music Box launched, serving up hip-hop culture to millions of new viewers. Once visible in the mainstream, the formerly niche bro-hug began to be imitated en masse.

The New York Times Magazine considers the history and layered cultural implications of every Brooklynite’s favorite pattern, “Buffalo Plaid.”

Suffused with fables now, including its myth as a mantle of authenticity, buffalo plaid becomes heavy with irony, and its machismo gives way to theatrical gender play. The nuances of tomboyish performance that distinguish a woman wearing a ‘‘boyfriend flannel shirt’’ from one wearing her boyfriend’s flannel shirt can tend toward the meaningfully microscopic. The low-cut buffalo-print top of a waitress at Twin Peaks — a Texas-based restaurant chain that, in a typically juvenile double entendre, describes its every dining room as a ‘‘mountain-lodge getaway’’ — positions her bosom as décor and defines her cleavage as a male space. And while she may be a prop, her customers, when butched up to a brawny extreme, perhaps resemble male drag kings.