With the elements of bro-dom thus explained, let us return to Ryan Lochte. He's a jock. He has a stoner affect. He competes in a preppy sport. He tweets pics of him and his dudes doing bro-ass things. So you can see why Lochte is the platonic ideal of bro-dom.And Ryan Lochte as the exemplar of a Bro? Not. Maybe Russell Crowe, or maybe Colin Kaepernick (below).
by GENE DEMBY
June 21, 2013
A beautiful bro-ment: Ryan Lochte, left, and Michael Phelps give each other the traditional arm-wrestle bro-shake at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in June 2012. Mark Humphrey/AP
What up, bro? What's good, brah?
This is the chant of the bro, an increasingly parodied and often eye-roll-inducing genus of young male. They're called bros mostly because they refer to each other as such so frequently.
The usage of "bro" as a term of endearment isn't new, obviously. (As the indispensable Know Your Meme points out, people have been abbreviating "brother" this way for centuries, although its iteration as a synonym for "friend" — or more accurately, "friend who is a dude" — is much more recent.)
But over the last decade or so, "bro" has come to connote a specific kind of masculinity. Baseball cap with the frayed brim (possibly backwards), sky-blue oxford shirt or sports team shirt, cargo shorts, maybe some mandals or boat shoes. Y'all know who we mean. These cats right here.
The other day, the Code Switch team fell into a conversation about bros, as we're wont to do. When a member of the team described a person of color as being a bro, some of us wondered whether the description was legit. Weren't bros fratty white guys? Are there bros of color? Could dudes of color be bros independently of white bros? Or are they just like That Brown Friend in all those beer commercials — bro-y due to his social proximity to white bros?
Is bro-ness, well, raced? We asked people to conjure up an image of a typical bro in their mind's eye. What race is that guy in your head? Most people nearby said that guy was probably white.
We tossed the question out to Twitter.
Lots of people told us that yes, a bro is definitely a white dude. (But as Bryan Lowder at Slatewrote a few months ago, bros aren't necessarily straight.) Others said that most of the bros in popular culture are white dudes, but there are plenty of actual bros of color in the real world at places like USC. (Alas, even in bro-dom, people of color are underrepresented in the media.) Some folks even suggested that there were lady-bros — think Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. And, of course, many people drew the distinction between bros and the term bruhs, which has a different (but occasionally still fratty) connotation among black folks speaking to other black folks.
(Damn right we're overthinking this. But rock with us a taste.)
We also realized that folks were employing different working definitions of bro-ness. We got the farthest in our articulation of bro-dom by asking people to send us examples of famous folks who fit the bill. A few names kept popping up: Matthew McConaughey, Joe Rogan, John Mayer, Dane Cook, the conveniently and appropriately named Brody Jenner. But we ultimately concluded that at the chewy nougat-y core of bro-dom lay in the eminently quotable Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte.
(Seriously: watch this. Then read this.)
We noticed a few themes from the Twitter suggestions, and after a few days, we settled on four major dimensions of bro. These pillars, which may overlap, are stonerish-ness, dude-liness, preppiness, and jockishness. (Bro-ishness seems to preclude any uncomplicated ease with sexual and gender fluidity, it seems.)
Below, we explain those dimensions in greater detail. But without further ado, allow us to present — the Bro-Map: