20 Trends That Will Define the Lives of American Men in 2020
Your future involves electric trucks, tie-dye shirts and something called "technodildonics." We can explain.
It’s a big year, 2020.
There’s an election. An Olympiad. The UK is (allegedly) leaving the European Union. Voyager 1 and 2 — a pair of space probes that NASA launched back in 1977 — are expected to finally run out of power somewhere out in the Milky Way.
And those are just the things we know will happen.
As is customary this time of year, we also like to take a look at the things we think will happen, by making a number of well-informed but ultimately wildly speculative predictions about the way that men’s lives will change over the course of the next 12 months.
This year, we’ve got great news for tie-dye enthusiasts, railfans and people who like to drink without getting drunk. But there’s also some bad: for carnivores, guys who still sag their pants and anyone who thought streaming would fix the ills of cable.
So gather ‘round our crystal ball. These are the trends that await you in 2020.
1. The biggest health trend of the year will be “plant-based” dieting
One of the most talked-about documentaries of 2019 was The Game Changers, which highlights the ways in which switching to a “plant-based” diet has led to measurable performance improvement for a number of elite athletes, from ultra-runner Scott Jurek to mixed martial artist Conor McGregor. Amid a booming alternative-meat industry, growing concerns over the climate crisis and a $4 trillion wellness industry that has humans paying closer attention than ever to what they put into their body, expect vegetarianism to finally shake free of the stigmas that have long characterized it, especially among men.
2. Recovering from your workout will become as important as the workout itself
One of our favorite new products of 2019 was the Theragun, a “percussive therapy” device that massages the muscles after a workout. It’s indicative of a far greater trend in the world of fitness, in which casual athletes and gymgoers are starting to take the “post” phase as seriously as professional athletes have for a long time. And we don’t just mean saunas and hot tubs: high-tech facilities dedicated to recovery are popping up in cities around the country, with treatments that range from cryotherapy and compression to guided stretching and oxygenation.
3. Men’s style will continue to become less binary
When we took a look back at our favorite men’s outfits of 2019, we noticed a prevailing trend: the world’s best-dressed gents are increasingly experimenting with garments and accessories traditionally thought of as feminine. Is this an invitation for you to go full-blown Harry Styles at the Met Ball? Not necessarily. But what you are going to see is that fashion as a whole is moving in a direction where more and more brands focus on gender-neutral collections — like Entireworld, the new label from Band of Outsiders founder Scott Sternberg that sells the majority of its styles without binary gender labels.
4. You will see a ton of high-waisted trousers
Plenty of other new menswear trends will litter your Instagram feed, but this will be the most conspicuous. You can look to Harry Styles (again) for this one, and then you can probably just keep looking at him for the next year or two, because everything the man puts on right now turns to gold.
5. … And also a ton of tie-dye
There is perhaps no item more indicative of fashion’s cyclical nature than tie-dye, which seems to come and go in and endless blur of technicolor waves. With normcore icons like Ezra Koenig leaning on tie-dye as a staple and the world of streetwear increasingly looking to jam culture for inspiration, it is very much IN right now. The one must-have item? Socks.
6. Non-alcoholic beers will get the craft treatment
In 2019, all your favorite craft breweries were trying to crack the hard seltzer code. This year, the buzziest category in the craft world may be the one that doesn’t give you a buzz at all: non-alcoholics. There are already a number of popular microbreweries — like Bravus, Surreal and Athletic Brewing — that specialize in non-alcoholic beer; this year, expect them to get competition from the big boys of the industry, with Brooklyn Brewery already out ahead of the pack.
7. Cocktails will introduce you to the world of low-ABV spirits
Given the continued success of low-ABV classics like the Aperol Spritz, we’re seeing bartenders experimenting more with other low-ABV spirits — like aperitifs, sake or vermouth — as a base for cocktails. That trend, in turn, has opened up the market for a whole new category of low-booze spirits, with new brands like Haus and Portobello Road Temperance Gin fast becoming mixology standards.
8. Boutique watch brands will become household names
One of the more frustrating realities in the world of automatic watches is that the price of entry is getting higher and higher. The big-name brands are raising their prices year after year, even on their lowest-cost options, many of them making it so that you have to drop $3-5k for even their most basic offering. Which is why it’s so refreshing that there’s been such a significant uptick (sorry) in the number of independent brands popping up over the past few years, filling a notable void on the lower end of the pricing spectrum, specifically the $500 to $2,000 range. Brands like Oak & Oscar, Baltic, Farer and Monta make beautiful, solid watches that offer modern flourishes without straying too far from the traditional design language of horology, at price points that are welcoming to newcomers. As entry-level pieces from the big boys become more and more out of reach, it stands to reason that these startup brands will grab more of the market — and eventually be seen as more than just a stepping stone to something better.
9. The 35mm cinema will see a vinyl-like resurgence
There’s a reason why Netflix and its ilk will never kill off the movie theater: because you don’t just go to the movies to watch the movie — you go for the collective experience of watching the movie in a roomful of like-minded movie lovers. And that’s exactly what you get at one- and two-room cinemas like Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly in LA or Alexander Olch’s Metrograph in New York, where you’re as likely to see an obscure French film as the latest big-budget superhero flick. These are places dedicated to building a community of movie lovers, and vitally, they tend to show movies as they were intended: on a crackling 35mm film projector. Physical media may be dying off in a popular sense, but that death is giving certain formats (see also: vinyl records) new life as niche cultural touchstones in a rapidly evolving digital era.
10. Major League Baseball will strike a deal with a streaming platform
In order to boost sagging TV ratings as well as put itself on the radar of a younger audience, expect MLB to (finally) dip their toes into the world of streaming, something that both the NFL and Premier League have experimented with already. It won’t be carte blanche; rather, some basic version of MLB TV will be bundled into a Hulu or Amazon package, where bored Gen Z’ers might happen upon a game and remember that, oh yeah, baseball exists. Some proposed rule changes to make the game faster and more exciting (that won’t work) will then follow.
11. The next generation of men’s tennis greats will finally arrive
At the year-end ATP finals in London, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic did something they don’t do very often: lose. The parties responsible for dispatching them? Stefanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem and Sascha Zverev, the same brigade of talented young players who have long been derided as too mentally infirm to step up and take the mantle of tennis greatness from the ATP’s three-headed monster. Is this the year that one of them finally tops a podium? Signs point to yes.
12. There will be huge breakthroughs in lithium-ion battery technology
We’ve already been over the biggest issue facing the long-awaited electric-vehicle boom: a lack of the urban infrastructure that’s needed to keep them all adequately charged. But a prerequisite to that problem is making better, faster, cheaper, more durable batteries in the first place. Money is currently being poured into improving lithium-ion technology, and just last week, a university in Australia announced it had devised a lithium-sulfur battery that could theoretically power a car for more than 600 miles. With GM and LG recently announcing a $2.3 billion joint venture and Volkswagen, Tesla and Toyota already fast at work on similar projects, expect 2020 to be a banner year for batteries.
13. Electric trucks will finally become a reality
So far, attempts to build the world’s first functioning, all-electric SUVs and pickups have been either kinda lame (the Tesla Cybertruck) or not very practical (also the Tesla Cybertruck, with which Elon Musk ran over a traffic pylon the first time he drove it in public). But in 2020, Ford and the Amazon-backed Rivian (among others) will be racing to get their very normal-looking e-pickups to market, thus kicking off what is sure to be a crowded market in the coming years.
14. All cars will have giant screens, not just Tesla
Jokes about their Lara-Croftian truck notwithstanding, Tesla has been responsible for plenty of design innovations that the rest of the auto industry will eventually plunder, if they haven’t already. One of those? Their outsized infotainment screens, which will become something of a standard in 2020: everyone from Ford to Lexus to BMW to Mercedes has announced plans for 12”+ screens on upcoming models.
15. Streaming will become the thing it set out to destroy
Streaming was supposed to be a cure for what cable had become: rather than having to pay for bundled packages of channels that they probably didn’t even want, consumers got to pick and choose the programming of their choice. But with the streaming industry more crowded than ever after the launch of Apple TV+ and Disney Plus last year, consumers are nearing a breaking point for how much they’re willing to spend on it each month. The solution that Hulu, Disney and ESPN have come up with, with others sure to follow? Bundling, aka the exact thing that streaming was supposed to save us from.
16. You’ll probably just book a hotel instead
One upside of Airbnb’s emergence has been that it has inspired genuine innovation from its mortal enemy: the hotel industry. From low-cost boutique hostels to socially focused boho lodgings like Ace to a resurgence in old-school luxury, we’ve never had more options when it comes to booking a room. Couple that with the fact that cities around the world are now cracking down on the dubious legality of the home-sharing site (just last month, Airbnb was forced to remove thousands of listings in Boston), and even adventurous travelers may seek out the warm embrace of fluorescent lobbies and daily maid service.
17. Train travel will see a resurgence
You’ve probably heard of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish poster child for climate awareness and bane of airlines everywhere. She wants people to stop flying so much, and no matter how you feel about her personally, she has a point: on a single round-trip economy flight from LA to Paris, a person incurs more carbon emissions than they would if they stopped driving a car for a year. We don’t think you should stop traveling out of a sense of climate guilt. But we do think you should consider exploring more locally, and doing so the old-fashioned (and most climate-friendly) way: on a train. High-speed rail construction is underway around the U.S. to make train commuting a more viable option, while sleeper trains like the UK’s Belmond Royal Scotsman or Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer are having a moment for well-heeled adventure seekers.
18. The music of the early 2000s will become classic rock
When Third Eye Blind — one of the seminal bands of my mid-’90s childhood — played Gov Ball in 2018, I was surprised at how well-attended their show was. The band was then about 20 years past their prime and playing a mid-afternoon set time, and yet when they launched into “Semi-Charmed Life,” the entire crowd joined them in a raucous singalong. That’s when I looked around and realized who was singing along with me: teenagers whose parents had raised them on a steady diet of ‘90s alt-rock anthems. Third Eye Blind was classic rock now. This summer, the bookend for what constitutes nostalgia will move even further forward, into the early 2000s. Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer announced last year that they’d be joining forces for the “Hella Mega” stadium tour, and the featured “remember when?” artist at Bonnaroo this year will be Nelly performing 2000 album Country Grammar in its entirety.
19. You will get to know Japan’s casual eating culture
Japanese food in America has stratified and proliferated in wonderful ways over the last decade. But most of that innovation has been at the finer end of the dining spectrum, with chef’s-table-style omakase restaurants perhaps the biggest restaurant trend of 2019. This year, expect to see more options that celebrate the more democratic (but equally delicious) aspects of Japan’s gastronomy, from Tokyo-inspired breakfast sandwiches to izakayas like Brooklyn’s Maison Yaki to comfort-driven handrolls like the ones they serve at Manhattan’s Nami Nori.
20. Technology will invade your boudoir
Additional reporting by Mike Conklin, Kirk Miller, Evan Bleier, Jason Diamond, Alex Lauer, Tanner Garrity and Danny Agnew.
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