In the days of old, leisure time was not thought of as a chance to “veg out,” but as an opportunity to pursue one’s passions and interests — an outlet for the sides of a man that were not stimulated in his professional vocation. Hobbies were deemed important for the way in which they can strengthen every part of a man’s life. They can bring you joy, increase your eye for detail, keep your mind sharp, expand your creativity, help you meet friends, and teach you valuable skills. In short, hobbies add interest to your life and help you become a more well-rounded man.
Unfortunately, we now often spend our leisure time camped out in front of the TV or computer. We feel that modern life has become so busy and stressful (even though it hasn’t) that when we have free time, laying on the couch is all we can manage.
Yet if you’ve been feeling depressed, restless, anxious, and in need of real refreshment, the problem may be a lack of activity, rather than too much of it.
As Winston Churchill, a vigorous hobbyist, put it:
“It is no use saying to the tired ‘mental muscles’… ‘I will give you a good rest,’ ‘I will go for a long walk,’ or ‘I will lie down and think of nothing.’ The mind keeps busy just the same. If it has been weighing and measuring, it goes on weighing and measuring. If it has been worrying, it goes on worrying…It is useless to argue with the mind in this condition…A gifted American psychologist has said, ‘worry is a spasm of the emotion; the mind catches hold to something and will not let it go.’ One can only gently insinuate something else into its convulsive grasp. And if this something else is rightly chosen, if it is really attended by the illumination of another field of interest, gradually, and often quite swiftly, the old undue grip relaxes and the process of recuperation and repair begins.”
For those of you who want to have an engaging hobby, but aren’t sure what pastime to pursue, we’ve created a couple guides to hobbies over the years. Yet even after the second was published, we continued to come up with more ideas. So we decided to compile all the old ideas along with the new into one ultimate list of hobbies for men. This still isn’t an exhaustive list, but there is surely something that will catch your eye, or will spur you to think of one yet unmentioned.
Our hope is that every man is able to find a hobby that can turn into an enjoyable pastime during the current season of his life, and maybe even become an enduring passion that lasts a lifetime.
There couldn’t be a manlier hobby than reading. 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 many reading lists. You should also bone up on how to read a book. (Of course it seems straightforward, but it’s not always so!)
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 100-year-old Amateur Radio Relay League.
Playing the Guitar
Knowing how to play the guitar is 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 serenade Kate and get myself out of the doghouse. And later in life you can gather the family around your backyard fire pit 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 (I’ve had good success with www.justinguitar.com), including an AoM article on the 3 guitar chords every man should know.
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 lead them on the dance floor. Most cities have ballroom dancing studios — just do a quick Google search to find the ones near you and then go talk to the instructors to get a feel for their style as well as 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, it’s a great way to meet new women.
Parkour: that sport where you jump from buildings and vault over walls. Or more accurately, parkour is a physical art — the art of moving through your environment in the most natural and efficient way possible. It’s captivating to see someone able to traverse a landscape in ways not previously conceived of, and inspiring to witness the human body pushing the very limits of its capabilities. While we think of parkour today as simply an interesting form of recreation, it was actually developed as a tactical skill and way to build the fitness of soldiers. The benefits of this hobby are numerous: it’s fun, it’s a great workout, it pushes the bounds of your creativity, it’s a mental and physical challenge, and it could in fact save your life should you ever need the capability to run and jump over objects. And, it’s completely free. All you need is your arms and legs and some urban terrain. Read our primer on parkour, and get started today!
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. Our own archives have a bunch of woodworking projects you can tackle.
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 need more convincing, check out our article on why you should be a gentleman gardener.
Paddling lazily across the water is one of man’s great joys. Whether with your gal on a date, or just enjoying nature on a solo outing, there are few better recreational activities. While paddling might seem as natural as riding a bike, it takes a certain level of skill to deftly captain a canoe or kayak, and luckily for you, we’ve covered the topic. You can start by renting at a local rec shop, and if you enjoy it, buy yourself a vessel. When you get really into it, you can move beyond the casual paddle around the lake, and take multi-day trips on great American waterways.
Not only is lock picking incredibly useful in emergency situations, it’s also just dang fun knowing you can out-maneuver a mechanism which most people just assume is resistant to all but brute force. Rather, with some finesse and know-how, the lock picker can keep his doors in a single piece and save the hassle and cost of calling a locksmith. Read our primer on picking common pin tumbler locks, and start practicing on the front door. Then move on to mastering other kinds of locks until you’re a veritable Houdini.
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. 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 — 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, and start getting to know how your car engine actually works.
While cooking is also on this list, BBQing is unique enough to be its own hobby. Whether with a smoker or charcoal grill, firing up a hearty piece of meat and serving a finished creation is satisfying both to the mind and to the stomach. The barrier to entry is low: you just need some type of grill and a cut of meat. As you get acquainted with the tools and the grub, you can experiment with different cooking methods and meats (or even fruits and veggies!), making your own spice blends, and of course, creating gourmet meals for friends and family alike to enjoy. Be sure to check out our YouTube playlist on the art of grilling.
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, he crafts some amazing creations: 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. AoM contributor Darren Smith has written an article for us on getting started with blacksmithing. Your local vo-tech should offer classes on metalworking. Metalworking.com is another great place to find more info; they have a list of local clubs dedicated to metalworking.
Learn to 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. The hobby can get expensive; guns don’t come cheap 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.
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. 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. For more info, check out our primer on getting started with collecting.
If you’re the kind of guy who sings in the shower, or belts along with the radio on your way to work, perhaps you need to more seriously pursue singing as a hobby. You may think that either you’re a professional rockstar, or there’s no way to use your voice in a fun and productive way. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Community and church choirs abound, as do karaoke bars (which often have competitions on weekends), and if you get really serious, you can do some crooning on the side or start a barbershop quartet. Be sure to always hone your craft, too, by continuing to get lessons (many school/community choir directors offer one-on-one lessons) and by digging into music theory and even presentation skills.
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. Another obvious benefit is that 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 articles on camping tips and backpacking tips, so get reading and get exploring the backwoods!
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.
Chandlery (Candle Making)
Chandlery — the trade of making candles — was at one time a lucrative and extremely important career. While electricity has killed its necessity as a profession, candles still find a way into many homes as creators of ambiance and pleasing aromas. Who doesn’t love seeing a flickering flame on a chilly evening, or smelling an oaky aroma to start your morning as the sun comes up? While store-bought candles can be rather expensive, the homemade variety is inexpensive, and pretty darn easy to learn. You just need wax, wicks, and some jars (or old mugs). We’ve covered how to make DIY candles, so read up and get started!
For some men, their morning lifting session not only primes their body for the day, but their mind as well. If you’re just starting to work out, it’s probably a slog at times to get yourself motivated to hit the weights or the pavement for a run. Once you start getting in shape though, you’ll think about how you can structure your day to get an hour of working out in. Rather than heading to the garage for a woodworking session, you’re trying for a new max deadlift. Being strong is not just practical either — you’ll look a lot better (hello, ladies!), and it’s freakin’ awesome to know you can lift 400+ lbs off the ground. We have a ton of fitness articles to get you started, and of course your local gym/trainer is a great place to head to as well.
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 and 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. We have a deer hunting primer, as well as getting started with bow hunting. Also check out our article on getting started hunting with dogs.
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. Or you can just take a look at our primer on whittling.
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.
Model building — creating 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 again 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. It’s pretty darn easy to get into — simply head to Amazon.com or your local hobby shop and buy a kit, which almost always comes with all the supplies and instructions needed.
While striking out for gold isn’t likely to make you a millionaire, it can be a fun endeavor that pays for itself, and possibly provides some extra fun money in your life. Rather than primarily being a commercial pursuit as it used to be, gold panning in the modern world is most often simply an outdoor recreational activity that the whole family can enjoy, usually on a small creek. One can start small with a simple gold pan and/or shovel, and if you get really into it, a larger sluice and suction dredge may be in order. While it’s fun to just while about on any old stream, the true prospector knows that much of his craft lies in the research phase: knowing where gold has been found before, where it’s likely to travel and congregate, and how the precious metal “behaves” in nature. Only then do you actually hit the wilds, knowing that your chances of success are now far greater. You’ll become both outdoorsman and amateur geologist. Click here for more info on getting started.
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 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. AoM has a couple beginner articles: How to Make a Leather Sheath as well as How to Make a Leather Wallet. 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.
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 have 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, where 3D targets that look like animals are scattered in the woods. Cool.
Survival Prepping & Skills
While “preppers” sometimes get a bad rap in pop culture and mocked in reality TV shows, it can be a fun and useful endeavor for the man who wants to ensure his protection and survival when SHTF (sh*t hits the fan). Prepping not only means acquiring supplies for emergencies (though that’s part of it; see: bug-out bags, bug-in bags, emergency water), but also learning skills (we have a whole section for those) and acquiring new knowledge about survival strategy and methodology (see: the survival library). This can be an expensive hobby, but it certainly doesn’t have to be — especially if you focus on the essentials for supplies, then go about learning the skills (many of which can be practiced in the backyard).
We’ve discussed plenty the benefits of rediscovering the lost art of letter writing before, so suffice it to say that writing letters in your spare time can be a very satisfying hobby. You can get into the cool tools of letter writing like fine stationery and fountain pens. Fire off a bunch of letters to friends and family. At least one will write you back and you can begin a lifetime correspondence with them. Or make your letter writing really count by using a program like Pen Pals for Soldiers. Soldiers love to receive mail, so take the time to write these brave men an encouraging note. Also take a look at something like the Bridge of Hope Nursing Home Pen Pal Program. Give a lonely senior citizen something to look forward to in their mail slot. Also be sure that in your lifetime you write at least one of these seven letters.
There are myriad benefits to learning a martial art: gaining self-defense skills, building your discipline and focus, increasing your health, connecting with a manly tradition, and giving the warrior side of yourself an outlet. There are a ton of different martial arts out there — choosing one will come down to what you are personally looking for. Do a lot of research and shopping around to find the discipline and instructor that’s right for you. You may wish to go the MMA route and learn how to incorporate a variety of techniques into your fighting repertoire. And of course, boxing comes highly recommended. We also have primers on BJJ and Krav Maga.
Knives are awesome, and hatchets are awesome. Duh. So of course, throwing them for sport and hobby is also awesome. Men are drawn to throwing things: baseballs and footballs, rocks, snowballs, etc. Why not take it up a notch and add a blade to your tossing repertoire. You can have contests with friends and family members, compete against yourself for length or accuracy of toss, and of course, you’re preparing for the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. This is a hobby that’s fairly cheap, and has a relatively low learning curve. Grab some throwing knives/hatchets, and check out our primers on throwing both knives and tomahawks.
Nothing beats a long hike to relax, get some fresh air, and rejuvenate your man spirit. What’s great about hiking is that in most cases it’s completely free. All you need is a pair of sturdy shoes or boots and a place to walk, be it some fields behind your house or a trail in a state park. Check out trails.com to find a hiking trail near you. There are always trails where you live, even in the flattest states. You might just have to drive a little to get there. Don’t forget about your hiking etiquette!
Most men have a vice — some pleasure in life that isn’t necessarily safe or healthy, but can be partaken of in moderation. For many gentlemen that’s tobacco, usually in the form of a cigar or pipe. Sure, you can walk into the tobacco shop and grab whatever you recognize or is cheapest. Or you can become a bonafide connoisseur, understanding why one tobacco variety differs from another, where each comes from, and those you truly like. Go down to the local tobacco shop and have the tobacconist show you the ropes. And of course you need hands-on study! Smoke (and sip — tobacco always pairs well with whiskey) until you find the gems that leave you relaxed and smiling at the end of the day. Also read our primers on both smoking a cigar and getting started with pipe smoking.
The feeling of riding a bicycle for the first time without training wheels is a euphoria that few men ever forget. The sensation of the wind on your face, your pedaling legs pushing you along, and of course the hard scrape of the pavement when you take your first digger. When we’re kids, we live on our bikes. But then we get a driver’s license, and our bikes sit in the garage, lonely and mostly unused.
Why give up this youthful activity though? Bicycling has seen a huge resurgence, both with urban hipsters and amateur athletes alike. While everyone seems to have run in a 5k, participating in bike races is unique enough to make you interesting. If not racing, even just cruising around town by the power of your own two legs is a satisfying endeavor. Mountain biking is another option, and offers the bonus of time spent in the woods. You might even consider traveling longer distances by bike — seeing the country on two wheels can be a grand adventure.
Today’s high-tech and high-volume coffee roasteries crank out thousands of pounds of beans at a time that all look and taste the same. While mass-produced stuff often tastes fine and is far easier (just buy and plop it in the coffee maker!), roasting coffee on your own will make the best cup of joe you’ll ever have. It’s also cheaper than store-bought stuff, averaging $5-$8 per pound. You can buy a coffee roasting machine, or do it in a popcorn popper on your grill like I do. To really make it a hobby, you can roast coffee for friends and family or even start a side hustle and sell beans to your neighborhood. Double this hobby with hunting for antique coffee contraptions (like hand-crank grinders) or with discovering as many brewing methods as you can, and you’ll be a connoisseur in no time.
The hobby of fishkeeping has been around for at least 1,500 years — far longer than many of the other hobbies listed here. In the 1800s, fishkeeping was primarily a hobby of the wealthy, as the tanks need to be heated with gas, or later, electricity. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the hobby really became accessible to the everyman. Today, it’s become rather popular with home aquarists and dentist offices alike.
This is a great hobby because it’s easy to scale. You can start with a classic goldfish bowl and a castle to see if you like it. If you do, you work your way on up with bigger and bigger aquariums, more exotic fish, and fancier tank decorations. When you have a 90-gallon tank (as a roommate of mine once did), it keeps you plenty busy beyond just feeding the fish every day. Visit Marineland for some tips on getting started.
Pick-up/Intramural/Rec League Sports
Every man, whether nerd or meathead, should have some sort of team sport in his life. 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. Take part in pick-up games of football, basketball, or soccer with your friends or join an intramural or rec league team. It doesn’t matter the sport as long as it gets the blood pumping and heart racing.
Being a lifelong learner should be a goal of every man. While reading is itself a great hobby that often goes toward this end, taking online classes provides a variety of learning methods (video, reading, discussion) and also keeps you accountable to what you’re learning through quizzes and assignments. You also have the benefit of expert professors to answer questions and help you along if something confuses you.
What’s great about this hobby is its cost, which in most cases is nothing. With websites like Coursera and EdX, you can start classes today ranging from programming basics, to critical thinking, to classical music and not pay a dime. In my experience, the hardest part is simply following through on the classwork when you’re not paying anything, so consider doing this with another person, or even as a group to keep yourself accountable.
Whether riding cross-country or tinkering in the garage, plenty of men enjoy being a motorcyclist. This hobby is sure to reward its practitioner in more than just gas mileage and technical knowledge, though — books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Shop Class as Soulcraft argue for the many mental and philosophical benefits of motorcycling as well:
“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
–Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The rise of shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers has spurred a return of antiquing or “picking” to the national spotlight. Antiquing, as a hobby, simply refers to the buying and collecting of antiques from stores, malls, garage sales, etc. In many cases it also means re-selling them at a profit, sometimes after first refinishing or restoring. Picking is antiquing’s middle man; instead of buying from stores, pickers will buy directly from collectors, amateur historians, even hoarders, then sell to antique stores.
The best way to go about antiquing is to pick a niche of products to look for. This will make your job much easier, and gives you the thrill of the hunt of looking for something specific rather than just wandering around looking for good deals. For many AoM men, it’s antique shaving supplies. (We even have an article on how to restore them.) Pocket knives are another great option, and are easily restored. Whatever you enjoy, you can find cool old stuff related to it. Learn more with this extensive guide.
While antiquing or picking relies on items with actual material value in their current form, scrapping is literally turning other people’s junk into cash. What was once simply discarded is recycled and transformed into green in your hands. All you really need to get started is a small magnet and basic knowledge of the various types of metals and their values. Once you have that, you can get started collecting and bring your found pieces to a scrapyard.
Metal detecting is similar, but your standard finds are old rings, coins, and other jewelry. Detecting is a walking hobby too, meaning it’ll give you a little physical activity to boot.
Both of these hobbies have you becoming a little bit of a historian as well, which is an important trait for a man to cultivate.
No other sport feels as regal and storied as golf. The clothing is dapper, the movements are graceful, the lawns are manicured. It’s truly the gentleman’s game. There are few better ways for men to congregate and spend a few hours together than hitting the links. While it’s a hard sport to master, that actually makes it part of the fun. You’re almost always competing against others and yourself. In other sports, you often just have to be better than your opponent, but part of the enjoyment in golf is bettering your own game; you can always do something to improve your acumen that doesn’t rely on anyone else. With this sport, it’s best to take lessons in person at your local course or golf shop.
Between paying for range time and ammo, firearm training and shooting can get very expensive. While airsoft used to be something only kids played with, today’s marketplace sees near-exact replicas of almost every firearm on the market. If police and military use airsoft for their training, you can too. You can have fun and improve your tactical skills all at once by connecting with the airsoft community online and finding simulations and competitions — almost like paintball, but even more realistic.
If you’re not quite ready to get into woodworking, but want to start working with wood in some way, this is a great hobby to try. Woodburning, or pyrography, is simply burning a pattern or piece of art onto a block of wood using a pen-like searing tool. It’s incredibly easy to pick up, and your start-up fees are less than $50. While it’s harder to find online resources and communities for pyrography than for standard woodworking, they are out there. Though it’s not as sexy as building a chair, woodburning requires attention to detail, patience, and a mastery of the tools of the trade. Check out our primer on the subject to get started!
Writing and journaling has been a hobby of almost too many great men to count. While some men write in order to sell a book or an idea, many just do it to organize their thoughts, make connections, solve problems, and even soothe stress. It’s truly a cathartic experience to get something out of your head and onto paper.
Many men will make a goal to journal more, but in my experience, it’s almost more helpful to view it as a hobby — something you do with spare time, even if just a few minutes here and there throughout the day. While it’s not something that you can show off, like with a lot of other hobbies, it’s personally rewarding and will help keep you from the grips of an attention-less world. And someday your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be happy to be able to read what your life was like back in good old 2016.
Taking to the seas on your own volition is something that many men have dreamed about. Sailing involves some of the most ancient disciplines: weather forecasting, navigating, rope skills, etc. You harken back to crusty, bearded men of yore fighting rough seas and angry whales, even if just puttering around the calm waters of a small lake. It’s a literal breath of fresh air, and provides both physical and mental exercise. It may seem an expensive hobby, and it certainly can be, but that can be mitigated by taking classes, using boats for hire, etc. You don’t need to drop thousands on a boat in order to get started. It’s also something that the whole family can enjoy rather than just you as an individual; get your spouse and kids on the boat, and make it a weekend tradition!
Pick your poison: craft beer, wine, Scotch, tequila…the options for enjoying a fine glass of alcohol are only limited by your imagination. The hobbyist in the world of alcohol doesn’t go for Budweiser, but for a local microbrew. Rather than Jose Cuervo, he’s going with Don Julio. Choose which boozy niche you’ll focus on, and get to learning. You can become on expert on how that particular alcohol is made, which brands are known as high quality, and when new products are coming to market. You even get some of the enjoyment of collecting; it’s an enjoyable hunt to find the next great whiskey and share it with your friends and family. We have primers on a variety of drinks and spirits: wine, beer, rum, whiskey, and Scotch whisky.
While sailing keeps you on top of the seas, scuba diving takes you below to explore the deep. It’s a unique hobby in that you’re required to take classes and become certified before being able to participate. You’re certainly a little bit limited if you live in a state without much water to explore, but even inland locales have scuba shops and classes available. Many people will take classes inland and become scuba certified, but then use their skills on vacations to the clear waters of the Caribbean or more murky haunts like the northern coasts or the Great Lakes. In most cases, you can at least take a drive somewhere to be able to scuba dive.
You’ll become an amateur historian and biologist all in one by joining schools of fish and ancient shipwrecks on diving adventures. Few hobbies offer this type of thrill, so find a school near you to get started!
While this hobby falls into the model-building category, the uniqueness of railroading is that you aren’t just building one item to be added to a collection, but in many cases an entire scene, with trains actually moving through it. It’s a hobby that’s been enjoyed by the likes of Johnny Cash, Joe DiMaggio, Walt Disney, Tom Hanks, Frank Sinatra, Warren Buffett, and many more. You’ll learn a variety of disciplines including math/physics basics, wiring, building/constructing scenes, and designing. This isn’t just your childhood railroad ring around the Christmas tree. To get started, take a look at the beginner’s guide put forth by the National Model Railroad Association.
While hiking and mountaineering are also on this list, rock climbing is a sport all its own. Instead of scaling sloping peaks, you’re conquering cliff walls, often not for the reward of a great view (although that’s often part of it), but for the physical thrill of knowing you just scaled a vertical wall. It utilizes your physical skills, but also your analytical and problem solving skills as you search for the next small handhold and as you find and create a line to the top.
The easiest way to begin rock climbing is by learning the, ahem, ropes at an indoor gym. Once you get the basics of safety and technique down, take your new hobby outside; even if you don’t live in a place blessed with majestic cliffs, you may be surprised to find lesser-known local areas with good climbing. Most climbers employ a partner to belay them, which can seem like a barrier to learning if you don’t know anyone who can go with you. But climbers are a friendly sort; hang out at the gym, and you’ll find folks happy to spot you and bring you along on their outings.
It’s important for men to cultivate a nostalgic love for history. What better way to truly immerse yourself than by participating in historic reenactments? It can be as narrow as recreating a specific battle, or as broad as representing a time period at a historic place like Colonial Williamsburg. Recreating historic moments has actually been around since ancient Roman times, when men would perform famous battles from history. It gives you a chance to feel what the men of that time wore, what they perhaps thought, and of course you are learning a great deal no matter what you’re recreating. This hobby gives you the chance to truly walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but from a time gone by. Plus, you often have a chance to educate those who come out to watch the reenactment.
Ebay has a great guide for getting started, and will be a helpful resource in finding gear too!
Records of beekeeping have been found as far back as 4,500 years ago in ancient Egypt. The hobby gained some notoriety in the U.S. in the 80s when Burt Shavitz took his pastime to market with Burt’s Bees. (Speaking of which, there’s an excellent documentary about Mr. Shavitz and Burt’s Bees called Burt’s Buzz, available on Netflix.) It combines a little bit of danger and conquering of fears with getting a tangible return — honey! Before starting up, you’ll want to check your city’s beekeeping regulations, especially in urban areas. This is another hobby that is easily scaled — you can start small with one hive, and work your way up as you get more comfortable. Learn more from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.
In the 50s and 60s it was common for house parties and get togethers to revolve around the record player. You’d gather and listen to the latest album while trying your suave moves on the apple of your eye. Like many nostalgic activities of that time period, vinyl collecting and playing is making a comeback. In fact, vinyl sales have leapt up in the last few years while CD sales continue to decline. For someone who loves music, going to vinyl offers a brand new experience with your tunes. Vinyl aficionados swear by the richer, more accurate sound embedded in a record.
Listening to vinyl also forces you to focus on an album as a whole rather than skipping around to your favorite singles. You’re consuming it as a piece of art rather than just four minutes of entertainment, which is often how the artist prefers it. To get started in record collecting and listening, check out our guide to buying your first turntable.
Bird watching offers many of the benefits of collecting — organizing, learning about a specific topic, even the thrill of the hunt — without any of the costs. Instead of buying and perhaps cluttering your home with objects, you’re keeping a journal of your findings or perhaps checking off species on a list. As a youngster, it seems like the ultimate old man’s hobby, but even just into my late 20s, I seem to have more interest simply in the birds in my yard than I ever did before. Perhaps it’s their peaceful nature, or my jealousy for their ability to fly; either way, they’re beautiful creatures that are as varied in shapes and colors and habits as people are. Bird watching offers entertainment and enjoyment both in the short-term (like on an afternoon walk), and over a lifetime of searching for rare species and coming to learn more about the creatures that humans have tried so hard to emulate. Grab a pair of binoculars and get started!
For some men, working on projects around the house is a chore, and one they’d avoid at any cost. But for many others, it’s a totally enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Be it finishing a basement, working on your home maintenance checklist, or even just re-painting a room, puttering around the house (and garage) offers many men the chance to work with their hands and learn a new skill.
Homes need love and care just like our bodies do in order to stay healthy. If you come to enjoy it, you’ll be much better off and you’ll probably save money in the long run since you’re not hiring out every little project. Of course you need always be careful; better to be safe than sorry and end up having to pay extra to fix what you broke. The benefit is that there are resources galore for those who look, be it online in videos and articles, books from your library, or shows on HGTV.
Dwight D. Eisenhower played bridge with his fellow officers into the wee hours of the morning; Winston Churchill enjoyed playing mah-jongg and gin rummy with his family before dinner; many of the founding fathers, including Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison, were ardent players of chess; presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Harry Truman played poker with their advisors; Abraham Lincoln played backgammon with his sons.
Nearly every great man from history had a favorite board or card game — as did millions of men whose names have been lost in time. Join their ranks, and discover the multitude of benefits that come from playing analog games with your friends and family. Be sure to peruse our primers on cribbage and poker, specifically.
Even men who don’t consider themselves materialistic can be greedy with their time. But while holding tightly to our time and resources seems in the moment to protect our happiness, in the long run, this selfishness cankers our souls. Service should thus be a part of every man’s life, for in losing yourself in helping others, you often find your own life greatly improved.
Instead of dedicating the entirety of your hobbies to your own pursuits, why not serve others through volunteering; as you aid your fellow man, you will in turn find fulfillment, proper perspective on your own problems, the breaking down of prejudice, and more. While men certainly need time alone with an activity to refresh themselves, spending regular time volunteering offers a unique kind of rejuvenation as well.
If you’ve always wanted to pick up an art, but don’t have the painter’s touch, try photography. With digital cameras and digital editing software becoming cheaper, photography as a hobby is more popular and accessible than ever. One benefit of photography as a hobby is that you can combine other interests with it. Love the outdoors? Snap some nature photos while on your hike. Are you an aficionado of classic diners? Take a picture of every diner you visit. A vibrant community of photographers exists online and many photo hobbyists have free sites dedicated to teaching photography. Check out Digital Photography School and Strobist to find out more info on how to get started with this hobby.
While this hobby can only be enjoyed by a certain subset of the population that dwell on the coasts, it’s one that those people often center their lives around. While being on the seas in a boat is a fine experience, it’s far different to be truly on the water on a surfboard. You feel every wave, experience the adrenaline of the next break, and suffer the agony of defeat when your ride goes amiss. You’re competing against yourself and Mother Nature herself; few pursuits will connect you with the natural world like a day riding the waves. It’s hard to miss surf shops in locales where the hobby is popular; visit one, tell them you’d like to get started, and be prepared to make a fool of yourself your first few tries!
Every time I watch the The Hustler, I get the urge to walk into a smokey pool hall and become the master of the cue stick. Pool and billiards combines strategy, geometry, and oftentimes psychology in order to win. It’s also a great way to spend time and shoot the bull with your friends. If you can’t convince your wife that the game room won’t be complete without a pool table, try hitting up a pool hall or bowling alley to get your game on. A game costs a couple of bucks, more if you get hustled.
If you’re into camping and hiking and are looking for a new challenge in the great outdoors, then look no further than mountaineering. Mountaineers, well, climb mountains. Why? Because they’re there of course! There are few things as satisfying in life as getting to the peak after a grueling climb, gazing out to a breathtaking view, and knowing that you just conquered the mountain. For some mountaineering tips, check out this good article by Adam Cook.
This hobby got its start in late 70s on a college campus when a group of rock climbing friends strung climbing webbing (about 1″ wide and flat) between a couple trees and dared each other not only to walk across, but to perform various acrobatic stunts as well. It has since morphed into a popular pastime not only for college students, but also as a team-building activity for the young and old alike. In today’s common-man version of the hobby, this webbing is generally strung between trees at a height of just one or two feet off the ground. The hope is usually to simply make it all the way across without falling, let alone performing any kind of circus act. Not only does it take physical fitness and practice, but also mental focus and fortitude. It’s also a good way to be outside without the distractions of electronics, and of course it can be done with any number of people, making it a great social activity. Once you learn the ropes and can easily make it all the way across a line, you can start adding some acrobatics to your routine. It’s pretty easy to get started; get yourself a slackline, and a couple of trees, and you’re all set!
We’ve said it again and again; every man should know how to cook. The benefits of knowing your way around a kitchen are legion: it gives you independence (no more relying on others to feed you), it saves you money over having to go out to eat or buy pre-packaged foods, it impresses the ladies, it helps you stay healthy (ever read the nutrition information for fast food?), and it’s just plain enjoyable. You’ve got to eat a few times every single dang day, so you might as well get some pleasure out of it. Plus it’s a cheap and accessible hobby to take up. You can get fancier foods and tools down the road, but with the basics already in your kitchen, some groceries, and a few cookbooks, you can send your HungryMan dinners packing.
Some of history’s manliest men were those who conquered the skies — men like Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager, and Wiley Post. You may not be setting any records, but you can still soar like an eagle. Of course, the biggest obstacle to taking up flying as a hobby is the cost. It’s expensive. Pilot lessons can run a couple thousand dollars and licensing is a few hundred. On top of that, you’ll need a plane. Some men combine their love of mechanical work with flying by building their own prop plane. But even so, you’ll need a place to store it, so you’ll probably have to pay a monthly rental fee for that as well. Despite the cost, many amateur pilots I know say it’s completely worth it just to feel that sense of pure freedom up in the air.
Every man should know at least a couple of good magic tricks to impress friends, woo ladies, and delight children. There are few hobbies as fun as the practice of magic; the pay off of having people beg you to reveal the secret will leave you with a lasting grin. Practicing a trick over and over again to make it absolutely smooth and seamless is the kind of work that doesn’t feel like work. And every man knows that the only kind of shopping that is fun is that which is done in a magic store. Finally, magic can become a new hobby on the cheap; all you really need to start is a good book of magic tricks and a deck of cards (a magic deck of cards never hurts either). You can keep working your way up to more and more complex tricks until you’re sawing your mother-in-law in half in the living room.
Learning a Foreign Language
There are few hobbies as unarguably useful as learning a foreign language. How many times have you been in a situation where you wished you could communicate with a server/student/parent/victim, but could not. And how much did you wish you could speak the native language the last time you traveled abroad? Learning a foreign language can be pretty difficult, but when you really think about it, the ability to speak two entirely different languages is pretty dang cool. Community colleges always offer language courses for a good price, or you can try an at-home method like Rosetta Stone. The key is to continually practice or you’ll never get better and retain what you’ve learned. Some libraries host weekly get togethers where people can come and practice speaking a foreign language with others. Watching movies and television and listening to music in the language you’re studying helps too.
Writing is a manly hobby in and of itself, of course. But blogging offers its own interesting twist on this timeless activity. A blog can be an outlet for sharing something you’re passionate and knowledgeable about with other people. You can meet people from all over the world who share your interest, and you can start great discussions and online friendships in that way. Or you can use your blog to update friends and family on the goings on in your life (moms love their kids’ blogs). Or you can use your blog as your personal journal — a permanent treasure trove of musings and photographs that you can look back on in the years to come. You can also use your blog to boost your professional career, network, and build your personal brand. No matter what reason you start a blog, it can also teach you a bit more tech savvy — how to upload pictures and videos, web design, online marketing, and so on. It’s the kind of thing you may not understand the appeal of before you start, but becomes addicting once you get into it.
Remember when you were a kid and you’d play war with your friends with imaginary grenades, bazookas, and bullets? Well, now that you’re a “big boy” you can still play war, but this time with the experience of getting shot at with 100 mph paintballs. Trust me, it definitely adds to the excitement factor. Paintballing isn’t too expensive. For about $30 you can rent a gun, CO2 cartridge, safety mask, and enough ammo to last you most of the day at a paintball course. If you really get into paintballing you can always buy your own equipment and just pay for the cost of using a facility.
En garde! What do The Three Musketeers, Zorro, and Luke Skywalker have in common? Mad sword fighting skills, of course. A sport that has been around since ancient Greek and Roman times, this is a true gentleman’s pursuit. Take part in a tradition that the knights and lords of old were schooled in, a last vestige of proper dueling. Gain balance, coordination, flexibility, and focus as you learn the ancient art of parrying with an opponent. There are three different types of weapons used in fencing: the foil, the sabre, and the épée. Each has a different weight and is used in conjunction with different rules. Do some research on what fencing is really like and watch a video of a match to understand what you are getting into. It is different than the movie version with the continual clashing of swords; much of it consists of bouncing around, carefully looking for an opening and an opportunity to thrust at the opponent.
It’s Saturday morning. Your favorite team is playing on College GameDay and you’ve invited your friends over. What sort of beverage will you provide? Sure, you could go to the grocery store and pick up a 12-pack of Miller High Life, but wouldn’t it be cooler, nay, even manlier, to offer a cold one that you brewed yourself? Well, you can, once you get started with beer brewing as a hobby. Getting started with home brewing is cheap and easy. Trent at The Simple Dollar provides a step-by-step photo walk-through and cost breakdown of brewing your own beer. For $35 worth of ingredients and equipment Trent was able to brew seven 6-packs of beer. Not too shabby. Once you get familiar with the brewing process, you can start experimenting with the flavor of the beer and make your own limited edition that you can give as gifts to friends.
Drawing and Painting
Winston Churchill was an avid painter. He would spend hours in his garden or indoor studio painting while smoking his cigar. It was his way of keeping the black dog of depression at bay. He understood the healthy effect having a creative outlet can have on a man. Many men give up on art because they feel they have no inherent talent for it; this may be so, but classes and practice can make you a lot better. Drawing is the most accessible art to try. A few art pencils and a moleskine will keep you busy. Painting requires a bit more set up and cost depending on the type of painting you want to do. Watercolor painting is cheaper (and easier to clean up) than oil painting. Most hobby and art stores provide drawing and painting classes. If you’re too cheap for that, you can always watch the man with the greatest white-man fro in history, Mr. Bob Ross. He’ll teach you the Joys of Painting. That’s a happy little tree…
Space. The final frontier. While you might not be able to actually visit space, you can still get caught up in its awe and majesty right from your backyard. You’d be surprised what sorts of things you can see in space with a small telescope or even a pair of high powered binoculars. If you really want to see deep into space, you’ll need to get a high powered telescope, which will set you back a thousand dollars or so. But the payoff may come when you spot something in your backyard observatory that even the big dogs at NASA haven’t caught; amateur astronomers have made several big discoveries. And remember that astronomy is more than just looking in a telescope; it’s also learning as much as you can about our wondrous universe from books, shows, and lectures. You can get started without a telescope by boning up on your constellations and their origin stories.
Genealogy is a funny thing. It’s the kind of hobby that seems really boring from the outside. But once you get into it, it can totally grab hold of you and become something you love. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but how do you know what kind of apple you are, if you don’t know from whence you fell? Every man should know and understand his roots. You’ll understand more about why you are the way you are, and why your parents are the way they are, and their parents and so on. You’ll come to a greater appreciation of the people who made your existence possible. Once you start building your family tree, you’ll be amazed at the long lines that lead to you. You’re not just an isolated man; you come from a very real lineage, and your ancestors are all a part of you in some way. Start building your family tree by talking to relatives that may have already started on it and by searching free sites like Family Search.
Knitting? Knitting?! The thing that your grandma adores and your great aunt uses to make you a scarf for Christmas? Yes, knitting. Far from the sissy activity that many think it to be, men invented knitting, and it’s time we reclaim our place in its history. Men were the first professional knitters, plying their trade in Europe during the 16th century. And sailors were the other original knitters. They would make fishing nets and sweaters to keep them warm. These days, knitting for men is making a comeback; it’s both useful and relaxing. My good friend Cameron learned to knit while on a mission in Bolivia, and he was the only man in the knitting club at law school. And his manliness is unassailable. Be sure to watch this video about knitting and men.
What ham radio was in the 1950s, computer programming is today. Many men have made this skill their living, but there are millions more who have day jobs and pound out code in their spare time just for kicks and giggles. These are the people who make silly online games, useful open source apps, and cool web projects. There’s a variety of code languages you can learn. Personally, I’m fond of web programming and have found W3Schools a great resource to learn PHP, SQL, and CSS completely for free.
Obstacle & Adventure Races
Obstacle races grew out of the basic training courses of the world’s militaries, and they’re the perfect sport for runners who find 5 or 10k road races too boring and pedestrian. Running for miles, climbing over walls, and crawling under barbed wire will call upon your strength, cardio fitness, and agility, and test you both physically and mentally.
For a different kind of challenge, try adventure racing. Adventure races last all day and incorporate a variety of activities; you may have to run/hike for 10 miles, paddle a kayak down a river for 10 miles, and then mountain bike through a forest for 20 miles. And along the way you have to stop at checkpoints which can only be found by using a map and a compass. Physical activity+the great outdoors+orienteering=very manly. Check out the United States Adventure Racing Association to find an event in your area.
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 fathers and sons to spend time with each other (see The Andy Griffith Show). 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. (It’d also be good to learn how to de-hook yourself.)