Written by Johan Holm
To be a Renaissance man originally meant to be knowledgeable in various
fields, broadly educated, and a humanist. The people of the Renaissance
era had a clear sense that their time marked something new. After a
thousand years in the shadow of the church and the medieval darkness,
light, art, and profane knowledge were to fill the world.
For the common farmer (who in Sweden constituted over 95% of the
population in 1520), the Renaissance didn’t mean much. A farmer could
hardly be a Renaissance man. However, scientists like Copernicus,
explorers like Columbus, and various nobles were better suited for this role.
Even the kings became part of the new era. When we talk about
Renaissance princes today, we refer to monarchs who had a certain
education and style. Gustav Vasa’s sons are typical examples. Old King
Gustav himself was a power-hungry, skilled economist, ruthless and rough.
But he was not a Renaissance prince. His sons, who could ride, draw,
speak multiple languages, fence, dance, play several instruments, and
compose music, would sometimes gently tease their uneducated father.
Then came capitalism and consumerism, and for the last hundred years,
we’ve measured our success by the expensive cars we can afford to park in
But I think I’m seeing a trend now. A resurgence of the Renaissance. It
started modestly with men who spend most of their days in front of a
computer screen, developing a strong interest in woodworking, boat or
house building, or at the very least, a simple outhouse. Many simply found
that their desk jobs didn’t satisfy all their needs. And so, DIY stores
(referred to as “man creches”) popped up on almost every street corner.
There, the new generation of guys could immerse themselves in circular
saws and routers. I know. I was one of them.
But it didn’t stop at the circular saw. The interest in acquiring new skills and
knowledge on an amateur level has grown in recent years. More and more
people are trying their hand at painting, joining a choir to sing, taking writing
courses, or gardening classes. Having blacksmithing as a hobby is more
popular than ever.
And behind the carpenter dad and the yoga-practicing, painting mom, I see
the glimpse of a new Renaissance person. Someone with a lifelong passion
for acquiring new skills and knowledge. Someone who doesn’t measure
status and success by the car parked in the driveway but proudly displays
the summer cabin they built, the paintings they created, the marble effects
and patterns that adorn their apartment interior, along with various