COMBOS brand snack foods released their 4th annual “America’s Manliest Cities” list last week and I’ve got to tell you, I’m feeling pretty manly. Not only did my fair city (Birmingham) rank #5 on this year’s list, upon closer examination I discovered that I also know men in 8 of the top 10 cities! 8 of the top 10! That has got to make me even more manly, right?

In case you missed it, here is the complete list of “America’s Manliest Cities” according to that-precious-little-manly-snack-food-that-we-just-can’t-do-without, COMBOS:

  1. Nashville, TN
  2. Charlotte, NC
  3. Oklahoma City, OK
  4. Cincinnati, OH
  5. Denver, CO
  6. St. Louis, MO
  7. Columbus, OH
  8. Kansas City, MO
  9. Indianapolis, IN
  10. Toledo, OH
  11. Memphis, TN
  12. Richmond, VA
  13. Columbia, SC
  14. Orlando, FL
  15. Dayton, OH
  16. Salt Lake City, UT
  17. Milwaukee, WI
  18. Minneapolis, MN
  19. Cleveland, OH
  20. Detroit, MI
  21. Jacksonville, FL
  22. Phoenix, AZ
  23. Birmingham, AL
  24. Grand Rapids, MI
  25. Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL

I know I know, you like everybody else are asking what possible criteria the folks at COMBOS used in determining just how manly a city is. Well, believe it or not, here is their methodology and the criteria they used. (I knew some of you would think I was making this up, so I cut and pasted this info from their web site):

Methodology and Criteria for Determining “America’s Manliest Cities”

The rankings were determined using 50 of the largest metropolitan areas as defined by the United States Census Bureau, which includes a central city and the surrounding county (or counties). All data was adjusted by the current population to arrive at ‘per capita’ figures, providing an accurate comparison between cities of varying sizes.

Each metro area in the study received points for each of the criteria based on its relation to the other cities’ scores in that data category. To maintain consistency throughout the study, the most significant data element for any given category (that which implies the conditions most conducive or indicative of “manliness”) received a score of 100 points. The data element for any given category that is associated with the least amount of “manliness” received a score of 0 points.

The remaining cities were assigned point values between 0 and 100 based on their data elements’ percentage of the range between the most desirable score in that category and the least desirable score in that category. In this way, the point values assigned to cities preserve the proportionality of the data points in relation to the data set while providing a common point scale.

Category scores were weighted and aggregated to determine an overall “Manliest Cities” index for each metro area.

Manly Categories/Criteria

Below are the broader categories on which each city’s manliness was measured along with a brief description of the criteria that went into each category.

  • Sports — In addition to the number of professional major league sports teams in a city (football, baseball, basketball and hockey), the number of nearby NASCAR tracks and events, NHRA events, local drag racing strips, monster truck events and triathlons/marathons were analyzed.
  • Manly Lifestyle — Various consumer behaviors in each city were analyzed, such as the number of US-made cars and full-size pickups registered in the city, membership in motorcycle owner groups, sports TV viewing, bowling, fishing, hunting, woodworking and home improvement work.
  • Concentration of Manly Retail Stores — The number of manly stores and businesses were evaluated for each city, including BBQ and chicken wing restaurants, steak houses and sports bars, sportsman stores, general hardware and home improvement stores.
  • Manly Magazine Subscriptions — The percentage of households subscribing to manly publications were analyzed. Examples of manly publications include Sports Illustrated, Car & Driver, Maxim, Playboy, Men’s Health, Popular Mechanics, Boating, etc.
  • Salty Snack Sales — Total sales for the “Salty Snack/Cracker” retail category were measured for each city. Combos is a product in this business category.

Manly “Kryptonite” Category/Emasculating Criteria

Cities also lost points for an overabundance of emasculating criteria – factors that reduced a city’s manliness rating. These criteria were derived out of some of the “manly” categories above, but were the opposite of manly.

  • Lifestyle — The number of minivans and foreign cars that were registered in the city was measured. The more of these types of vehicles, the less manly a city was rated.
  • Concentration of Retail Stores — The number of home furnishing and décor stores, cafés/coffee shops, sushi restaurants and “modern” male apparel stores was analyzed in each city and cities with higher concentrations of these stores lost rating points.
  • Magazine Subscriptions — The percentage of households with subscriptions to unmanly publications was analyzed. Examples of these publications include Martha Stewart Living, O-Oprah Magazine, Vanity Fair, Bon Appétit, Real Simple, Vogue, etc.

So let’s recap:

According to this study, if you A. drive a pickup, B. are frequently seen in stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, C. go to an occasional NASCAR race or tractor pull, D. subscribe to Playboy or Sports Illustrated, and E. don’t shop at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, guess what?

That’s right…


(Cue the epic theatrical music.)

If there has ever been a time that we needed to rediscover authentic manhood, it is now. How sad that this is the best our culture can do in trying to determine what a man is and to measure one’s state of “manliness”. Is there any wonder why men are confused, trying to fit in with the contradictory messages that we are being sent about manhood and true masculinity?

True Blue Tribe seeks to become a beacon in these troubled waters, helping men discover the authentic manhood that has been pursuing them all along. Thankfully, we weren’t designed to do this alone, but in community with our brothers.

We hope that you’ll join us and that in a few years, COMBOS’ criteria will either look very, very different or they will forgo their silly study altogether. Trust me, we don’t need a snack food company telling us what a real man is.