Man Caves: But Why, Though?

So, you’re designing a man cave for the extra room in your home. That room had to get used somehow, and the other half said you could, after all. But what does the term “man cave” even mean? What kind of tech and games are in it? What the heck is man cave seating? And isn’t the term a little outdated anyway? I mean, we have “she shed,” too, but that has its own set of issues…

At their core, man caves are all about creating a dedicated space where you’re able to relax in some man cave-approved chairs, drink some beers with the guys, and hang out and watch movies or a sporting event without being bothered—it’s a way to get some much-needed alone time without having to physically leave your home. While some go for the classic reclining area, others like to trick out their man cave and make it almost like a mini home theater, complete with entertainment seats that scream “luxury,” giant television screens, and all the best technology.

Anyway, let’s talk about the inception of this ubiquitous American safe-haven for dads. Is it a facetious luxury? Or a symptom of changes social norms at home? Is it toxic or healthy? Because it’s kind of what we do, we’ll even throw in some ideas for seating in your man cave to help you get the most out of your space.

Where Did the Idea for a Man Cave Come From?

We’ve all seen those old sitcoms where the dad has a sad space in the garage where he sits on a lawn chair and watches an also-sad box TV while he drinks beer. It’s instantly picturable and iconic, a pervasive element of shows and movies from a certain time period. And even though it largely moved inside, the typical image of a man cave is still pretty similar – just switch out the lawn chair for home theater seating and a sad box TV for a big flat screen… and maybe an indoor, air-conditioned space, because that’s important too.

That idea of a garage space that allows a wife to visually banish the masculine aesthetic of her husband goes back to the 70’s and 80’s, but one of the first references actually naming these spaces as “man caves” wasn’t until the 1992 book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, where someone referenced a man retreating to his “cave” to unwind and relax. Because, women. It makes a lot of sense to know that the terminology for “man caves” comes from a book dedicated to understanding the opposite gender, but the idea of a place for men to run off to for alone time has existed much longer.

If you think about it, though, throughout history – like, thousands of years, not dozens – men were never missing a separate, private space in the household. Dens? Offices? Libraries? Cigar rooms? The specific concept of having an area for men to retreat to has existed even since ancient times—some things never change! The Ancient Greeks and Romans had rooms in their homes specifically for men to hang out and drink wine as they discussed philosophy and politics. While they might not have had modern amenities like luxury entertainment chairs that recline, pool tables, and fully stocked bars, the main idea hasn’t changed much over the course of history.

While they’re less of a cave and more of a safe retreat or “sanctuary” (hence the popular portmanteau “mantuary”), the concept has flourished in modern times with myriads of references in movies, tv shows, and pop culture, seeing a resurgence as more of a home theater-adjacent space. These man caves of the future are typically decked out with sectionals and couches built for home theaters, a television screen fit to watch the latest and greatest on, and spaces for other hobbies and activities that let you relax.

Evolution of the American Man Cave

The proliferation of man-cave-culture directly correlates with the boom of women going out of their kitchens and into the world, getting college degrees and becoming a major part of the labor force. For men, work used to be the place where they could get together and socialize with other men—once women entered the workforce, men wanted to reclaim space for themselves.

Remember gentlemen’s clubs and the Freemasons? Men used to have No Girls Allowed spaces outside the home. Once women came out of the home, starting post-WWII, men had to scatter, quite literally. Enter the Men Only garage and eventual converted den/basement. When you think about it, it makes sense. Garages are traditionally masculine spaces used to store cars, related supplies, and tools, while dens and basements are sometimes unused, “spare” spaces in the home. With women traditionally having full-control over the design of the home, men were able to claim one space and devote it to whatever they wanted.

As the years went on, man caves grew in popularity. The DIY Network released a show called “Man Caves” in 2006, and over the next decade, as homes became bigger and bigger, families had the space for the husband to have a space of his own. Because being a spouse and a working parent is a lot, and we all need a quiet place to be ourselves. In 2015, “Epic Mancave Builds” started showing on the Discovery Network, where a team of guys would go into someone’s home and construct and design man caves, complete with custom-crafted wood furniture, flat screen televisions, and some of the most comfortable entertainment seating out there when friends came over. The show was short-lived in comparison to “Man Caves,” but it showed that the intrigue and interest in man caves hadn’t died down.

As this idea of a male sanctuary further developed, so did the design and layouts of man caves. Seating in man caves became luxury home theater and multimedia furniture, TVs became giant projector screens, mini fridges became wet bars. Eventually, man caves shifted into something more akin to a miniature version of an entertainment room.  As societal norms change, so has the desire for man caves to be ultra-masculine spaces. What was once an area to throw back beers, hang out in a garage surrounded by power tools, and escape domestic life, has now become a room to hang out, watch sports, and catch up with friends—man cave seating has gone from the spare lawn chair to entertainment room chairs upholstered in black leather. It’s still somewhat masculine, but just a little bit more in line with the times.

And as physical space in the home opened up to men, so, too, did more balanced roles at home open up to women. And now, we have the she-shed culture, which is a response to the fact that we’re all stressed and need a retreat from school, work, life – even the kids, sometimes. Sorry; it’s true.

So, yes; the inception and evolution of the man cave has always been a result of changing social norms, both inside and outside the home. And no; it’s not a facetious luxury. It might be a gender trope, but that stereotype isn’t representative of what a man cave can do for any kind of household’s social and emotional wellbeing. Everyone needs their alone time to dedicate to friends, hobbies, or just plain relaxing, and man caves and she sheds provide that helpful balance for families. So, yes; it can be a healthy thing to have a man cave and/or a she shed in your household.

Design & Seating Ideas for a More Modern “Man” Cave

What’s a lecture without something fun and useful at the end? Here are a few fun ideas for the seating and design setup of your more-than-just-a-man cave:

  • Switch out those tired old La-Z-Boy recliners with tricked-out Nappa leather home theater recliners instead. You get the same versatility as typical recliners, but with tech and convenience features to make game-watching all that more fun.
  • Have a tight room to fill with furniture? Try getting theater seating that butts up against the wall or some entertainment seating that curves slightly. Both of these are great at saving space and fitting in tight spots.
  • Ever heard of a home theater couch? One seating idea for a multi-use man cave is to try an entertainment room couch with all the features of a home theater sofa, like powered reclining and accessories for your media room seating like LED-lit cup holders, iPad holders, and more. 
  • Then, besides the choice of over a dozen colors in any of several luxury leathers, you can customize a casual vibe with man cave seating in stylish fabrics like microfiber and velour. Keep it classy with black or brown entertainment seating or go with something out of left field, like two-tone seating with your favorite colors.

Your man cave is supposed to be your quiet place. Or your place to blast music and have fun – whichever. So, when it comes to designing your man cave, you should do exactly what you want. And I think we can all agree that your man cave deserves luxury media seating, not plain, musty old recliners.