Do you often find yourself shopping for knitted jumpers at Urban Outfitters? How about preaching feminism in a pair of Dr. Martens? Or sliding into someone’s DMs with indie-rock playlists as an invitation to discuss Wes Anderson’s complete filmography over some red wine? If so, then congratulations! You identify as what the internet claims to be a ‘soft boy’.
Dubbed as the ‘feminist cousins’ of fuckboys, soft boys are mainly characterised as young men who aren’t afraid of openly expressing their emotions and vulnerability. Apart from their love for nature and thrift stores, the soft boy starter pack supposedly includes deception, double standards and patronising comments to potential suitors on Instagram and dating apps. In short, soft boys are said to house more colours than their art palettes.
While the internet debates who is more lethal: soft boys or fuckboys, we asked TikTok influencers, Daryn and Nicolas, to validate these claims and consequently redefine what being a soft boy entails.
“Soft boys wouldn’t even dare to hurt a fly!” Daryn starts. “To me, the term simply means ‘simpy’. It’s just those guys who get in their feels, vibe, bake cakes and wear sweaters.” Daryn is one of the OG soft boys of TikTok and Instagram. He is famous for his K-drama parody edits, amassing over 3 million likes on TikTok.
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Nicolas outright agrees with Daryn’s definition: “Most of them own sweaters and are just nice people,” he adds. Nicolas is well known for his honest take on political issues and trends both on TikTok and Instagram. With over 6 million likes on TikTok to his credit, Nicolas admits to being influenced by the soft boy culture in terms of his personal style.
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When asked for visual tips on how to spot a soft boy, Daryn advises being on the lookout for “button-up collared shirts under a light, thrifted crewneck sweater” paired with “straight-cut jeans and black converse.” Meanwhile, Nicolas preaches that thrifting is the soft boy’s ultimate way to consume. “Thrifted clothes! A soft boy will generally avoid the hyper-consumerism and unsustainability of fast-fashion and opt for used clothing instead,” he says.
Daryn sums this up by adding “we’re not out here trying to give off this intimidating look like we run the place; we’re just the gentle side-characters that mind their business until called upon.” He further stresses the fact that a soft boy would never admit being one. “That’s just one of the qualities of being a soft boy, I guess… never wanting to be so declarative in our statements and just expressing those ideas as feelings or opinions.”
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Soft boys are said to be the western adaptation of South Korea’s ‘flower boys’, which as a trend in itself can be tracked down to K-pop and its ‘soft masculinity’ appeal. Daryn attributes his style to BTS’ ‘Spring Day’ and ‘Love Yourself’ eras. “Their music was honestly driven from the soul, and I truly think that this resonates with so many fans on an international level—to the point where it trickled down many streams of social media to get to your local softboy.”
Nicolas admires the fact that the culture normalises soft masculinity. “It’s good to see men being able to get in touch with their feminine side,” he adds.
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Reflecting on some of the general responses from followers regarding his personality, Daryn declares an influx of “we should be friends” texts. “Most of my viewers on TikTok comment as if they know me personally; that’s the kind of relationship I want with my viewers—they aren’t ‘fans’, we’re all just friends, and I’m the silly one who posts K-drama parodies on TikTok.”
“Thirst comments. A hefty amount of thirst comments,” chirps in Nicolas when asked about general responses to his style. “And requests for me to see a therapist,” he calmly adds.
Finally moving on to the hottest debate about the degree of ‘lethalness’ between soft boys and fuckboys, Daryn rejects all negative connotations surrounding the former. “Hey now, we are by no means lethal, or at least not trying to be,” he clarifies, nervously massaging his neck and shoulders. “If you ever get the wrong idea from a soft boy, he is probably not picking up on the signals you are sending.”
Nicolas, on the other hand, admits to the accuracy of all the internet claims and believes soft boys have a dark side to their vulnerability. “There are way too many men who weaponize their femininity to seem ‘not as bad’ as the other men but in reality are just as misogynistic and manipulative.”
Daryn figuratively drops his mic by stating: “At the end of the day, I wouldn’t blame anyone for equating us to fuckboys, we are men, and men are trash after all.”
All this is more than enough evidence to conclude that soft boys are perceived and received differently. As Daryn re-iterates, his personality gives off an aura of approachability while Nicolas’ style garners him some negative feedback. “In my opinion, being a soft boy is way more about personality than it is about how you dress. Anyone can look the part but it is their personality that speaks volumes,” says Daryn, which ultimately makes us question the onset of the phenomenon. Soft boys may have been a thing all along. And maybe your local soft boy was just waiting around the corner in hopes of being termed. TikTok merely went ahead and did it!
You’ve probably heard or read the term soft boy somewhere online. Also spelled softboy or softboi, the term is used to describe a specific type of man. Here’s exactly what it means and a few examples of typical soft boys.
Urban Dictionary has more than one definition for the word soft boy but all of them seem to agree on a few points. Although the term is used to describe boys, soft boys have features and behaviours that most would qualify as almost feminine. They also have a sensitive side that differentiates them from the previously used term fuckboy.
“Similar to a fuckboy but without the cocky attitude. The softboy will butter a girl up by appealing to her emotions and showing a ‘sensitive’ side long enough for her to sleep with him, whether or not he actually cares about her or not. Then, like the fuckboy, he can’t and won’t commit. Differs from the fuckboy because he goes for the heart and emotions rather than just the body,” says one of Urban Dictionary’s definitions.
@beam_me_up_softboi is the Instagram account that shares with its followers screenshots of conversations with typical soft boys trying to impress girls with their indie music knowledge and their fake philosophy of life.
As much as this can be true for some, not all soft boys are manipulative liars. Soft boys can also be recognised by their soft and gentle attitude.
Many believe that soft boys come as a package, meaning that yes, they are nice and easily likeable, but they also have a very precise aesthetic that makes them recognisable from afar. From wearing pastel tracksuits and having soft, natural hair, soft boys are, well, soft inside and out.
Many agree that soft boys are a watered-down version of K-pop and its boyfriend aesthetic which then influenced western culture. In K-pop, the boyfriend look describes an outfit made of pastel tones, muted colours and having a classic hairstyle.
This style is named the boyfriend aesthetic as it is an outfit that a man could wear to meet his partner’s parents in.
As mentioned in The Guardian’s What is a softboi? You might be dating one – and you don’t even know it, Timothée Chalamet is probably the perfect and most used celebrity example of a soft boy. His explicit embrace of femininity and rejection of traditional masculinity has struck a nerve with audiences of all ages who have marvelled at him (for good reasons).
Very similar to Chalamet is Harry Styles, who recently also showed a different approach to masculinity by wearing nail varnish, pearl necklaces and more feminine apparel.
Less famous but also coming under the soft boy umbrella are actors Cole Sprouse from the series Riverdale and Noah Centineo who starred in rom-coms such as The Perfect Date and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
Whether you decide to use the term or not, soft boys have inundated social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok and are here to stay. And, to be honest, with toxic masculinity finally being challenged, it’s the perfect time for us to accept soft boys as a gentler, kinder sort of man.