The Brief: A softboy or softboi is a name for a man who is soft or sensitive.
The softboy is a stereotype of a boy or man who shares characteristics with hipsters, emo boys, eBoys, skaters, indie boys, sad boys, and f**kboys. The term can also be stylized softboi, soft boy, or soft boi.
The most prominent softboy narrative describes a heterosexual man who acts like he is a woke, sensitive feminist but is actually just as misogynistic, if not more so than the average “frat bro.” Softboys can be recognized by their beards, hipster clothing, scruffiness, and/or lankiness. Typical softboi interests and activities include reading literature, smoking cigarettes, drinking craft beers, skateboarding, listening to vinyl, and telling women that they are “not like other girls.”
The term softboy often carries negative connotations. So-called softboys are known to be self-involved and poor communicators who are likely to ghost someone they’re dating or hooking up with. Those who are critical of softboy behavior often suggest that his “softness” is nothing more than a ploy to sleep with women and to appear likable. While they may seem to be sensitive and considerate, softboys can possess characteristics of toxic masculinity.
Softboi, especially when stylized as such, can be used to describe trans men who do not subscribe to every element of traditional or mainstream masculinity. For some, softboi is a term of pride, but it can also be an insult used to suggest that a trans man is “not masculine enough.” Softboi is also sometimes used as a self-descriptor by LGBTQ+ individuals who identify with traits that are associated with masculinity, bois, and softness.
On social media, there has been some reclamation of the term (by people of various genders and sexual orientations) with a positive spin on it. This version of a softboy or softboi is in touch with his softness in a positive way and is not ashamed of his sensitivity or emotions. When softboy is not used as an insult, it looks more broadly at the benefits of softness being socially acceptable traits in boys and men. The newly popular concept of SoftSZN is a current manifestation of how people of all genders are embracing their softness.