Farewell to flower shows and croissants. Bring on the brewskis and monster trucks.
Toledo, whose cultural identity has been tied strongly to Jamie Farr, an actor famed for wearing a dress on a television show, might want to think about erecting a statue of John Wayne.
This week the city placed eighth on the 2012 list of "America's Manliest Cities," up four spots from last year and its highest ranking ever in the fourth annual slightly tongue-in-cheek rankings by Bert Sperling, a West Coast author and researcher known for his "Best Places" lists of cities.
Toledo, home to the rugged Jeep Wrangler and the city chosen by Taco Bell to test its manly Doritos Locos taco, was the top Ohio city among the 50 U.S. cities on the list, surpassing Cleveland (9th), Cincinnati (12th), Dayton (18th), and Columbus (27th).
Oklahoma City finished as the manliest city in the survey, which was sponsored by Combos snack food and its maker, Mars Chocolate North America. San Diego, at No. 50, was deemed the least manly city.
Mr. Sperling, who resides in Portland, Ore., the No. 32 city on the list, said the rankings are on "the light side" of his various lists, which rank cities for livability, business, retirement, and other factors.
THE TOP TEN
The manliest U.S. cities, according to a study by author and researcher Bert Sperling:
1. Oklahoma City
2. Columbia, S.C.
5. Birmingham, Ala.
7. St. Louis
The rankings reflect city performances in five categories -- sports, manly lifestyle, concentration of manly retail stores, manly magazine subscriptions, and sales of salty snacks (Combos' influence).
It also subtracts points for cities that score high in less manly or "girly" categories, such as high numbers of foreign cars or minivans, concentrations of less-manly retailers such as nail salons, home decor stores, cafes, and gourmet coffee shops, and numbers of magazine subscriptions to unmanly publications such as Martha Stewart Living and Oprah.
"The types of periodicals prevalent does matter. That sort of gives you an idea of the kind of things people are reading," Mr. Sperling said.
Mark Luetke, a group president with Thread Marketing Group of Toledo, said that although the list obviously has a degree of levity, "it has a ring of truth" as well.
"I'd say [the ranking] is well deserved in that we have a tradition here of manly pursuits -- Ohio State football and outdoor sports -- and country music concerts do quite well here. And you have a lot of race car fans in the area. So unlike some of those other city rankings that are little questionable, these are somewhat based in reality and are consistent with the way some people do look at Toledo."
An expert in corporate images and brands, Mr. Luetke said that although some Toledoans may be skeptical about having their city listed on the most manly list, "I think Toledo should just buckle up and accept the honor.
"There's a bit of credibility in the ranking. I mean, if you just start with our mayor [Mike Bell], you have the ultimate manly politician," he said. "He's a former football player, a former firefighter, and he drives around on a Harley. This is the guy who on the first week of his campaign for mayor pulled a woman from a burning car wreck. You can't get more manly than that."
For his part, Mayor Bell said he was not surprised by the city's ranking. "I wonder why we're only at No. 8," he said.
After finishing 10th in the inaugural Manliest Cities list, Toledo dropped to 26th in 2010 but has climbed the last two years. Mr. Sperling said it isn't because Toledo has become more manly, but rather his organization has better refined the list.
With more refinement has come a clearer picture of what Toledo is and isn't when it comes to manly pursuits, he said. "Toledo has one of the highest scores of any city for U.S.-made cars. You're still going to find plenty of Hondas and such there but you're going to find far less of them than say, on the West Coast," Mr. Sperling said.
Bruce Baumhower, president of UAW Local 12, whose members include workers at Chrysler Group LLC's Toledo Assembly complex, home of the Wrangler, said there is a good reason for the high score in U.S.-made autos.
"Chrysler's largest market is Toledo. Chrysler has 22 percent of this market, more by far than any other market," he said. "They have two plants here, and the workers get an employee discount, so it's no surprise that we have a lot of U.S.-made trucks here. And the GM plant workers get their company discount too, so I assume they buy a lot of GM cars."
Mr. Sperling said Toledo had the highest score for the sport of bowling, and it scored in the 90th percentile for fishing, hunting, woodworking, and motorcycle club participation. "You scored high in Harley-Davidson chapters. It was the third-highest per capita of any city," Mr. Sperling said.
"Also, the number of NASCAR fans is high, among the top 5 percent of all cities in the study of manly categories," he added.
"These are the type of indicators that we looked at and that we have refined. Yes, it's sort of tongue in cheek, but it does fit the reality," he said.
Mr. Sperling said Toledo did well in numbers of retail stores with a manly bent. Many cities lost points for having nearby Ikea stores, numerous sushi restaurants, and "too many Starbucks as opposed to Dunkin' Donuts," he said.
"I think using stores like that as sort of culture bellwether is really a good thing because it sort of turns it around. When these stores look to go into an area they do look for a particular demographic. So it really does say something about your area when you look at the type of stores you have," Mr. Sperling said.
Contact Jon Chavez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6128.