Fully half of the names on the most recent boys’ Top 100 list are choices that break with masculine naming tradition, compared with less than 20 percent of the names on the 1960 boys’ list. These include traditional names with feminine qualities such as softer sounds and/or vowel endings: Joshua, Sebastian, Elijah. Another group are names that sound assertively masculine, even tough, yet haven’t been used as first names before: Colton and Brayden, for instance. The smallest group consists of names that are shared with girls: Cameron, Dylan, and Jordan.
Of course, girls’ names have changed radically over the past generation too, but while the new girls’ names are often just a co-option of boyish names like Taylor and Peyton, the new boys’ names feel like nothing less than a reinvention of masculinity.
“With the new masculinity, wanting men to be involved fathers, to have close friendships, to really be compassionate, are all things my husband and I thought about when we gave our son his name,” said Katherine Woods-Morse, who works for a foundation in Portland, Oregon, and whose now 12-year-old son is named Paxton.