I’ve written before about the progress of, and the resistance to, blurring gender lines – I’ve also written about how men’s fashion should be allowed to cross the same lines women’s fashion has in the past 50 years.
This has been an area I’ve been researching and learning more about – I’ve also been rather keen to embrace, albeit rather apprehensively. It’s quite encouraging to see free-thinking and creative men discarding the traditional notions of gendered clothing and developing their own individual styles, but for it to actually become less of a ‘taboo’, I believe there needs to be more inspiration coming from those whose business it is to inspire.
I’m a member of a group on Facebook called “Men’s Fashion Freedom”. I don’t really need to tell you what it’s about – the clue’s in the name. The men in this group wear whatever they feel comfortable in, regardless of where in the clothes shop it’s come from. I’ve scanned through a lot of the historic posts, and the pictures its members have posted of themselves, and there there are a lot of practical and creative ideas flowing through the group, ranging from the simple to the extravagant, but everything works for the individual. They’re not chiselled catwalk models either – they cover all ages, all builds and all walks of life.
Switch to similarly-minded posts on Tumblr and Pinterest, and it’s a different picture. On here, I saw a lot of gender-blurring ideas that were coming off the catwalks – ideas that are, supposedly, where men’s fashion is heading. Not wanting to criticize their ideas, but Nuno Gama and Marc Jacobs aside, there were a fair few ideas that looked like costumes out of a Sci-Fi movie; think The Fifth Element meets The Hunger Games rather than the skirted tunics seen on Star Trek; all very well and good on the streets of Soho, but rather out-of-place in Sutton Coldfield unless you’re performing some Gilliam-esque street theatre.
For those who agree that menswear should be less restricted, I feel the fashion world is doing the cause more harm than good by presenting ideas that are too radical to be accepted by the general public; there needs to be many smaller challenges and short-term goals rather than looking too far ahead. Encouraging men to break into their pre-defined “masculine” programming and re-code it for themselves may take away those “traditional values” many still treasure, but it also allows us to bug-fix, reconfigure and optimise for our own architecture. (Sorry for the software engineering analogy)
Opening up a new market for men’s skirts and dresses needs a movement in order to be successful. A movement moves – it does not leap. Designers need to inspire, support and, most importantly, be patient; rules are best broken down one-at-a-time as opposed to broken all-at-once. To many people, seeing a man in a skirt is radical enough without being so bold in the design.