Lace shirts for men. That’s what my women’s magazine was telling me to expect this summer. Lace shirts. For men… And this wasn’t limited to the fashion world, I must add. Apparently the stylish men of the street will be flaunting this delicate look. I just couldn’t get my head around it, trying to picture my friends deciding to give it a try.
Maybe I’m being narrow minded. Surely big-brand Burberry, with their collection ‘Straight-Laced,’ know what they’re talking about. After all, it’s not the strangest thing I’ve seen in menswear lately. Take Christopher Shannon’s bikini draped men as an example:
Inspiration for the collection came from “Summer hedonism, Marbella frenzies and exuberant foam parties.” Apparently.
I suppose we should take the same stance as we do with womenswear and not take every design so literally. After all, plenty of people have questions to ask about some women’s fashion, with brands such as Viktor & Rolf and Alexander McQueen at the top of the list. A lot of what they do is creative, artistic and not made with wearability in mind.
So why do we suddenly turn prim and proper when it comes to menswear? In general, men tend to stick to practical, comfortable and “safe” fashion. Tried and tested styles they know will make them stand out in the right way without drawing too much attention to themselves. Men’s fashion, therefore, is less free to transform itself every season into something new and unknown. Unfortunately, this preference for classic style is often labelled as ‘boring’. Yet any digression from the straight and narrow is ‘weird.’ There is no happy medium.
The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman puts it this way, “You want to know why womenswear gets more attention than menswear? Because womenswear can be fabulous, gorgeous, weird, ridiculous, breathtaking, game-changing, enviable, exciting, desirable, wonderful. Menswear, on the other hand, can only be two things: weird or boring. And there’s only so much mileage you get from those two qualities.”
So when we see something slightly more eccentric in men’s fashion, we notice. We’re not used to it.
Why the sudden surge in experimental menswear then?
More and more men are becoming interested – or at least aware – of fashion. Some are just as concerned about their style and appearance as many women are. A luxury goods study in 2013 found that growth in the market for men’s fashion has outpaced women’s since 2009, increasing between 9 and 13 percent yearly.
Menswear is having its moment. It’s finding its feet in the modern day, free from the restraints of Mr Playing-It-Safe. As interest in fashion grows, it’s natural to want to experiment and discover this unknown world of dress up. New, curious customers leave brands with the creative freedom to branch out into other styles and be less afraid of it not selling. A handful of years ago, menswear didn’t even have its own fashion week. Now London Collections: Men is on its eighth season, running a four-day bi-annual show.
Maybe soon, a man in a skirt won’t be something odd to us. Was it not just as strange when women first decided to wear trousers? We readily accept it when women dress androgynously, so surely we should be more accepting of it with men too. Just recently, Will Smith’s son, Jaden, was made the new face for Louis Vuitton’s womenswear line. A controversial move.
But this just reflects the changes in society. At the moment we find it a little crazy but it wasn’t crazy enough to stop them from going through with the idea. We’re probably heading towards this being normal.
This isn’t the first time Jaden’s made a bold dress choice. He’s well known for his gender-neutral style and even wore a skirt to his prom last year. Other fan’s of the man-skirt include Kanye West who wore a leather Givenchy skirt in 2012 and even Vin Diesel who beat him to it back in 2003! Jared Leto famously posed in a skirt and trousers in 2010, captioned ‘Real Men Wear Skirts.’
Fashion historian, Valerie Steele, explains, “There are a growing number of people who don’t want to identify as male or female. This is expressed sartorially as well as in terms of names and pronouns. Some fashion designers are asking, do we really need male versus female dress? More designers are showing clothes on the runway that are androgynous or with similar or the same looks [for men and women].”
The world is becoming a more open-minded place and with that come some very strange ideas that we may not be used to. Fashion should be fun and creative as well as a reflection of who you are. It’s no wonder many men find the idea of fashion boring, they’re not experiencing the fun side.
Women have the power to dress in so many different styles depending on our mood and event. Why should men have to remain so limited in choice?
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