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Male Fashion and Masculinity

by Priti Sharma

November 8, 2022

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“Fashion is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”- Orson Welles.

 A flower of creativity has blossomed in men’s fashion in recent years, igniting the menswear renaissance and refashioning archaic historical ideas of what it means to be masculine or feminine. In particular, feminine and masculine have been shaped and constrained by the gendered expectations of fashion: skirts and dresses are girly, whereas suits are for men; heels are for women, and sports or athletic gear is more masculine. This debate over who should wear what has persisted throughout history. Because of these harmful ideas about what it means to be a man, men are expected to dress nicely to be considered "truly masculine," or else they become weak, frail, feminine, or gay. But none of these terms—"feminine," "gay," "soft," or "fragile"—should ever be used as a derogatory epithet. 

“The ‘manly men’ are those who have the strength and courage to dress in whatever they are confident and comfortable with and most importantly of their preference.”

For many centuries, the way men dressed was regulated—with strict guidelines—in terms of their position in the social hierarchy. Fashion has long been political and associated with power. Men in the seventeenth century were demonstrating traits of power when they appeared in flamboyant velvet and lace ensembles, caps decorated with ostrich feathers, and red-heeled shoes. The French Revolution ushered in significant change as well as the beginnings of more gender-neutral male attire. Male fashion these days follows different channels of transformation. The regular grooming of males is increasingly including makeup. The goal of skincare for men does not include making them seem attractive. In Western consumer shops, the moisturizer was formerly prohibited, but today it's ubiquitous, according to Gough. Along with other roles traditionally held by women, such as parenting and cooking, "makeup is one of the last bastions of femininity that males are creeping onto."

Is the future of masculinity being defined by current trends in fashion? Probably, yes. Billy Porter's performance as "a living piece of political art" as he walked the Oscars red carpet in a tuxedo ball gown is evidence of the changes that have taken place, but when might those Hollywood fantasies come true for the average person? While certain Dusty Springfield-inspired miniskirts (from Charles Jeffrey) are regarded a tad "full-on," leopard print, neon, and "mirts"—men's skirts—are highlighted in British GQ's chart of menswear trends for Autumn/Winter 2019. Harry Styles utilizes the language of fashion to debunk common notions about what it means to be a man. Styles has now been able to modify the stereotypical image of conventional masculinity that the media marketed during his One Direction days as an ultra-male womanizer by changing his appearance. He cheerfully explains that he cherishes being in touch with his femininity as he openly flaunts nail paint, glittery suits, tutus, tiaras, and gowns today. No less of a man is Styles as a result of this.

However, the boundaries imposed by toxic masculinity are starting to dissolve as menswear possibilities finally move away from this constricting gendered split. In December 2020, Styles became the first guy to appear alone on the cover of Vogue while proudly wearing a dress. Many people appreciated his cover, but it also sparked debate. In response, conservative writer Candace Owens tweeted, "There is no civilization that can thrive without strong males... Bring back the strong guys”. When he shared another image of himself posing for his Variety cover shot in a baby blue pleated suit with white ruffles and a V-neck cut, Styles deftly flipped her statements on their head by explicitly repeating them. His article exposes the toxic masculinity that permeates our culture and demonstrates the fact that a guy may define what it means to be "manly" for himself. Whether he is wearing a dress or not, he is still just as much of a man.

Contrasted sharply with 19th-century fashion, which grew much more gender-specific, is this opulently masculine style. Men who wore skirts stopped wearing them once trousers became the norm. The "gentleman" was developed, and the suit developed into the pinnacle of masculine style, signifying male virility, power, and professionalism. In the modern office, menswear nearly always centers on the suit, which is often simple and dark in color. The tie, another not-so-subtle emblem of manhood, completes the look. However, the boundaries imposed by toxic masculinity are starting to dissolve as menswear possibilities finally move away from this constricting gendered split.

While the western world is comfortable with women wearing trousers and male attire but a slight change in male fashion and beauty standards questions their masculinity. Because of cultural changes, there is no longer a harmful clothing code for being a guy. Even Daniel Craig attended the most recent James Bond premiere in a pink velvet suit. Daniel Craig's ability to dazzle the red carpet in a vision of pink illustrates just how much the idea of "manliness" has altered. As Harry Styles has demonstrated, being a man today can mean anything one wants it to mean. The'manly guys' are those who have the guts and strength to dress whatever they like.

#MaleFashion #Masculinity #Feminine #Manly #Gender #GenderSpecific #BillyPorter #HarryStyles #Masculine #DanielCraig #Skincare #MakeUp

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