Androgyny a retail reality for, men?
Gasp, it’s finally happening gender fluid clothes are no longer a girls only club. Borrowing and experimenting with items that are “feminine” for menswear has become more prominent than ever in the fashion business. And it’s not just the runway, but the high street has finally got the gist.
Though this maybe a snail process, it’s most certainly something worthy of rejoicing.
It’s modernism at its finest, especially for the working man.
That’s not to say however, that this is something fresh and brand new, androgynous attire for men has been brewing for decades with the likes of David Bowie, Prince, Beckham’s attempt of a skort in 1998.
Honourable mentions, include subcultures too, especially the 80s casuals. Who would have thought working class boys from Liverpool and Manchester’s love for fashion and football would evolve to what we now know as hypebeast and hypebae.
And we cannot forget the appearance of Kanye’s very own leather kilt in the music video for N**as in Paris in 2011, or Jaden Smith’s so called controversial look for the Met Gala in 2017. Dare I say empowering, as he wore pieces from Louis Vuitton’s autumn / winter 17 womenswear from head to ankles paired up with heeled boots.
Get this, The Renaissance Man, Tee Eben, predicts that though the change may be slow every bold move is an inch forward. Meaning the modern man will not just be a list of characteristics but a palette for designers and buyers, much like the modern woman.
Speaking of equality, you see fluidity in clothing encourages true self-expression, and a more accepting society aids that.
Fashion is like second skin, it’s how we communicate our personality. Your sense of style is a ‘language with its own syntax, vocabulary, and grammar’- Alison Lurie
Who you are and how you feel determines your ‘visual language.’
As Freudian as that maybe fashion merges with our emotional needs. Take it from fashion stylist, David Martinez as he describes how he expresses himself.
‘My personality changes. Every two weeks I’m different person.’ He chuckled. ‘Style…it’s a feeling. Take yesterday, I was very busy and I didn’t want to show myself, so I wore all black.’
Think. At the bottom of Marlow’s hierarchy of needs, basically the fundamentals to living a well-rounded life, lies clothing.
A basic human need, that when a desired look is not achieved it chips away at your self-esteem and fulfilment.
Gender conformities like pink is for girls, and blue is for boys can be a stumbling block for men seeking variety. A little something different from khakis and greys, utility and military.
What makes the fashion industry the phenomenon it is, is curiosity. Like a parent and child social conventions and fashion are constantly in a power struggle. And the centre of it all is always fashion week. Whether it’s New York, Milan, Paree or London, the runway is the telescope to the future of fashion.
Check this, fashion house, Casely Hayford’s motto is to ‘represent unique expression of freedom created when conformity threatens identity or conventions restrict spontaneity.’
From neon yellow jumpers, to bright pinks, vivid oranges, colour was the forefront for their Men’s AW18 collection.
On the streets of London, Cyrus Karai, proud owner of orange safari boots, couldn’t help but smile when asked why the bold choice of footwear.
‘My dad picked these out for me he was like what would a twenty something want to wear.’
Mind you yellow, pink, orange, even blue! Are romantic colours or in other terms “effeminate” colours. But that doesn’t stop all males.
Though this is a glimmer of hope, we have to address the why. Why we are dipping only the big toe into the pool of gender fluid clothing for men?
Conservative house, Burberry showcased a lace shirt for men in SS16, and despite their efforts of progression this wasn’t necessarily reflected on the racks in volumes it should’ve been.
Louis Vuitton’s floral bomber became a retail phenomenon for womenswear in 2016 regardless of the fact it was a feature item for men that season. Could it be, that androgyny in menswear is a tad bit lukewarm for us as society?
That through breaking conventions for womenswear, we forgot to tackle the other side of the spectrum, ‘this is for girls not for boys.’
Okay, we can’t simply dismiss the risk takers in retail. Like John Lewis’ decision to neutralise clothing labels for children or River Island’s 100% gender free campaign, and even H&M’s launch of a unisex denim line.
But we can question why aren’t others following suit, is modernism pricey?
Artist, and co- founder of Zömbi tees, Tom Addis explains the dilemma between selling unisex and men tees for men. ‘They’re exactly the same t shirt, same stock but some guys won’t buy unisex, we sell more by having unisex and guy shirts.’
For Zömbi having two separate sections is more about business than the brand, co-founder Claire Addis explains too.
‘we haven’t made a conscious decision because from the very start we just thought about unisex t shirts, gender hasn’t really been an issue for us. We haven’t thought right, we want to market these so men buy them.’
‘If anything, I wanted to move away from that because I am not a blocky block.’ Tom laughs. ‘some of the zombie and horror stuff the websites are very black and gory, and they can be a bit blocky a guy’s thing, zombie apocalypse, grr and we didn’t want that.’
‘Our approach is to keep things open to all.’
‘We are quite a fluid brand.’ Claire adds flashing her pearly whites.
And don’t just take their word for it, their work speaks volumes.
Take the Brony shirt for example.
They took a sub culture with controversial connotations, Bronies, a.k.a men who love to watch my little pony, and moulded it into a caj tee for everyone.
‘It’s not as sexual as people want to think, it’s pure innocence. I felt pent up.’ Tom reminisces.
‘I thought, right I am going to do a brony t shirt, let’s get that out there. The purple from the main pony in a Nike swoosh. We haven’t sold many locally but online, we’ve sold a lot in America. It shows our niche, we are alternative.’
Whilst brands like Zömbi continue to prod at conventions and gender conformities, we also have to acknowledge individual’s efforts to raise brows too.
The streetwear scene in February’s instalment of London Fashion Week was buzzing with forward thinking males. From floral makeup inspired by nature, to crop tops paired with sliver hoops it’s safe to say a fluid future for menswear is just around the corner.
Androgyny a retail reality for men?