Graham Reid explores the stagnation in male fashion, the repetition, restricted norms and retired looks that seem so timeless. However, all hope is not lost for men with an interest in fashion! Graham looks at new designers coming though, and the possibility of breaking down those gendered norms. The fashion industry is endlessly creative, and it's time that male style got some more attention.
The world of fashion is normally viewed as an ever-changing and inherently creative industry in which the only recognised limits are hemlines and being a size zero. Yet a quick glance at male fashion and it seems that not much has changed in the last hundred years, if not longer. Suits and boots, they’re still cute; jeans and creams, of course we’re keen; and as for the bomber jacket, well it’s still an explosion of style in every man’s closest today. Male fashion is a like a one-way street: when it’s in, it’s in and there’s no going back out. Let’s shed some light on why such little innovation has taken place over the last century.
What is a male? He is the hardworking, productive machine in society who earns money to feed his family. He feels no emotion, he powers through life’s ubiquitous speed bumps and he functions within the strict comfort zones imposed on him. Nothing has significantly changed since time began since this stereotype still prevails. Woman, on the other hand, has gone through remarkable societal advancements throughout modern history: she has the suffrage, she can work full time and we could argue that she has, nearly, equal status today. Fashion trends follow society like foot-ache follows a night-out in stiletto heels, leading to a rigidly repetitive catwalk for the male fashionista.
Yet for those of us with a different understanding of gender norms and roles in society, we express ourselves with more captivatingly creative styles. Our understanding of man is not outdated and this is shown in our clothing. On campus, we see a fabulous collage of styles: androgynous, preppy boys, goths, and eccentrics, to name just a few. Some designers now have gender-neutral fashion lines, which they gear towards the more educated. But sadly, since society in general, has a rather archaic, stagnant view of man, fashion for him stands pretty still.
There is, certainly, something special in having timeless pieces that never go out-of-date: a bomber jacket handed from father to son (provided he inherited the genes for it too); a pair of ripped, skinny trousers that you have had since your teenage days; and the comforting knowledge that you can throw on some pastel colours in any season, in any decade, and be on trend.
But fashion should be moving with the times, together with society. As people understand gender norms better, we ought to see designers making more expressive lines that change with the seasons, as we see for women. The lines between man and woman are becoming increasingly blurred and it is my hope that when we stop differentiating between men and women, we will allow more crossover in their fashion choices. Many men want to have a vibrant wardrobe too. They want to own bold prints, wear uneven hemlines, and have high waisted trousers to highlight their bottoms.
But if you truly want to be fashionable (following the ‘latest’ trends), then switch off your imagination. Follow the wise words of Frank Sinatra, “A tuxedo is a way of life”, and buy a good suit. Many important events in your life will be conducted in one and if you ever make it onto the red carpet, you will certainly be wearing one there too.
Accompanying that suit is a crisp, white shirt. And that white shirt would look equally fantastic with a navy-blue blazer on a “lads’ night out.” Male fashion is about reducing waste and recycling the clothes you have in order to create new outfits. Purchase a high-quality polo shirt, a trench coat and some brown brogues and I promise that you will be on trend forever and ever and ever…
I think it is certain that getting male fashion right is not difficult. However, trying to keep up with societal changes in gender understanding and allowing that to shine on is a completely different game. That’s a challenge I’d like to set our upcoming designers. Dare to be different. Be innovative. Shape the male fashion industry. Make it an art form like it is for women. Let’s inject some life into these aged fashion trends. If you have ever struggled and succeeded to get out of spray-on skinny jeans alone, then I am sure it’s challenge accepted.