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Recently we have seen men taking up more feminine dressing habits. Skinny jeans, floral designs on guy’s shirts, men wearing tighter or shorter clothing, brighter colors, etc… My question for you is how much is too much? What is the line between boyfriend and girlfriend? Should the machos calm down or have guys gone too far?
Everyone plug your nose, we’re about to dive into the pool of gender politics. Here’s the deal: I am both a style columnist, and a real person. Sometimes what I think as a columnist is different from what I think as a real person. That is, for me it’s important to recognize the difference between what is considered stylish and what I like. And I think that’s what you’re getting at, Dan. Although skinny jeans, florals, bright colors, short/tight clothing, and pashminas are all (somewhat arguably) on-trend and appear in magazines and stores… do I think this is a good look for men?
So I’m going to answer this, but first… Sex and the City. Have you missed it? Yes you have, don’t lie. Season 2, episode 18: Miranda doesn’t know if she wants to be exclusive with her boyfriend Steve, so Carrie suggest making a list of pros and cons about him to help her decide. Miranda hesitates, saying, “That seems so judgmental.” Carrie wisely says, “You ARE judgmental. Put it to good use.” I hesitate to be so judgmental, but as Carrie says, I am anyway, so I may as well use it to inform my readers.
Motley Crue. Singing about unbridled masculinity, while wearing makeup and big hair.
Floral designs: Unless it’s on a tie, I don’t like it. It’s too feminine for my taste. Plus, the floral design on men’s t-shirts was a trend that I suspect was motivated by profit margin. Hey, look, we took a plain t-shirt and drew some swirly lilies on it and now we can tack an extra $40 onto the price! Graphic tees in general (for men and women) are bothersome to me. Instead of depending on excellent construction, timeless silhouette or beautifully rendered fabric, they stamped a few witty words and dumped the glitter from your third grade craft drawer on an ill-fitting tee and hoped you’d be distracted by the sparkles.
Skinny jeans: Meh, I don’t care much either way if you have the body to pull it off. If you’re a tall, toned, and lithe guy, skinny jeans work. Here’s why: they accentuate the difference in width between your thighs and your calves, so if you’re thin, the effect is one long line, which, on the bottom half of a man, is a masculine look. But! If you’re carrying an extra 50 pounds of weight, or if you have a big ole’ booty, skinny jeans are going to make you look like you have wide hips and shapely thighs that taper down to a thin ankle. Hmmm, what does that sound like?
Tight clothing: Clothing should skim, not cling, not billow. So no, I don’t like tight clothing, but I don’t think it has anything to do with whether it’s a feminine look or not. I assume decades before The Jersey Shore polluted our TV screens there were juiced guys walking in tiny t-shirts (T-SHIRT TIME!) in order to show off the guns. I just don’t think it’s particularly attractive, plus my particular aesthetic leans toward modesty, not showiness.
Which brings me to a final thought about what it means to be “feminine” or “masculine.” These words only have relative meaning, right? I mean, Magnum, P.I. was running around in shorts we now only see on 19-year-old girls working at the car wash. But was there anyone more traditionally masculine (God forgive me I love his mustache) than Magnum P.I.? No. And yet thirty years later you’d never live it down if you wore those out for a jog (although Robin Masters might ask you to do security for his house).
So I want to encourage everyone, myself especially, to relax about the rules that govern who should wear what. For those who don’t want or are unable to live inside specific gender constructions, we live in an era of unprecedented tolerance and compassion, and for that I say, it’s about goddamned time. I’m going to keep pushing myself to look outside these constructions and see beautiful clothing and fantastic style as just that, regardless of whether or not the person in the hot pink polo has XY chromosomes.
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