[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]’ve always thought of myself as being pretty open-minded when it comes to fashion, but, recently, certain trends in menswear have been making me feel like a fuddy-duddy. In particular, the gender-blurring movement that has been percolating for a while now.
It started innocuously enough. Designers and retailers championed androgynous looks that men and women could wear or share. Blazers, white shirts, a crisp pair of trousers. So far, so economical.
Then Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s relatively new creative director, came on the scene, and everything changed. Instead of being content with everyone wearing the same shapeless, gender-neutral separates, Michele proposed ’70s-inspired, sexy-librarian looks – for both women and men. Now, I absolutely adored the women’s offerings, but, when I saw the lace tops and the pussy-bow blouses on the men’s racks, I tittered to myself, thinking: “What man is going to wear these things?”
Definitely not the chap a friend of mine was recently shopping for. Some time ago, she sent me a message asking for help with choosing a gift for a male friend: “I want to get him a wallet, and I have shortlisted three, but I don’t know which one to get!”
“Show me what they look like,” I replied, sitting back in anticipation of having to make a tough choice among a trio of exciting designs that were clearly leaving my friend in the throes of indecision. One by one, the links came through. And the three wallets on her list were… black. All three were bi-fold, black wallets that looked nearly identical, save for the small logos embossed on the front.
“It’s for a guy, you know!” my friend sputtered in self-defence, after I accused her of not only wasting my time but, worse, also being deeply boring. However, that got me thinking.
Despite the best efforts of fashion designers, retailers and the media – and no matter what the surveys claim about the rise of the male fashion consumer – many men are still pretty conservative when it comes to their personal style.
When it comes to fashion experimentation, Yung Ong, the always-dapper executive director of luxury furniture group Proof Living, draws the line at “pants that my friends sometimes comment are cropped too high above my ankles – although I disagree”. While he keeps up to date by checking out fashion blogs, he personally favours a trend-free, “classic” style.
Even more fashion-forward guys have their limits. To all intents and purposes, Arthur Chin, the co-founder of graphic design and branding agency Foreign Policy Design Group, is one fashionable fella. His favourite designer is Kazuyuki Kumagai, formerly a designer for avant-garde label Issey Miyake. One of his best-loved pieces by Kumagai is a pair of bermudas made of “furry carpet-like material”, an item that Chin maintains is “not outrageous; just something I enjoy wearing”.
But would he wear a lace blouse? “I’m not quite there yet,” he admits manfully, adding: “But I think all this is only a matter of time. It’s all about critical mass, isn’t it? When enough cool, good-looking guys start wearing a look, you think, ‘Maybe I can wear that.’”
In the meantime, men who prefer their bermudas “un-furry” might want to think beyond black and brown when it comes to the colour of their wallet.