An increasing number of brave men are wearing traditionally feminine clothing these days: in real life as well as all over the media, you see men in skirts, dresses, patterned tights, high heels, tops with fun ornaments and frills, matched with accessories such as colorful and eccentric hats, scarves, belts, and jewelry. It is becoming more and more trendy (and fun, with all these new options!) for men to dress in attire traditionally considered feminine. What styles are the coolest from a woman’s point of view?
Women sporting “slacks” – a brief glimpse at early feminism
First of all, a personal comment. I think these men really are pioneers, pointing to an aspect that has been mostly ignored in Western cultures so far: feminism has established women’s right to wear non-traditionally feminine clothing, such as pants, suits, ties, flat shoes, and short hairdos. When you see a woman in pants today, you do not even blink or think twice – it’s just normal. However, back in the early years of the 20th century, a woman sporting “slacks” (a term invented explicitly so that women weren’t incentivized to buy or wear what was considered explicit menswear, i.e. “pants”) or a short haircut had to face judgement, ostracism and sexual harassment. While I would argue that at least some Western cultures have become more open to gender fluidity today – especially in sub-cultures supporting and promoting non-mainstream lifestyles – I still think that men dressing in womenswear today fight many of the same prejudices women had to roughly a hundred years ago.
Even today, it seems more acceptable for women to wear masculine or men’s clothing than men wearing feminine or women’s clothing. Arguably, this has to do with some strands of early feminism, where women fought for women to be recognized as equals to men, so for women to be “lifted up” to the same category of “human”. In the logic of oppression, women donning men’s clothing then means a sort of “up-grading”; however, if men do what seems like the same thing, they “down-grade”. I think many people today think along those same lines, even if they don’t realize it. It has become very engrained in our cultures to think that being “like a man” (in the traditional sense) is the value standard for both men and women (and children of all sexes). Saying that a man behaves or looks “like a woman” is often an insult – it is the principle at the core of phrases like “throwing like a girl” or being “the bitch”. I am not the first one to think or say that this binary logic needs to be rethought from the ground up.
A masculine feminine style: the “safer” choice
So, with this background in mind, what style/s look/s coolest? I can think of more than one way to answer this question. One would be the superficial way: what looks coolest or at least most acceptable to many people who are not in the scene is the “masculine”-looking skirt, or the skirt that looks most like the traditionally respected man’s kilt. Then add matching “masculine” garments and accessories: button-down (checkered, or any other pattern considered traditional for men’s clothing) shirt or simple t-shirt, leather jacket and heavy leather belt with a big buckle, hefty jewelry such as large watches, leather bracelets and thick rings, army boots. To name only a few, but I think you get what I am saying. Basically anything that combines a rather simple, straight-lined skirt without frills or much ornamentation with accessories of the “men’s” category. Dresses are probably mostly out of the question for this style, except if they mimic medieval garments such as (but not exclusively) tunics belted at the waist or a priests’ robe.
This combination might be a somewhat “safer” choice because it still communicates a very traditional and instantly recognizable masculinity where one does not really have to ask further questions. Such as: what exactly is masculinity, and why do I recognize leather etc. as a symbol of masculinity? One can relatively easily look at a man dressed in this way, have the fleeting (and lazy) thought that he might be of Scottish heritage or part of a crazy rock band that has nothing to do with me. Then one can push aside any uncomfortable further reflection as to the meaning of his clothing. He still looks “masculine” enough to the mainstream perceiver to not evoke much discomfort in relation to questions of gender identity and sexuality. He might just be seen as “a little eccentric”. But since that has become more common even in our mainstream cultures, many people might be used to it enough to not think more about it.
Style and identity
Asking the questions: what is masculinity and how do I want to express it – that’s the point where style gets trickier, and where the question that is the headline of this post becomes more difficult to answer in a clean, black-and-white way. The reason is that the answer will be different for every man because each man should (be able to) define his own way of being masculine. What defines your identity precedes the question of what you should put on to express that identity.
Are you sensitive, are you temperamental, emotional, shy, boisterous, sweet, social? What would you like others to perceive you as? Intelligent? Strong? Facetious? And what are your personal values? These and others are all points to think about before moving to ways of expressing your character through clothing. Then you can consider the aspect of what cuts, materials and colors speak to you and make you feel comfortable. Because style should also, in my opinion, always be about feeling confident, comfortable and easy-going. Also, do you have more angular or rounder features? What patterns do you think feel good to look at and also emphasize your shape in a positive way? Are you tall or small? Do you like accessories, and if so, what kind? Do you have body parts that you would like to emphasize because you find them attractive – and is there something you would rather not show as much?
So, here is the bottom line of a woman’s very long answer to the central question of what styles look best and/or are coolest. I think it’s the styles that show knowledge of yourself and confidence, that 1. express your personality and identity (and if you are a creative person, they should express that creativity) and 2. demonstrate your love and acceptance of your own personal type and features. Have long legs? Emphasize the length with tights, tight leggings or shiny pants. Maybe don’t wear a super high heel that makes your upper half seem even shorter – although, again, proportions also really are a matter of what you want to express and emphasize. Have nice eyes? Wear a hat that draws looks to your face, and in a color that suits you. Like animals? Don’t wear leather or fur, rather work with plant-based and sustainable materials such as organic linen or cotton. Get the gist?
For me, as the wife of a be-skirted and be-heeled man, what is most attractive is the style in which my eyes are drawn to my man’s very own and unique personality as well as his nicest features.