By Kate Stukenborg
In the past few years, it seems as if there has been more opportunity and less judgement surrounding genderfluid fashion. In “Flannel Shirts and Boys in Skirts,” A&E shares ideas and opinions about whether man buns, button-downs, and other traditionally feminine or masculine trends have ever truly “belonged” to a single gender.
Imagine the most beautiful top knot you have ever seen. The brunette curls are blowing in the wind and cascading down like a graceful waterfall. If you are imagining the locks of supermodel Kendall Jenner or actress and singer Zendaya, think again.
The gorgeous top knot I’m describing belongs to Harry Styles, former singer of One Direction.
In society, fashion and trends have historically been dictated by gender stereotypes. However, there have been periods of time in which these stereotypes that determine what people can or cannot wear have been redefined. In the 1960s and 1970s these stereotypes began to lessen with the popularity of pants for women, and in the modern day we see the barriers again broken with trends such as short hairstyles for women. Girls have developed a sense of ownership over traditionally masculine styles through time. However, men’s sartorial choices seem to be far more limited. Why? Because of long-standing perceptions of the implications and importance of masculinity.
As St. Mary’s girls, we feel comfortable wearing clothes that are seen as masculine. Without a second thought, we will sport a button-down, flannel, or sweatshirt – all of which were originally designed for men. Livia Overton (12) confirms this, saying “ I actually own a lot of men’s clothing. Most of it is just black jeans or short sleeve button down shirts, but I’ve never thought of it as something I own that’s made for a man. It’s just clothing that I wear because I like it.” At St. Mary’s, there is even a boy day during Spirit Week in which everyone comes to school in khakis, polos, and other iconic men’s clothing. While St. Mary’s girls have no problem dressing like boys, it would be extremely rare for a boy’s school to have a day in which the students wear dresses, skirts, and makeup. Grace Lee (12) says, “I personally hate the idea of ‘boy day.’ I think it just goes further to intensify and preserve the idea of male superiority, especially since boys would never dress up in traditionally female clothing.”
Although men are often seen wearing skirts or other “feminine” articles of clothing on the high-fashion runway, the normalcy of men wearing these clothes has not yet reached daily fashion. Unisex styles occur frequently in high fashion, and Overton believes that “the whole point of androgynous clothing is to bridge the gap between typically masculine and feminine clothing so people can express themselves in clothing that they are comfortable in.” If unisex clothing was more common and acceptable for both men and women, the ability for people to freely and accurately express themselves would be much less limited.
The integration of conventionally feminine clothing and trends into men’s style requires open minds of both sexes as well as the bravery of men to be uncompromising in the way that they express themselves through fashion. In the span of a few decades, women went from wearing only dresses to wearing pantsuits and jeans. With the ideas of fashion influencers and the support and acceptance of both men and women, men could see a similar change in the upcoming years. Overton believes that “just as pants didn’t lose a masculine connotation until women fought for their right of free will in the area, societally feminine clothes probably won’t be accepted on men until someone says or does something big about it. Fashion is all about movements, and this one just hasn’t happened yet.”
Most of it is just black jeans or short sleeve button down shirts but I’ve never thought of it as something I own that’s made for a man. It’s just clothing that I wear because I like it.
3. Are there any trends/styles that you think belong solely to either men or women? Are there any that you think can go either way?
Overton: I think that all styles can go both ways, or at least should be able to. I’ve quite literally put a lot of my guy friends in my shoes and clothes for that matter. And I have to say, some of those boys pull off my outfits better than I do. They would never admit to it but you’ll have to take my word on that.
Lee: I don't think that any style or trend "belongs" to a specific gender. Most people are afraid to wear what they think "belongs" another gender, but people should be able to wear whatever they want.
4. Is there anything you've noticed in high fashion that you think can or will become normal or common in people’s daily style?
Overton: I’d be happy with any high fashion coming into daily fashion. We already saw a pretty big movement of faux fur coats come into everyday style. Not the kind you would see on the runway of course, but anything from high fashion which is made a little bit more relaxed and everyday just makes personalizing your style more fun.
Lee: In high fashion, people are more likely to bend the social norms and wear things they do not necessarily make sense in everyday style. As with everything, certain trends will always remain in high fashion while others will trickle down. I think style that works for all genders or androgynous style will become more prevalent in every day fashion specifically. I think as people come to accept more and more that clothes do not and should not define gender or what you identify with people will become more and more willing to wear what they really want to. I think everyone should be able to wear what they want to, barring cultural appropriation, obviously.
5. Does unisex/androgynous fashion belong only in fashion shows or belong only to androgynous or non-binary people?
Overton: Not at all. The whole point of androgynous clothing is to bridge the gap between typically masculine and feminine clothing so people can express themselves in clothing that they are comfortable in.
6. Boy day is an SMS tradition, but a boys’ school would never have a girl day. Why do you think it is such a big deal for men to wear "female" clothes while women frequently wear "male" clothes? Is there a problem with this?
Overton: Thinking about men not being accepted wearing “feminine” clothing is a weird thing for me. If you look back, women weren’t always allowed to wear pants, something which is now a staple in nearly every woman’s wardrobe. The reason for this was that pants were too “masculine” and should only be worn by men. Skirts, dresses, high heels, they’re all societal symbols for femininity. Just as pants didn’t lose a masculine connotation until women fought for their right of free will in the area, societally feminine clothes probably won’t be accepted on men until someone says or does something big about it. Fashion is all about movements and this one just hasn’t happened yet.
Lee: Social norms are the only thing keeping boys’ schools from having a girl day. Men are pretty much always seen as a superior gender, therefore women dressing up in traditionally male clothes is seen as wanting to be something "greater" than themselves. I personally hate the idea of "boy day." I think it just goes further to intensify and preserve the idea of male superiority, especially since boys would never dress up in traditionally female clothing.