Within the relative monotony of menswear (because, let’s face it, our options are far more limited than those of our female counterparts), experimentation has always been a cornerstone of the most uniquely fashionable gentlemen, a sort of way to distinguish oneself from the masses. This could mean anything from getting creative with suit/tie combinations, or an extreme attention to detail (both characteristic of the dishevelled elegance known as “sprezzatura”), but when it comes to the less formal end of the spectrum, more and more men have turned to experimenting through wearing clothes designed for those aforementioned female counterparts. Within the fashion world, this has become known as “gender blurring” or “gender fluidity.”
It is hard to trace the origin of this phenomenon back to a specific moment in time. In the music world, artists such as David Bowie or Prince (R.I.P. to them both) made dressing and acting more effeminately “cool,” or if not cool at least more accepted. If one were to try and narrow the origin of modern day gender fluidity down to one moment, my best guess would be 2011, when Kanye performed both in a Celine blouse and a Givenchy leather kilt on two different dates. As is often (sometimes unfortunately) the case, people do as people see Kanye doing, and lo and behold gender blurring started to become more acceptable amongst the millennials whom the influence of Bowie and Prince had been lost on.
Flash forward to the present day, and a shift in the gender paradigm (at least within the fashion world) has become more and more obvious. Brands have started releasing “genderless” clothing, be they upscale (such as Off White) or fast fashion (such as Zara). Heavyweight European houses such as Burberry, Gucci, and the ever so hyped Vetements have shown both their menswear and womenswear collections contemporarily, with New York based Public School following suit on this side of the pond. For last year’s Fall/Winter womenswear campaign, Acne Studios’s creative director Jonny Johansson cast (in a somewhat confusing display of nepotism) his 11 year old son as the face of the campaign. These are just a few examples, but there are many more to be found.
Not only has this shift become more pronounced in the upper echelons of the fashion world, but it has indeed made its way down to the consumer as well. Street style galleries from the past year and a half or so are peppered with images of men peacocking in their Vetements raincoats or hoodies, a label which, until very recently, was exclusively women’s. Pop Culture figures beyond just Kanye have started participating in this trend as well, such as Jaden Smith (who was cast as the face of Louis Vuitton’s S/S 16 women’s campaign) or Young Thug (who is known to wear Gucci blouses and girl’s dresses as shirts), just to name a couple.
While you would be ill advised to try and replicate these two’s style piece for piece, the take away should be: if it looks cool, and it suits your body, why shouldn’t you wear it? Even here at Fashion Moves Forward, the influence of gender blurring has been felt: I have long preferred women’s jeans to men’s (also due to the fact that I am probably one of the skinniest people you’ll ever meet and men’s designers don’t generally even consider my waist size), and even our founder Jackson in a recent interview flexed a women’s Jil Sander by Raf Simons tee. So, next time you come across a piece you’re considering buying, ignore whether the tag says men’s or women’s: that’s a thing of the past.