At the recent men's shows a unique approach to showing menswear took place. Dsquared and Thom Browne sent their latest creations down the runway on male models in high heels and in some cases, dresses. Obviously this was meant to grab the audiences attention and it did! The sight of men in heels and dresses brings up an interesting visual commentary. We know fashion reflects the times as well as aids the culture in moving forward, but did these presentations push the boundaries too far?
Fashion as a catalyst
From a practical perspective, I don't expect men to run out en masse and purchase high heels to wear. But this does spark a conversation around gender fluidity and the role of masculinity in fashion and by extension, modern society. Fashion is a safe space to explore these ideas. One of the main drivers of the fashion industry is individuality or at least the perception of individuality and gender-bending clothing is another way to differentiate oneself. As more and more men become aware of their aesthetics , the trope of the rough and rugged man is becoming a thing of the past. Men are comfortable being pampered, buying expensive grooming products, investing in high end clothing. In the past, designers and retailers targeted a largely female consumer base except for a small number of daring men. This has changed in recent decades and I expect will not go back to the status quo, the global menswear market has a total value of approximately $400 billion, yes billion, and is expected to exceed $500 billion by 2020.
Changing societal attitudes
Attitudes have changed, minds have opened and men are reaping the benefits of this renewed sensibility towards menswear and grooming. Still the idea of a man in heels challenges even the most open minded man. The remnants of a patriarchal society has caused many men to leave unchallenged societal norms and continue placing increased emphasis on identifying gender roles and expression. However, this thinking is becoming increasingly outdated.
As society embraces new ideas, fashion becomes a mirror reflecting the best and worst back to us. In recent years, a number of designers like St. Laurent and Stefano Pilati, and have embraced and created gender neutral clothing with less of an emphasis on gender and more on functionality. Gender neutral or genderless clothing is a distinct approach to appealing to both sexes while not specifically preferring one over the other. While gender neutral clothing typically consists of oversized t-shirts, jeans and sweatshirts more items are being introduced to the marketplace.
Perhaps these recent presentations were simply meant to inspire a bit of controversy but I think there is a deeper meaning intended. The fashion industry is constantly evolving and reinventing itself and as society evolves, expect the fashion world to keep pace. No need to trade in your sneakers for heels just yet but gender-bending fashion is here to stay. What gender neutral clothing would you wear, if any? What are your thoughts about men in heels? Let me know below. Stay stylish friends...