Photography and Styling: Jim Weller
It was in the 1920s that modern clothing first crossed gender boundaries in a major way when trousers were introduced into women’s wear. Almost 100 years on it is deemed acceptable, by society, for women to wear traditionally masculine attire but it is still frowned upon for men to wear more feminine clothes.
In her 2001 song, “What it Feels Like for a Girl,” Madonna addressed this issue with the suggestion that it is degrading for boys to look like girls.
For years men have been trying to cross the gender boundaries of fashion, whether it is through clothing or make-up. We are still, however, in an age when a man cannot walk the streets in a skirt or make-up without drawing disapproving glances at one end of the spectrum to physical violence at the other end.
Even famous men have been ridiculed in the press for their courage from David Bowie in the 1970s, Boy George in the 1980s and even style icon David Beckham wearing his sarong as recently as 1998.
As we enter a new era in which the Millennials are becoming the new faces to follow with their less prejudiced ideals we can finally see the breaking down of some barriers without the behind the hand sniggers of the press. When Jaden Smith fronted Louis Vuitton’s women’s wear range this year he was widely praised rather than derided.
2016 has also seen an introduction of the ‘agender’ or ‘unisex’ clothing range from such retail giants as Selfridges and Zara, for example. What is clear, however, is that they are mostly still biased towards masculine styles of clothing with jeans, t-shirts, shorts and sports-jackets being the main staples of such collections.
The same can be seen out and about with so many people of both genders donning the uniform of skinny jeans, boots, t-shirt and bomber jacket so beloved of high-profile names from Justin Bieber to Gigi Hadid. Whilst this is a step-forward in gender neutral styling it can still be argued that masculine style is predominant.
Some light can be seen at the end of the tunnel though for whilst we may be a long way off men’s skirts and dresses being acceptable on the high street there is a softening of what we can wear on our top halves. T-shirts have enjoyed longer hems throughout the summer and cardigans this winter are longer, button-free and flowing.
There is still some way to go before the final taboo of it being acceptable for men to dress in what may be seen as feminine styles is to be broken down but there is an increasing pace towards it.
Some recent runway shows have really pushed the boundaries of masculine ideals for menswear, which is a refreshing and daring step. One of the most exciting of these is Palomo Spain whose third collection debuted at “New York Fashion Week: Men’s” at the beginning of the month. The clothes in this collection were decadent and beautiful. As with his previous collections they tear down the taboo of femininity within menswear with outstanding design and style.
Another collection that bends the rules is the Balmain Men’s FW17 campaign that mixes the masculinity of military patterns with cuts that have a flair and style more closely associated with women’s wear. Additionally their SS17 collection that teams bright colours and knitwear that have a more gentle feel than some traditional men’s wear staples.
As more designers break away from the stereotypes that have been created by the 20th century, men can begin to enjoy a larger variety of attire that can allow the expressing of more than just one aspect of our humanity.
Not only this but, in the 21st century gender is becoming more fluid so it is fitting that clothing meets the needs of all, not just the majority. If gender neutral and gender biased clothing can break away from the dominating masculinity, a new age of fashion can open the door to acceptance for more individuality and the expressing of one’s true self.
I mostly photograph clothing grids or my shoes and socks for my Instagram page for a number of reasons, including the dilemma of how to pose for a mirror selfie.
Do you look in the mirror, at your phone screen or at the phone viewfinder? Do you pose with the phone at eye level, therefore obscuring part of your face or down low, which looks weird? Do you only take a photo of your clothes, therefore cutting off your own head and becoming a faceless figure? There are too many questions that need to be answered and that is just too much thinking for a fashion post.
Photographs taken by another person are also just more aesthetically pleasing and, since I do not currently have a constant photographer companion, I choose to take photos that I find appealing. In time I would like to include more photos of me, but they will need to be taken by someone else.
Recently, however, I bought an amazing new coat from Topman so I wanted to do it some justice by showing it on. My fiancé had already left for work and I was not meeting anyone the first day I wore it so a selfie had to do. I stood before my bedroom mirror bundled up in coat, gloves, hat and scarf (for full effect) trying to snap pictures of myself that did not make me look like a complete weirdo. Alas I failed and they all made me look like a complete weirdo:
Still, I posted a selfie on Instagram that day, which has since resulted in 36 likes and two positive comments, giving me some sense of pride. The process of doing so and the strangeness I felt in posing for myself before a mirror have ensured that this will not be something that I repeat in a great hurry.
Unless, of course, I find that one piece of clothing that makes me look like Ryan Reynolds.
A gift of socks is often seen as the epitome of being a middle-aged man and is always the dreaded gift from the distant aunt who doesn’t know you too well. For me, however, three pairs of socks given by friends as one of my presents, was one of the highlights of last year’s 40th birthday celebrations. Said friends were surprised by my enthusiastic response, but to me it was evidence that they had learnt something about me, about my tastes and had put some effort into selecting a present I would enjoy.
I had been getting some stick from my nearest and dearest for my ongoing obsocksion because I am constantly posting photos of them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I try to vary my social site posts so that a constant stream of my stockinged feet does not result in a loss of virtual friends, but my love of fun socks is bordering on fanatical. Continue reading
If you have a modicum of interest in fashion it’s likely that you’re aware of H&M’s annual team-ups with a designer or celebrity (David Beckham endorsements notwithstanding). For 12 years the “H&M Collaborations” have been an exciting feature in the fashion calendar with everyone from Beyoncé to Madonna to Balmain to Versace having lines exclusive to the high street brand.
The collaborations are well known for selling out on the day of release. The last, with Balmain in November 2015, was also arguably the most successful to date. It was reported that it was out of stock online within an hour, so the newest has big boots to fill.
This year it is the turn of Kenzo, an international brand founded in the 70s by Japanese designer Kenzo Takada in Paris. It is a relatively new designer house with bright and vibrant designs that may appeal more to a younger market than some of the previous partnerships.
Well known for their tiger motif and use of bright prints Kenzo has allowed their usual creativity and flair to shine through in this more affordable high street collection.
With the launch only days away what can they offer that would tickle the high street shopper’s fancy?
Consider the black sweater with tiger motif and the multi-coloured animal print trousers that are undeniably Kenzo, even without the top proudly emblazoning their name.
The designs for H&M include nods to their own currently available items, such as this green and black bomber that is not dissimilar to the emerised jacket on the official Kenzo website, but at a fraction of the cost.
The skin print is made available on a range of items in the Kenzo x HM series, some of which are for the most adventurous of men.
But there are also less vibrant offerings for the more subdued of you out there.
There are many designs and patterns to choose from, which have been used on numerous items across the range. If you can’t decide what to buy, however, you can always opt for this coat that appears to incorporate every pattern.
This release has been eagerly awaited since it was announced in May 2016. The look book has given us all quite the taste of what can be considered one of the brightest and most lively Autumn/Winter 2016 High Street Collections.