Fashion Friday: Menswear, and Some Thoughts About Gender Roles

So what about teh menz?

I’ve been asked a few times now, by a few different readers, to write about menswear. I wish I had more to say about it: it’s certainly an interesting and fertile topic. But I don’t have a lot of personal experience with this. I’m a woman; my partner of many years is a woman; we both tend to dress on the more feminine side (although I do venture into butch and genderfuck on occasion). Menswear really isn’t in my wheelhouse.

But I do have some general observations on the topic. And the main one is this:

Menswear sucks.

With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery.

Or, to put it more analytically: The range of socially acceptable clothing for men is far, far narrower than the range that’s available for women. As I said when I wrote my Fashion is a Feminist Issue piece: Fashion is one of the very few art forms/ languages/ forms of expression in which women have more freedom than men.

Now, as I also said in Fashion is a Feminist Issue: There are some very sexist reasons for this. Women are valued largely as ornaments, sex objects, and baby-makers. So we’re expected to make ourselves into nice-looking ornaments, and desirable sex objects. Women routinely have to spend more money, and more time, to make ourselves visually presentable and fit society’s basic expectations of grooming… and that’s more true the higher up you get in status and income. Shoes for women that are considered dressy and attractive are mostly shoes that are uncomfortable and can injure your feet in the long run. And of course, women get caught in a very nasty double bind with all this. If we aren’t successful at fitting society’s beauty standards, we’re dismissed as ugly and boring; if we do manage to meet society’s beauty standards, we get dismissed as dumb, shallow bimbos. We’re valued for our looks, encouraged and indeed pressured to make ourselves beautiful and ornamental… and are then derided as shallow and vain for doing so.

But there’s a flip side to this form of sexism — and it’s one that screws men over. Men have a much, much narrower range of socially acceptable options in which to express themselves through fashion and style. Again, as I said in Fashion is a Feminist Issue: Women are permitted a wider range of colors. Fabrics. Surfaces. Jewelry. Hairstyles. Makeup. Entire categories of clothing are available to women that are socially off-limits to men. We can even take on masculine clothing styles with little or no controversy… while men who take on feminine clothing styles can expect mockery and scorn at best, hostility and violence at worst. Again, there are sexist reasons for that fact — masculinity is seen as generally admirable and worth emulating, in a way that femininity isn’t — but the upshot is still that women have more freedom. If fashion is a language, then women have a much wider vocabulary. And we have a wider range of things we can say in that vocabulary.

And it’s not just that men have a narrower range of self-expression through style. The very idea of men expressing themselves through style is seen as suspect. There are some particular subcultures where this is less true: historical costume nerds and the kink community are the ones I’m most familiar with. But in general, men who are seen as caring too much about fashion and style and how they look are generally derided as being feminine, or gay, or both. (This is changing somewhat, with the whole “metrosexual” thing — but it’s still there.) Men are expected to achieve a perfect, razor’s edge balance between good grooming and carelessness. You’re supposed to look good — but those good looks have to seem effortless.

I see this pattern a lot with rigid gender roles. They hurt both women and men, in mirror images of each other. Women are screwed over by the expectation that they be sexually passive (the piece of common ground in the virgin/whore dichotomy); men are screwed over by the expectation that they be aggressive sexual studs, and always make the first move. Women are screwed over by the assumption that they’re over-emotional; men are screwed over by the expectation that they repress their emotions. Women are screwed over by the glass ceiling and earning 78 cents on the dollar and nineteen thousand other forms of economic discrimination; men are screwed over by the expectation that they be the primary breadwinner. I’m certainly not going to argue that these roles and expectations hurt men and women equally — I think that’s bullshit — but I do think rigid gender roles hurt everybody, of all genders, and I care about it.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. But I think it’s somewhere close to this: What I want from fashion and gender is a world where everyone has more choices. What I want is a world where men have more leeway in their fashion choices, and can express themselves through fashion/ style if they want without being dismissed as girly or queer — and where women aren’t pressured into making it a priority if they don’t want to, and are valued for our accomplishments instead of our looks. I want everyone of all genders to have lots of options in fashion and style… including the option to not care that much about it.

So men — and people of all genders with men in your life — what do you think? How can men express themselves through style, using the limited fashion vocabulary they’re permitted? And what are some interesting ways for men to stretch that vocabulary?

(Oh, quick note: If any MRA assholes show up in this thread to scream about how the issues I’m writing about here aren’t the same ones they most care about, and therefore all feminists are evil ballbusters who hate men and want to destroy them… please ignore them. Whenever I write about how rigid gender roles hurt men as well as women, they almost always show up. I’ll deal with them as quickly as I can. Don’t let them derail the thread. Thanks.)

Fashion Friday: Menswear, and Some Thoughts About Gender Roles

167 thoughts on “Fashion Friday: Menswear, and Some Thoughts About Gender Roles

  1. 1

    Hello Greta, I’ve read your blog for awhile but I finally thought I would start commenting.

    Wearing something other than the standard pocket square is a small creative rebellion that you can wedge into an otherwise socially acceptable suit. I saw Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips wear a large red feather in this jacket pocket on The Colbert Report once. I’ve thought I could probably do something like that, and manage any negative criticism it might garner.

    Baby steps I suppose…

  2. 2

    including the option to not care that much about it.

    I think you have hit the nail on the head,here. From my (admittedly) male perspective, I think men are less likely to want to express themselves through style of clothing. I tend to be more interested in comfort and practicality. If you are talking about the cars they drive and their high tech toys, however…

  3. 3

    “With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery.”

    You might be interested to know that that’s literally true, but for a different reason. It is dangerous to wear a regular tie anywhere near heavy machinery in operation. Also a man’s formal wear is pretty hot and nothing you want to wear near powerful heat-emitting machines.


  4. 4

    With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery.

    Yes. Oh, so very yes.

    I’m mostly straight, cis and present very male. Heck, when it comes to outfits, I’m pretty damn conservative. Even still, I’ve long ago lost track of the number of times I’ve wanted to browse through the women’s clothing just because there’s something breezy, or sleek, or retro, or stylish.

    Still, it’s amazing just how tight the policing can be. I once wore one of my mother’s shirts to school. Honestly, I thought it was my dad’s: just a blue dress shirt. Only difference was that the buttons were on the wrong side. Did I notice? Nope. Did the others at school notice? Oh yes.

    I know, that’s nothing compared to the oppressive standards of beauty or the double-standard of sexuality that women face. But still, feminism helps both sides.

  5. 5

    Menswear sucks.

    This. This and this.

    Shapeless styles, dull colours and fabric that felt nasty against the skin. The sense of liberation I felt when I realised I did not have to do all that anymore was just ….. well, it’s kinda hard to explain, because I’m still learning.

    And if you haven’t looked at the men’s pyjamas in your local department store, well, I suggest you do — and remind yourself how lucky you are that you aren’t constrained to wear those things in bed every night.

  6. 6

    It still amazes me how I turned into my mother and started to buy clothes for my husband because I just didn’t want to be seen with him in public in that stuff.
    And I still think he looks gorgeous in a kilt and would really like to see menskirts to become acceptable. Those calves, I tell you, those calves.*

    *And now I’m waiting for some asshole MRA to point out that I’m sexualizing him. Yeah, being sexually attracted to my own husband, how can I?

  7. 7

    Hey! I’ll have you know that I own 5 dark grey suits. One has pinstripes for when I want to be flamboyant, and the other has a lovely herringbone weave for when I want to look elegant.

    We are allowed a little more latitude in our choice of ties, too.

    Also, there isn’t no expectation that I should look good, something beyond my reach forever. I settle for looking conventional.

  8. 8

    I think that the best way to express ourselves through style, using the limited fashion vocabulary we’re permitted, is to increase our vocabulary. It is not something that can be done all at once, but a new word now and again will, over time, bring eventual change.

    My current word is “utility kilt,” which starts with the design of a traditional Scotish kilt (if it was butch enough for Braveheart…) and uses durable, machine washable and relatively inexpensive fabric — denim, twill, even cotton canvas — rather than delicate, dry-clean only wool. Matches nicely with sandals and a bright polo shirt or with hiking boots and my favorite band t-shirt, depending on the circumstances. I do get some mild teasing along the lines of “Are you wearing it ‘proper’?” but even in San Diego and Reno, I’ve gotten positive response.

    For business wear, I have switched from traditional collar shirts to banded collars, which are not worn with a tie. I got some semi-custom shirts made about a year ago (you can order them on the web, and they cost about the same as off-the-rack) for steampunk costuming that have been added to my regular rotation: they are earthtones with white banded collar and cuffs, and look quite nice in a retro, 1860s kind of way.

  9. 10

    I don’t express myself through fashion, unless my lack of expression is in itself an expression. I tend to wear clothes that are comfortable and bland, ie t-shirts and shorts. Footwear optional, and not preferable. Wrinkles abound. I just don’t care what I look like; for whatever reasons, my mental development has led me to the point where I believe putting on fancy clothes for the express purpose of impressing others is wasteful, egocentric, or even dishonest.

    The only thing I want to convey with my apparel is that I am not a walking advertisement for myself or others.

  10. 11

    And if you haven’t looked at the men’s pyjamas in your local department store, well, I suggest you do — and remind yourself how lucky you are that you aren’t constrained to wear those things in bed every night.

    Who wears pyjamas? See comment 2 above.

  11. 12

    for whatever reasons, my mental development has led me to the point where I believe putting on fancy clothes for the express purpose of impressing others is wasteful, egocentric, or even dishonest.

    Why do you assume that this is the reason why people who do care a bit more do it for being dishonest? Or other people at all?

  12. 13

    Cisgender mostly straight here. I tend to dress for comfort but when it’s review time of year, I make it a point to dress as exactly as possible like about 1-2 tiers above me in pay grade. This gets called professional.

    I’ve spent some time at a State government. The (R) and (D) had informal dress codes. The (R) would only wear white or blue dress shirts whereas the (D) would make it a point to occasionally also wear earth tone greens and brown. Not a huge range of style or color in any event.

    I’m otherwise not fond of wearing clothes.

  13. 14

    @ machintelligence, #11:

    Who wears pyjamas? See comment 2 above.

    Exactly ….. it’s not for no reason that I learned to prefer sleeping bollock naked, and probably will continue doing so long after that phrase has lost all its appropriateness.

  14. 15

    for whatever reasons, my mental development has led me to the point where I believe putting on fancy clothes for the express purpose of impressing others is wasteful, egocentric, or even dishonest.

    Why do you assume that this is the reason why people who do care a bit more do it for being dishonest? Or other people at all?

    Hence the “for whatever reasons” bit; I’m not sure why I feel the way I do, but I do. It might have something to do with my mother being a hair stylist, or me being mechanically-inclined (the dichotomy has made it so we never really got along), or hating to be dressed up, or disliking “fancy” clothes for being generally uncomfortable, or just never having any desire to “pick out” nice things, or having zero artistic ability so I don’t even know what’s considered “nice” or why, or any combination of those and others.

    And for the record, I don’t assume it, it’s just my opinion. And I’m well aware thank you that most people are not dressing up as some sort of evil rouse to impress others. Granted, some are (and some even have good reasons for it), but not everyone; some people just enjoy dressing up. And they could probably explain why they like it the same way I can explain why I don’t. It’s just the way we are.

  15. vel

    my husband loves ties in that it’s one of the few ways that men can really choose something individual. Next job interview he gets, he wnats to use this lovely new tie knot:,35791.0.html

    I’d be grateful if hats came back for men and all of the fashion of that time. I do love the 30s-40s look (which is sometimes called dieselpunk, in reaction to the victorian steampunk).

  16. 17

    Personally, I tend to go for bright definite colours or stick with black with a bit of brass. I hate wool, I always feel itchy when wearing it.

    I tend to avoid ties even in formal dress for two reasons – first they feel like they are choking me, and second I associate them with dishonesty.

    Politicians wear ties.

    Mostly I look a bit like an overweight hippy, which I am fine with considering it sort of suits my general views even if I do not actually drink or take drugs (I am bad enough in my normal state of consciousness.)

  17. 18

    My favorite era in history when it comes to men’s clothing is the 18th century*. It wasn’t as garish as the baroque era and do look to be rather comfortable, and it still allowed for a lot of colors, different kind of fabrics and could be either very understated, or richly decorated without being considered “unmasculine”.

    * Well, I guess I’m talking middle class and above…

  18. 19

    Mostly I look a bit like an overweight hippy, which I am fine with considering it sort of suits my general views even if I do not actually drink or take drugs (I am bad enough in my normal state of consciousness.)

    That description would fit me perfectly as well 😀

  19. 21

    This is why I love, love, love, LOVE my Hawaiian shirts. They’re loose, colorful, comfortable and – in Hawaii at least – are acceptable as business wear.

    It’s just too bad I don’t live in Hawaii.

    I still wear mine, though, and I get compliments on them all the time. It probably helps that I think I have good taste in selecting them, and I tend to stay away from the “tourist” versions.

  20. 22

    @wmdon, #21:

    Second that. I have been wearing Hawaiian shirts since middle school (about 25 yrs) and they are great. I am, in my social circle, “the Hawaiian Shirt Guy.”

    The other nice thing about them is they don’t show barbecue sauce the way a solid color shirt does.

  21. 23

    @vel #16 – Ah, I forgot about that! I have been… um, follicularly challenged for some years, and my doctor suggested I start wearing a hat when outside: I got a “stingy” fedora (the kind with a narrow brim) and loved the way it looks. Now I have several hats suitable for different occasions and outfits.

  22. 24

    My husband is experiencing this right now. He just got promoted and will need to buy a suit to wear to occasional meetings.

    He is not happy about getting a suit. Its just not him. First he thought he’d wear the suit with his hiking boots. He gave up on that idea (partly because the pants would be tailored to a different length for boots vs dress shoes, so he’d need a 2nd suit if he ever felt the boots were too much for a particular meeting, and he’s not happy about spending money on 1 suit).

    Then he thought he could get a really cool tie. Sounds good, but go and try to find a tie with some kind of theme (science/tech/IT) that isn’t cheap looking, gaudy, or nice-but crazy expensive. Then add the complication that he’s not in favor of wearing a choking device around his neck, or the fussiness of tying a tie. (I have to agree about that. Seems dangerous – but I feel the same way about high heels.) He’d much rather get a clip on. Add that to the list of criteria for the tie, and we may just have to make one.

    So clearly, he’s feeling constrained by fashion norms. He has also sometimes been frustrated that in a souvenir shop I have a wider selection of apparel to choose from – some suitable for work. But he can only get t-shirts, not even a polo.

    On the flip side, I get angry just about every time I try to get performance wear for hiking/paddling/cold weather. Convertible hiking pants now attempt to conform to fashion. I have found HIKING pants that have super long legs (like the in-thing of jeans and dress pants where they are meant to brush the floor while wearing high heels.) Hiking pants with high heels? In an outdoor gear store? Oh yes. North Face’ (and others) convertible pants are now cut so that the thigh is very fitted particularly at the zip off point, meaning you’re going to get a rash if you walk around town, let alone climb a mountain in them. I have a pair from a few seasons ago in the same size that are just cut more loosely in the upper leg that are perfect, but they don’t make anything equivalent anymore.

    Technical winter jackets for women are the same way. They look fantastic, but you can’t wear the necessary insulating layers with them. Even going up multiple sizes, so that the thing is down to my knees and hanging off my torso, the arms will be too narrow to wear a sweater under.

    Compare these bizarre cut/fit issues with my husband’s experience in the same store. He doesn’t even try stuff on. If it is his size, it will fit him, and will function perfectly for its intended activity, period. (Oh, and I’m sure it won’t stop the trolls, but we are at similar fitness levels for our genders and heights. The difference is the clothes not our sizes.)

    Anyway, I see two general trends.

    First, all business and formal clothing regardless of gender is impractical and makes the wearer physically vulnerable. (men get ties that can be grabbed and used for choking, women get footwear and sometimes skirts that make it impossible for them to move quickly or possibly at all on some surfaces.)

    Second, in casual and outdoor clothing, men get great functionality (and pockets!) but limited style, women get forced style and negative functionality.

  23. 25

    My partner often wear a dashiki with suits instead of a standard button up and it looks pretty great. I’ve also noticed much better variation in suits in England. Tons of men in crayon bright suits at chic art events. Wish those colours and cuts where available in Canada.

  24. 26

    I once had a skirt. I wish I had:
    A: A better figure for it
    B: The courage to wear it more
    C: The sense not to throw it away

    Sadly, the last ting happened in a move.

    For the most part I’m stereotypical bloke. Jeans and a t-shirt. I even like dresses, but more variety would be nice.

    I won’t wear a tie though, that has most likely cost me a raise or two.

    The point of my rambling: This is a larger issue than first meets the eye. The costs of diversity in male clothing is huge. So huge it is almost never seen.

    (Not so huge it outweighs in any way the cost of being woman while working though. And of course it’s easier to conform to the pressures than it is to quit being a woman)

  25. 27

    Straight cis guy here. Hm, let’s see …

    I’ve slept naked since I was thirteen. Got scolded something awful for it, but I’ve never liked sleeping in anything.

    I’ve got some quirky t-shirts, and that’s usually as crazy as I get. That said, I really like kilts, though it always feels indecent, which I don’t care about at all, but I don’t want to make other people uncomfortable either (of course, society tells women to wear way less in public all the time).

    My big issue is that I always feel hot, I always want to wear less. Men’s fashion doesn’t do that well at all.

    I need to just punch off the clock and be a nudist, is what I’m saying (apparently).

    I do like some jewelry. Took some baby steps with, starting to look into making some jewelry of my own.

    I also like vests on guys, for some reason. Just vests. Can’t often wear that out in public, either.

  26. 28

    Men’s clothing is either formal or informal, while women have a huge grey area in between to explore. That’s always annoyed me. I remember saying as much to my mother when I was a young teen. (She remarked that while women’s clothing occupied a large territory between formal and informal, her own wardrobe didn’t.)

    I don’t mind ties, since I tied a tie every singe morning as a child (school uniform, Sunday meeting, Saturday “field service” (= knocking on doors as a JW)), and actually quite liked it. Other kids in school would keep the tie knotted, but I always took it off properly and retied it in the morning.

    I love looking at jewelry, but I’ve never bought or worn any, even the thin simple chain necklaces which are perfectly socially acceptable for guys. Actually, the jewelry I like looking at tends to be more elaborate. I’ll always browse around jewelry stalls.

    I do collect hats. Silly floppy hats, usually. I’d like to get myself some different styles too.


  27. KG

    Men do have much more freedom than women to “not care that much about” fashion and style. That freedom happens to suit me, but of course that may reflect the lack of anything much to care about in my formative years. Although by my teens and early twenties, there was some choice of masculine style associated with different youth subcultures (mods and rockers even before my teens, in the 1950s and early ’60s, then hippies and skinheads, then punks – I was slightly hippy in appearance i.e. shoulder-length hair, beard, jeans or cords, open-necked shirt – which, minus the hair, I suppose I still am). So youth subcultures, and their enduring influence on personal style into later life, are maybe another exception alongside historical costume and kink (and overlapping with both).

  28. 31

    I’m happy that menswear is super narrow and boring. I’m also very happy that makeup is strictly off limits. I explicitly don’t want the fashion vocabulary to be stretched.

    Standard suit for work, shirts or t-shirts and jeans for not-work, sport clothing for sports. Period. I rely on exactly 2 shops for everything related to clothing. Not a slob here, just your standard “springfield” guy. I find this convenient and liberating compared to how women have it: they have to think about this a lot more and spend a lot more time, brainpower and money on it.

    I express myself by talking.

  29. 32

    With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery.

    I completely concur. I attempted to remain within conventional confines by allowing myself to purchase expressive (traditionally women’s) accessories or by wearing items that complied despite featuring things like stunning embroidery. Ultimately, the gradual shift towards greater and greater diversity gave me the confidence to reject the conventions entirely.

    Having said this, I’m naturally far more exasperated by the demands placed on women. I imagine it’s akin to being tossed into an ocean of options whilst simultaneously being expected to know the right direction to swim. Above all, if you stop swimming then you’ll drown. It seems like there can’t, generally, be a prolonged interruption without social consequences.

    Conversely, I can freely return to the boring basics and receive greater social acceptance for less effort. It’s intriguing to see how treatment changes when I’m wearing jeans and a generic t-shirt (provided I remove make-up properly, heh). If my mood is poor, my time is lacking, my desire for complexity simply isn’t there, or I genuinely find a basic appearance appealing then I can invest very little without penalties. Instead of an ocean, I’m in a paddling pool.

  30. 33

    I do love the benefits of the varieties of women’s clothing. I tend towards being something of a shut-in, but putting an outfit together and getting all coordinated is fun, and then makes me feel inclined to leave the house.

    But I hate hate hate the dichotomy you’re talking about with the looking nice=assumed to be shallow and vain. It’s an art that I partake in because it’s somehow cathartic, gives me self-confidence and helps me get out more. I find that it’s better to intentionally look a little more sloppy at work (jeans and t-shirt at a lab-type job) to be seen as less frivolous and discourage the unwanted attention from the creepy higher-up men at my company.

    Also–the buttons on the wrong side. Why is that still happening? We don’t have servants anymore.

  31. 34

    Don’t forget prices. My wife can go to the mall and come back with a new set of clothes having spent probably no more than $20. For that kind of money, I can’t even get a pair of socks (alright I’m probably exaggerating a bit but you get the idea).

    Also, you get 100 men in a room and if you ask one of them afterwards what the other men were wearing, they won’t remember if they were even wearing any clothes at all. My wife will know exactly how many women were wearing a dress *similar* and, FSM forbid, *identical* to hers. That can ruin her night and mine by extension.

    Last but not least, I only buy clothes when a)the old ones don’t fit anymore, b)people drop coins in my coffee cup on the street, c)my wife thinks that the free t-shirt I got at some race in 2010 won’t cut it for some wedding or funeral. I have to give her credit for helping me look much better than I would otherwise.

  32. 35

    From the OP: “With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery.”

    I sometimes wonder if this is why highland dress is so popular as men’s formal wear in Scotland – even (especially?) among people who don’t come from areas where wearing the kilt is common or traditional.

  33. 37

    If you think men’s clothing is boring as a whole, my tastes would probably horrify you. I like minimalism and comfort. Going into detail about it would probably sound like one-up-manship.

  34. 38

    I see somebody’s already mentioned the amazing fall men’s line from Prada. Of course, none of those suits will be the least affordable to non-1-percenters. So it’s like anything else. There are better options in life available to those who can pay.

  35. 39

    My husband won’t wear ties, has texture issues with some fabrics and, for someone with a fine-tuned visual sense (he’s a documentary director) a surprising lack of confidence about putting together an outfit. So I wind up shopping for him or with him. Last time he went on his own, the salesman talked him into mock-turtleneck sweaters. He hates anything tight to the neck, but the salesman said he needed them. I think it’s more a nervousness about picking the right things – he likes to have some colours and shapes to choose from (within the range of shirts, t-shirts, jeans, shorts and khakis) but lacks the confidence to pick ’em out on his own. Really, he mostly picks things (or I pick things up as I find them, since I like to shop with the caveat that if he doesn’t like them, I will make the return) and I nod. And he makes great choices (most of the time).

  36. 40

    I wear nothing but T-shirts with stuff* on them and brightly colored striped polo shirts and Hawaiian-style shirts. So I feel not at all stifled by The Man. I’m also unemployed and don’t get a paycheck from The Man, but as soon as someone offers me cash I’ll be stuck with The Man’s rules. And then you know what that means: back to the cartoon character boxers, just like when I was in the Marine Corps.

  37. 41

    I recently started a job with a dress code – business casual most days, jeans permitted on Fridays. I also live in the northern hemisphere and we are going through a period of fantastically sunny weather. I can wear a skirt with open-toed shoes if I want, any day of the week, and be quite comfortable – but my male coworkers are not permitted shorts ever, and the debate is currently raging over whether non-flip-flop sandals of any description should be allowed for them. Mostly I just feel bad for the miserable dudes shlepping around in their dress pants in mid-July while I sport a breezy pencil skirt.

  38. 42

    You got scolded for sleeping in the nude? Wow, what was the reasoning? I never knew that would be a problem for anyone. I have also slept nude for a very long time but no one cared, I did not think it was an issue. I hate having pants or underwear on at night as I toss and turn a lot. I hate waking up to find they have been twisted about 90 degrees around my body.

    I’d be grateful if hats came back for men and all of the fashion of that time. I do love the 30s-40s look (which is sometimes called dieselpunk, in reaction to the victorian steampunk).

    I find it difficult to find clothing I like. For the most part I like more formal clothing (I write this as I sit in a bright green shirt with khaki shorts on. It is a humid day and I do not take heat and humidity well). This more vintage look is what I have been moving toward, though I like steampunk and Victorian and Edwardian styles as well. For the most part I look for old tweed jackets, nice hats and lately have started wearing more bow ties. I guess I am not too sad that as I man my colour and pattern choices are limited, as they are not for me, but I do wish others could express themselves without being harassed for making those choices.

  39. 43

    I have just about zero taste in style, and so I’ve fallen back on wearing my partner’s clothes. I don’t really enjoy shopping for clothing, and when I do it I often end up with about 2/3rds of my purchase sitting on the hanger for ever because they are ugly or the wrong size (I only grudgingly try things on).

    And I hate it.

    I wish that there’d been more incentive for me to pay attention to fashion as I’d been growing up, and I wish there were more resources for men to learn about fashion and to experiment and explore. I know that there is fashion advice out there for men, but it’s not nearly as common as for women, and there are often assumptions attached to being male and fashion-aware that don’t apply to me (eg, I am not in any way wealthy).

    I -am- thankful that I’m gay, though, because at least my group of friends are fearless with their fashion choices and I can live vicariously through their own explorations, even if I lack the confidence and know-how to be much more than a very occassional dabbler myself.

  40. 44

    chriscampbell: Thanks for the link on the new Prada menswear line. Damn, that is beautiful. Very steampunk. I totally want to pike it.

    I see somebody’s already mentioned the amazing fall men’s line from Prada. Of course, none of those suits will be the least affordable to non-1-percenters. So it’s like anything else. There are better options in life available to those who can pay.

    Martin Wagner @ #38: There’s definitely truth to that. But there’s a flipside as well — which is that the high-fashion ideas, if they’re successful, typically filter down to the more affordable levels, when other designers get inspired/ start to do knock-offs.

  41. 45

    My boyfriend ROCKS his utilikilt — they really are amazing, though they’re not cheap. He has one that’s a heavy-weigh black fabric, and works from casual to formal, depending on shoes/shirt etc. He also stretches the norms by wearing shirts from other times/cultures that are fairly staid colors (so you’re only stretching one thing at once).

    My dad wears hawaiian shirts whenever he can get away with it. He used to be able to wear them at work, but then he moved one rung up the ladder and suddenly it’s all ties all the time.

    My (male) housemate wears very standard button-up and slacks for work, but every so often we go to a ren faire and he brings out his floppy velvet hat with a feather. Too bad he doesn’t feel he could pull it off around town — it looks great!

    Note, we live in the pacific northwest, where apparently we (women and men, both) have rather more leeway in what counts as office attire. My BF wears his utilikilt to work with no problem.


    I have a men’s fashion question! I’m want to find my boyfriend a vest (of the rather formal sort, but meant to be worn over a shirt *without* a jacket over-all) and am totally baffled by why some vests are drop-dead-sexy and some scream ‘waiter.’

    Is it tailoring?

  42. 46

    I always happily got the boring mens clothes out of a catalog (another of those benefits of menswear is that generlaly it fits and you don’t have to go to the damn mall). And I wear a kilt for dance class at least twice a week, so have plenty of experience getting attention for clothing choices – even living in San Francisco where a guy walking down the street naked or in nothing but leather chaps is politley ignored, a guy in a kilt gets comments.

    But I became part of the cult of the territory ahead when I discovered that texture was a big thing for me — for a while there were two TTA outlets here in the Bay Area and I went overboard — amazing myself by voluntarily going into clothing stores. Now I have closets of shirts in every color and with a wealth of textures, some ridiculous but all enjoyable. Like some of the other men commenting, I didn’t used to care, because really how can you care about things so soporific ….

    And fortunately where I work, a suit and tie would get me laughed out of the office — and it is the women who notice that I’m wearing something ‘interesting.’

  43. ik

    “Men’s clothing is either formal or informal, while women have a huge grey area in between to explore.”

    This soo much. Except that it’s an even broader spectrum.

    I really like the men’s clothing in the Girl Genius webcomic strip, esp. Gilgamesh Wulfenbach’s coats and waistcoats.

  44. 48

    You seem to care entirely too much about what people think about you. Tell me if i’m wrong but life is too short to be butt hurt about everyone who thinks you are ugly or not wearing the right outfit.

  45. 49

    You seem to care entirely too much about what people think about you. Tell me if i’m wrong but life is too short to be butt hurt about everyone who thinks you are ugly or not wearing the right outfit.

    ….if the problem was that she cared too much about what people think, wouldn’t taking your advice be the worst thing she could do?

  46. 50

    @the Prada collection:

    Dang it, the one bad thing (for me) about living in a place without particularly cold winters is I’ll never have any real reason to splurge on an awesome long coat. Heck, even a suit or tux is annoyingly warm most of the year, forget about vests or sweaters underneath. Men can’t remove layers without just becoming less formal.

    For male “skirts”, besides kilts, you could possibly go with a sarong; they’re apparently used by men in Indonesia a lot. I tried one on, and it was comfy (it’s kind of a tube of fabric, so you tuck it around your waist like a towel), but yeah… not sure I’d be able to pull it off in public without a matching batik shirt.

  47. 51

    Greta, great topic-

    I think you may underestimate the degree to which men do very much express themselves through their fashion. They want to feel safe and secure in their social role. They want to wear a great big faux penis hanging down (up?) in front. Mission accomplished!

    Give a man freedom, and you get sweatpants and flipflops. Sometimes the poetry is better when boxed in a rather narrow formal space.

  48. 52

    “Menswear sucks.”

    Thank you! I’m a man (at least I used to think I was a man), and I absolutely agree. I started dressing like a girl simply because women’s fashion is SO SO SO much more interesting (and attractive!) than men’s fashion. Well, I have other transgender issues, too, but still. And absolutely, men have less freedom in what they can wear. I mean just take a dinner date for example. Formal dresses for women exist in a multitude of varieties, but every man’s suit or ‘button-down shirt and slacks’ looks exactly the same! You don’t even have as much variety in colors! It also pisses me off that a woman can put on a business suit and look fantastic (without even necessarily looking all butch and genderqueer), but there are no dresses designed for men, and if a man wears one, he will be beyond ridiculed! It pisses me off so much I said fuck it, I’m gonna dress like a girl and if anybody doesn’t like it, it’s their problem. Course, I’m probably lucky that I can actually pass as a girl, for other reasons in addition to my fashion sense.

  49. 53

    I’ve been in a uniform of one type or another most of my adult life, but for the last few years I’ve been unemployed and went back to school full time. It was rather weird to just wear whatever I want everyday, and in my laziness I usually default to jeans, cargo shorts, t-shirts, and hoodies. Although I do have a handful of Hawaiian-type shirts and a couple 50s-ish bowling shirts that I like.

    It seems to me that the trend in mainstream mens clothes actually regressed between the 50s through the 2000s. Possibly a backlash to the counterculture stuff, and part of the whole corporatization of the workforce. If you look into mens fashions prior to then there was a wider range of acceptable colors and textures. The Victorians were downright flamboyant compared to the grey business suit standard of recent decades.

    And on the topic, if anyone has a flair for the Victorian/Steampunk aesthetic this site below has some great stuff. I can’t wait until I’m not too broke to buy new clothes anymore, there are several items I plan to pick up.

    @shades: they have some really cool vests in various fabrics and designs that might suit your needs. 🙂

  50. 54

    As a scotsman I can occasionally get the opportunity to wear the kilt, sporran and sgian dubh at formal occassions, so there’s opportunity for a splash of colour to break up the monotony, even if the dinner jacket and shirt must remain black and white.

    Of course, if I were employed they probably wouldn’t let me wear a kilt at work for whatever reason.

  51. 55

    “With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery.”

    I completely agree. And I personally wouldn’t want it any other way. I very much enjoy being able to walk into any clothing store and knowing in advance, with a high degree of certainty, what size I want, how much it’ll cost, and about how long it will last. I can find plenty of other outlets for creativity and customization, without messing up the stuff that shields my body from the elements.

    Conversely, I find trying to buy clothing for my wife as a present to be unadulterated hell. Were the people that came up with those sizing systems tripping on acid?

  52. CC

    My husband pretty much rejects socially imposed standards when it comes to what he wears. About 12 years ago, before I met him, he took up wearing Indian wrap-around bottoms called dhotis or lungis. Mind you, he’s a white guy raised in Tennessee, who had never even been to India. He wears them either with traditional Indian kurtas or with tee shirts.

    People often stare and are confused by the sight of a white guy in something so obviously foreign. He often gets asked if he’s some sort of priest or hare krishna or muslim. He patiently tells them that he’s not religious, just comfortable.

    Most people’s reactions are positive, but not all. He’s almost always individually screened at airport security. (Because, you know, somebody who dresses in foreign clothes must be a terrorist.) The worst response he’s gotten to his attire was when he was forced out of an MAT program because he refused to wear pants to student teach. But he went on to get a PhD in computer science and hasn’t had any problems with his attire either in academe or in the tech industry.

    For him, it’s more about comfort than appearance. He doesn’t like clothes that squeeze him around the middle. But that’s not to say he doesn’t care about his appearance. He really gets into picking out kurtas with nice embroidery. Indian clothing gives men more options when it comes to colors and decorative elements.

    To be honest, it’s taken me a long time to get comfortable with his appearance. I don’t generally like attracting a lot of attention, but I’ve mostly gotten used to it. However, on the flip side, it kind of bums me out that, when we go out together, I might as well be wearing a burlap sack because everybody’s looking at him! 🙂

  53. CC

    @Ratshag: I sympathize with your difficulty finding clothes for your wife. Women’s sizes are a tremendous problem for us women too! It all has to do with “vanity sizing.” A couple of decades or so ago, clothing makers got the idea that they could sell more clothes if they flattered women into thinking they were smaller than they were, so they started putting size 4 tags on size 6’s, size 6 tags on size 8’s and so on. The end result is that no women knows what size she wears anymore! It all depends of the brand. Depending on where I shop, I might wear any one of 3 different sizes.

  54. 58

    I have black pants and tan pants. I wear blue or black shirts with the former, and brown, green, or red with the latter. My job does not require suits, so I wear business casual. Allo my socks are black.

    But I don’t just conform. I wear suspenders instead of a belt (one set is black, the other is tan). Isn’t that exciting?

  55. 59

    I’m an old-school butch lesbian. Actually, AFAIC I’m a transvestite, and like the word even if genderqueer is the more accepted term any more.

    So I must confess: I LOVE MEN’S CLOTHING. I love the way a well-tailored suit looks. I love how subtle things like tie color, pocket silks and sock color can be coordinated. I love the feeling of simple elegance in a tuxedo. I love ties and have a ridiculous amount of them, including a Victorian tie, several bolo ties and bow ties (that I knot myself; it’s one of my annoying butch pride behaviors to point this out to everyone.) Plus, being only two generations removed from Scotland, I love wearing the formal kilt.

    And yes, this is spot-on:

    >We can even take on masculine clothing styles with little or no controversy… while men who take on feminine clothing styles can expect mockery and scorn at best, hostility and violence at worst.

    I can be flamboyantly masculine, or conservative masculine, and have very little problem, even in academia. I did a poster session at my school wearing wingtips, a tie and a cardigan and not one person was uncomfortable with me. That would NOT be true if it was a man in professional women’s garb. I really want that to change, and I’m personally fighting for it.

  56. Mel

    Wait, I totally agree with your points about rigid gender roles, but I gotta give a shoutback about the title of your post– for those of us who *don’t* care about fashion, and, in fact, want to make fewer choices in the morning, mensware is GREAT. Really great. It’s neutral (there are not neutral female clothing items; anything that’s not meant make you sexy makes you into a large frilly pillowcase) and, keeping on the jeans-and-T’s side of the fence, it’s much cheaper, more durable, and incredibly practical to move in. Anna says it the best, here:

    (And if it matters, I’m a female who’s pretty much always worn mensware.)

    Anyway, I’m a fan of the hipstergedeon that much of the coastal USA and Europe seem to be gently sliding into, where it really will stop mattering what gender you feel like dressing in. (As in, rich people of either gender wear skinny jeans and frock coast, and poor slobs like me continue to wear whatever we want plus a hoodie.)

  57. 62

    For men who want or need to get a tie or other male decorative attire there are a couple of good options.

    My husband has a couple of seriously beautiful / clever maths ties bought at Greenwich when our daughter visited. They’re silk, so expensive, but fantastic. I just had a look at the NASA site, not so thrilled.

  58. 63

    All true. Just compare the square footage of the men’s section of any clothing store to the women’s section.

    Only in the last half-dozen years have I really wanted to express myself in clothing.* And it is hard. It’s not that I’m even looking for traditionally feminine articles of clothing like dresses. Women get more interesting shirts and jackets and coats and boots. Heck, back in my younger years, I remember wanting to have a pair of red shoes, since it’s one of my favorite colors and I had recently graduated from wearing Chuck Taylor All-Stars. I found a really cool pair of red sneakers, but they were in the womens’ section. It sucks sometimes.

    Venturing further afield, back in the cooler months, I noticed a woman with dark gray tights under a modest gray skirt, and I thought, why can’t I accessorize that way? The best I can do is wear my crazy striped or argyle socks from, and even then, mens pants are expected to come so far down the leg** that my socks aren’t even visible unless I’m sitting down.

    * Despite the fact that almost nobody ever cares to notice it, which I suspect is another aspect of mens’ style

    ** In one of the commentary tracks for the early seasons of Seinfeld, Michael Richards mentions that one of his conscious fashion choices for the Kramer character was that all of his pants be “too short”, thus accentuating his quirky, lanky character. None of what he wore could be called knickers, but just a few inches of sock was enough to mark him as an eccentric.***

    *** And yet, his fashion sense aged far better than that of the rest of the characters, particularly in the early seasons.

  59. 64

    You seem to care entirely too much about what people think about you. Tell me if i’m wrong but life is too short to be butt hurt about everyone who thinks you are ugly or not wearing the right outfit.

    The point, you missed it.

    We’re not in high school anymore. Many of us tend to derive some measure of enjoyment from expressing ourselves through clothing. It has little to do with wearing the “right outfit”. It has a lot to do with showing the world that we care about how we present ourselves, which is one of the precursor steps to caring about other people.

    Also, no one is “butthurt” here.

    Also, “butthurt” carries homophobic implications.

  60. 65

    I have to admit, when I am frustrated with fashion, it’s tempting to wish there was some default thing to wear, like there is for guys (e.g. a suit) but you’re right that the options for men are too limited, which is unfair.

    There’s this weird divide, and I feel like people are sometimes okay with seeing men in different clothes, but only if it’s in a movie or something where the setting is hundreds of years ago or some alternate universe. Like Giliell says, I hope it’ll become more acceptable for guys to wear kilts.

    What I’ve usually seen is guys feeling more comfortable wearing colors that are sometimes considered “for girls” (e.g. pink, purple). I’ve also seen guys wear clothes that may not be considered appropriate for men (e.g. dresses, kilts), but usually, it was for a laugh or for Halloween or something. I hope that changes and that it becomes considered more normal or acceptable.

    @leftwingfox (#4):

    I once wore one of my mother’s shirts to school. Honestly, I thought it was my dad’s: just a blue dress shirt. Only difference was that the buttons were on the wrong side. Did I notice? Nope. Did the others at school notice? Oh yes.

    Wow. I really don’t know why people would mind this. I’m sorry that happened.

    @chriscampbell (#20): Thanks for the link.

  61. 66

    “What I want from fashion and gender is a world where everyone has more choices.”

    Oh god no. I absolutely dont want that. I’m personally very happy with menswear being as it is. In fact I’d be quite happy if by law men at formal occasions or parties were banned from wearing anything other than one precisely regulated form of black tie. And I’ll tell you why:

    Because that way everyone else would be bound by the same rule. I personally am not interested in or competent in fashion. If I attempted to dress well as a woman I would have to invest a lot of time and money in order to get even passable results. As a man I can go to a supermarket, pull a complete suit in my size off a rack and be done with it. It is universally known that my suit is acceptable, nobody will think the less of me for it.

    If it were permissible socially for men to wear the kind of variety of clothing women could then you’d expect men’s fashion to be just as diverse, just as expressive and just as complicated. As a result you’d expect it to be just as easy as in women’s fashion to fail. You’d expect it to take as much effort as in women’s fashion to achieve a good result. And call me selfish, but I really dont want to have to do that.

    (Just before people get the wrong idea, if I were a women and had the same attitudes I do now I’d be campaigning for one uniform style of dress to become universally accepted as the totality of fashion. I’m not trying to assert a double standard.)

  62. 68

    I’m male, straight, no tendencies towards transgender.

    Now that “defence of my own masculinity” statement is out of the way, I too greatly dislike menswear fashion. I’m on the chubby side, so I don’t even have the benefit of things fitting easily. A while back I needed some new dress pants for a job interview, if took three stores and about a dozen pairs of pants before I found one that fit around both my waist and my thighs at the same time. Dress shirts come untucked just from walking across the room. So, I really hate suits, and they are not a serviceable default option for me.

    Second point (in my stream of consciousness), for many years I honestly did not care at all about fashion or how I looked (well, I cared about one thing: concealing my chubbiness, or so I thought). baggy elastic waist pants, baggy tshirts, white sneakers. It wasn’t until several years after I finished university that I started to develop any sense of style. First a pair of jeans, then some more tightly fitting tshirts, some Converse in different colours and unusual prints, and I noticed two things that made me think that maybe I should pay more attention to how I looked. Firstly, I very quickly felt more confident. Secondly, girls started to pay more attention to me. Hiding my chubbiness was actually emphasising it.

    From there, my sense of style has developed but is still limited by gender norms. I try to be different to “normal” people, but at the same time I don’t want to be so different that people stare. So I’ve continued with the patterned and print Converse. I get close fitting tshirts with amusing slogans. My jeans have gotten skinnier and tighter, and I’ve taken to sometimes wearing long boots over the top of them (doc martens, extra high converse). My hair goes past my shoulders and I wear it loose, pushed back. I want to take it further, but I’m held back by norms and my lack of confidence to really push the edge. Some things I would like to wear if I could are long striped or patterned tights, skirts that don’t look like kilts, and heels.

    A note on heels, I think they really could work for many men, but only really if they are a boot or bootie style (fully enclosed, not thin strappy sandles or pumps), chunky heel not stiletto, and if they are worn with pants cut to emphasise the leg rather than baggy jeans or pants.

  63. 69

    Great article! I’ll probably cry if I see it being misquoted and misinterpreted.

    If rules and roles were less strict, dressing up would be more fun. I’d like that.

  64. 70

    One of the many changes in my life I appreciate since coming out is the wider range of clothing I can now wear without worrying that I will out myself. The time between my years as a teenage goth (eyeliner, black velvet coats and black angel wings in the London Underground!) and my coming out two years ago was seriously fallow, fashionably speaking, and I am so happy to be able to explore clothing as a mode of expression again.

    I sincerely wish more straight men would be willing to experiment with fashion. It would expand the range of choices for everyone and begin to break down some ugly stereotypes.

  65. 71

    Even people who should know better, who are marginalized themselves, like to enforce this dichotomy between ‘girl’s clothes’ and ‘guys’ stuff’. It’s ridiculous.

    I was at a science fiction convention and a man was trying on a kilt at his female partner’s request. He liked it, his partner liked it, the seller was looking forward to a sale. And then passers-by starting mocking him, laughing at him, and generally turning what could have been an awesome chance for this man to have a unique and comfortable outfit choice of his own into a memory of shame and derision instead. I tried to heckle the hecklers back and encourage the guy to get the kilt if he wanted, but in the end it was just too unpleasant an experience for him to follow through on the purchase.

    Then there’s the way that up until a few years ago and maybe even now, men could be classified under the DSM for transvestism but women had no such diagnosis for wearing men’s clothes…

  66. 72

    Thank you so much for this! I love clothes and try to use them for self-expression, and the vocabulary is stunted.

    Hats. Hats are the thing. I can wear fedoras. I’m currently wearing a great Panama hat from Tommy Bahama. I’ve sometimes worn rainbow striped wool winter hats with tassels on the ear flaps, but I always get the stuffing beat out of me for it. Gender policing can get ugly.

    I also like denim jackets. They aren’t the standard black suit. I have no idea how that’ll work out when I graduate, though.

  67. 75

    Personally, I enjoy wearing sarongs or skirts in the summer months. I love the bright colors and the freedom of movement they allow. I get heckled every once in a while, but I think of it a filtering mechanism through which shitty people are revealed at a distance.

    Honestly, my introduction to skepticism was what lead me to question my sense of fashion. After shedding religion and my other treasured beliefs, ditching the shirt-and-jeans expectation was trivial.

  68. KT

    I think the problem for men is that if they wear anything that looks “fashiony” people will assume they are gay, which is pretty dumb. There are lots of sharp and colorful sweater, shirt and pant options for men but because society seems to be much more concerned with men’s sexuality than it is with women’s, nice clothes for men that are fancier than jeans and tees but less formal than a suit are often stigmatized as “gay” ways of dressing. I can’t tell you how often people think my husband is gay because of his sense of style, it’s pretty silly.

    I haven’t paid that much attention to menswear in the past, but from what I have seen lately it seems that fit is key. A lot of men seem not to know how to find clothes that fit them properly and wouldn’t consider going to a tailor to get properly fitting pants.

    I have noticed that some celeb men have been getting pretty stylish. Harry Shum Jr from Glee is someone I think does men’s fashion very well, both casual and formal. He (or his stylist) has a good sense for adding color, pattern or mixing in unique pieces so that he looks good but also very unique.

  69. 77

    I’ve got to agree here: Men’s fashions suck. Big Time. It’s the one area where the ladies have an advantage.

    I HATE suits, tux’s and the like. When I was very young (5, 6 or so), I turned down ring bearer duties because that would have required me to wear a tux. Later in life, when I got married, it was in a ren-faire style outfit (my wife said no wedding with a tux/suit, great lass!).

    I have a Utilikilt that I greatly enjoy wearing (esp. on these hot days of late) and often lounge around the house in a broom skirt, as it’s so comfy.

    I work in a very conservative industry, where my tattoos and long hair already stand out. I think coming in to work in a kilt on casual Friday would have gave my old boss a heart attack while my new boss would be “No way, go home and change”.

    The science fiction and fantasy conventions are some of the few places I can be truly comfortable, with what ever manner of dress (short of nudity) being acceptable (not to mention that the kilt and cat ears seem to get a lot of positive responses, male & female).

  70. 79

    When I got my first programming job in 1980 I wore a tie, mostly to balance the ponytail. Ponytails were rare among male programmers back then, and ties, while not universal, were not uncommon.

    Since then ponytails have become more common among male programmers, and it’s been decades since I worked at a job where I wasn’t the only man who regularly wears a tie. So why do I still wear them? Because I discovered I like ties.

  71. 80

    For our wedding, I wanted my husband to wear something a bit more stand-out than a regular suit. I didn’t have any firm ideas, a cravat instead of a tie, a long coat instead of the standard suit jacket, a cape, anything to make it interesting. In the end though, it was him that was wearing it, and he just wanted the conventional suit and tie.

  72. 81

    I also like denim jackets. They aren’t the standard black suit. I have no idea how that’ll work out when I graduate, though.

    Weirdly, denim jackets were considered “girls’ clothes” at the schools I went to growing up.

    Maybe that was only when I was wearing them, though. >.>

  73. 82

    Why is it that (so I’ve read) most cross-dressers are straight? Maybe because cross-dressing (at least for guys) is all about wanting to experience some of the other side’s clothing, fabrics, textures, and that has nothing to do with being guy?

    I’m a definitely, completely straight, married man. I have all of those dull clothes to which you refer. Yep, you’re exactly right and I truly envy females in our modern, western, society for the freedom they have. They get to wear lots of interesting styles and fabrics. Heck, they get to out wearing nothing more than a skirt, a top and underwear! If a guy went out wearing a skirt (which wasn’t obviously a kilt), he wouldn’t get very far!

    There are some who are trying to change things. Do some searches for “mens unbifurcated garments” and you’ll find a few. It’s interesting that many of these guys are actually very “manly” and muscular. Maybe because they’re the only ones who think they can get away with it, since you wouldn’t want to mess with them!

    I wrote a blog entry a while back about my experience in Second Life with a female avatar. I think I pulled it off the net, but now I think I need to put it back. I just try to search out unusual fabrics and styles, especially in shirts and, yes, I’m one of those reenactors as well, so I get to have fun there also.

  74. 83

    My male partner is lucky that he’s in a relatively free-wheeling academic program – he has been really exploring his sense of style recently, and it has trended towards more ‘dandy’, flamboyant clothing. Bright green shorts in the summer, sweater vests in the winter. Our casual wear isn’t much different – although he does wear (patterned) button-downs while I favor v-neck embellished shirts.

    As much as I dislike the Ed Hardy aesthetic, it seems encouraging that it’s actually a unique viewpoint of men’s fashion that has become super-mainstream.

  75. 84

    Having pockets is really important to me, I’ve gotten used to having my legs exposed in shorts (finally), and I’m too hot even when other fat people are comfortable. I feel like I’d really want to be in better shape before actually getting a kilt, though…

  76. 85

    Men dress as a display of their wealth or power. That’s really not hard to figure out. Our clothes are expected to be new, our cars are expected to be expensive and so on. How they actually look is not as important. An Armani suit really doesn’t look all that different from what you can get at the Men’s Warehouse, but it HAS to be Armani (or some other expensive brand).

    We have to spend for the sake of spending to display we can spend.

    So in this respect, looking “different” has no value. Having one’s “own style” is irrelevant. The important thing is to show your rank.

  77. 86

    But here is what is making my head explode: Why is a feminist being asked to comment on menswear? If you are curious about why men wear what we wear, why not ask men?

    I mean, we all laughed at that Fox News panel where they were discussing Atheism without a single atheist on the panel. It was all very funny as they gave their own misconceptions about atheism.

    I can’t see how asking a feminist about menswear is going to end up in anything but a shitstorm of gender biased supposition.

  78. 87

    Thank you! I’m glad you brought this topic up. I know it’s a triviality within the larger tapestry but it still is a pet peeve of mine and it’s nice to see it acknowledged.

  79. 88

    I wear a lot of clothing my husband finds don’t fit him well anymore. Because of the genderfuckery, I suppose, it makes me feel creative and flashy. It also fits more comfortably than most women’s clothing, because it is cut generously, and my shoulders are as broad as my hips, my breasts are DDD, and I put on muscle when I exercise– and I do exercise. I look good in menswear, at least the interesting things we’ve found for him, with traces of geometric embroidery, architectural details, self-cravats, etc.

    None of which detracts from your point– other men, especially older men, sometimes address my husband as a woman, because they didn’t look closely and relied on shorthands of color or design to assume he looked feminine. They don’t become hostile when they realize their mistake, but meterosexual style takes a certain confidence to wear, and has not gone fully mainstream. And it is hard to find things which do have that extra flair (and when you do, it’s a lot pricier than ordinary casual wear).

    I also have to admit that while I love menswear, it’s also sometimes easier to wear women’s clothing– instant change after dance class: pull skirt over booty shorts.

  80. Leo

    Is it true that women can wear men’s clothes? I’m a closeted trans guy and formal wear is expected at most jobs I can work. So I wear formal women’s wear, which feels like I’m in bad (no fashion sense), oversexualized (too much skin showing) drag (which it is). I’m pretty sure showing up to work in a nice suit wouldn’t go over well. (Plus most suits aren’t cut for giant boobs, but I could wear a binder.) What are some things I can do to stop starring in RuPaul: office edition?

  81. 91

    My husband maintains that he would wear jeans and a T-shirt every day given the choice. He sees his work clothes as “school uniform”.

    However, he does express himself through T-shirts more. Mostly nerdy T-shirts or ones with interesting artwork. Recently he got a My Little Pony T-shirt with a picture of Fluttershy, his favourite pony. I think that he enjoys the subversive element of wearing a girly thing. Needless to say it provokes role policing. His mother especially disapproves and tells me not to let him wear it. A friend asked me why I let him wear it. It’s interesting the assumption that I am responsible for his clothing and must object to his wearing it. Actually I bought it for him (although he chose it) and I’ve just bought him a Twilight Sparkle one as well.

  82. ik

    “So in this respect, looking “different” has no value. Having one’s “own style” is irrelevant. The important thing is to show your rank.”

    I have NEVER been in this situation, and it’s not even what we are talking about. I have been expected to prove my willingness to conform to certain norms by wearing formal or semiformal clothing. I kind of like semiformal clothing (could be a lot better!) and conforming to a lot of norms. It has never been about showing status for me and clothing design has a lot of other purposes, even in the stunted men’s versions.

  83. ik

    “But here is what is making my head explode: Why is a feminist being asked to comment on menswear? If you are curious about why men wear what we wear, why not ask men?”

    Mainly because she is commenting on fashion in general, and because she noticed that men’s clothing tends to be so stylistically stunted without it being pointed out to her.

  84. 94

    Because I live in a resort community (Aspen) that is also a mecca for outdoor sports and work in a bookstore, I have a very wide latitude in the clothing and jewelry I wear for work. I am 56 years old and I am a solid 190lbs at 5’10”. My hair hangs a third of the way down my back. Today I sport two hoop earrings, one “man in the maze” pinky ring, my wedding ring and a turquoise and spiny oyster bead necklace along with a silver “bicycle chain” bracelet and a big Swiss Army watch. Most of my shirts are from Territory Ahead or the thrift store and are generally brightly colored “island” “southwest” or batik prints. I usually wear earth-toned pants or shorts that pick up the colors of the shirts. I have three pair of multi-hewed Chaco sandals that I alternate so they match my ensemble. When I want to dress up I have a vintage suit from the 1940s which I pair with a 1950s full-length wool overcoat. I noticed the boring banality of men’s clothing long ago and have always tried to fight back.

  85. 95

    I have a feeling that if the range of acceptable clothing for men expanded, the pressure on men to come up with something creative/attractive every single day would – mysteriously – not parallel that of women.

    After all, it is socially acceptable for men to cook any food you can name, yet only being able to cook some things is usually okay too. More women than men feel more pressure to cook new and exciting things, though thankfully that particular expectation has been waning over the years, and it’s mostly become a “gender-neutral fact” that cooking is hard (though often fun). Also, there are a few “default” meals (like pasta with salad) that men and women can serve if they don’t want to go to too much effort (not to mention that microwaving is even easier) so that’s not an issue there either.

    Surely, in some utopian future, it can be possible to have both? A thoroughly gender-neutral “default outfit” (hold it – doesn’t that exist already, in the form of “jeans and a T-shirt”?) and a wide variety of other option for times people wish to look special?

    I think there are way too many arenas that contradict the notion that more options means less acceptability of a “default” or “uncreative” approach. A wall in a house can have a near-inifite number of possible paintings/photographs hanging on it – or it can be poster-free. You can write any sort of novel you like and people will find it interesting to talk about at parties, but if you tell someone you’re not writing a novel they won’t think “What a dullard.” Yes, arguably, we are all expected to “do something with our lives”, so if you’re not writing a novel you should have some other hobby (or at least a damn job), but I don’t think anyone’s complaining about that. You can be the dude who wears nothing special but does play raquetball or banjo or whatever.

    I think the fasion pressure women feel is really more the result of patriarchy than of diversity in fashion. As Greta pointed out, in the world of fashion women lose either way, and men equivalently also lose either way, but to a much lesser degree. This is simply what the patriarchy does everywhere it can.

  86. 96

    Marlo Rocci:

    Men dress as a display of their wealth or power. That’s really not hard to figure out. Our clothes are expected to be new, our cars are expected to be expensive and so on.

    But if that were the sole determinant of men’s fashion, than it would be standard for men to wear gold and diamond jewelery, either real or substitute. Interestingly, that is standard in some subcultures, but not Amercain maledom as a whole.

    I can’t see how asking a feminist about menswear is going to end up in anything but a shitstorm of gender biased supposition.

    So far, I think you’re the only one presenting an alternative thesis as to what’s going on with menswear. The only area of disagreement is whether or not the culturally-imposed standard of a limited wardrobe is overall good or bad for men.

    I don’t think even Greta actually raised the question of what motivates men to wear what we do. It’s been assumed, perhaps unfairly, that each man is not simply making an uninfluenced and free choice every day from a whole range of physically wearable things.

    In other words, what’s not going on is some kind of equivalent to what a character says about his famous time machine on a famous TV show: “Every time the TARDIS materializes in a new location, within the first nanosecond of landing it analyzes the its surroundings, calculates a 12-dimensional data map of everything within a thousand mile radius and determines which outer shell would blend in best with the environment.  And then it disguises itself as a Police telephone box from 1963.”

    In any case, Greta is a woman but not all feminists are, which your sentence implied. (Or should male feminists not discuss what they/we think is going on either?) And this blogpost isn’t like the Fox panel because she’s only one person. Individual Christians and groups of theists are perfectly entitled to express their opinions of about what’s going on with this atheism thing; what’s presumptuous holding an atheist-free panel, with all the officiality that implies. Indeed, given the communative nature of a blog, one might say that this is a panel of dozens of people, women and men, discussing the topic.

  87. 97

    @azkyroth – a page explaining the origin of the word butthurt does not refute (or even necessarily address) the claim that it has homophobic implications. In this particular case, and regarding that particular claim, it is almost completely unrelated. (How the meaning and metaphorical implication of words is constructed is far more complicated than that.)

    On topic: yes. I do actually love formal menswear — putting together suits, ties, hats, shoes, is really a lot of fun. But it is incredibly limiting in any situation where I don’t want to wear formal clothes, and, of course, my love of skirts and dresses is tempered by not wanting to deal with teh big bad society. (Seriously: women have been wearing pants for how long? And it’s still not socially acceptable for me to wear a skirt?)

  88. 98

    I get the impression that menswear is more conservative in the US than it is here in the UK (and Europe)…

    While it’s true that the basic parameters are fairly narrow, there’s a wealth of opportunity in the details – jacket linings, pocket squares, shirts, cufflinks, ties, and the like. The problem for a lot of people is that the good stuff is expensive (a decent tailored shirt is at least GBP100) and the cheap stuff is awful. I used to think that I hated suits, until I had the money to buy a half-decent one – turns out, I just hate cheap suits. They’re ugly, badly made, ill-fitting, uncomfortable… Whereas a good suit is a pleasure to wear. I see a lot of guys who buy one cheap suit for occasional wear, and then avoid wearing it as much as possible – no wonder, because it’s a horrible suit. Buy a good suit, and you’ll be looking for excuses to wear it as much as possible.

    And why do so many guys not seem to care about the fit of their clothes? All the time, I see guys walking around in suits (even quite good suits) that blatantly do not fit. What the hell is that about? Get them fitted properly!

    If you really want to look good as a man, you need a first-name relationship with a decent tailor, and money to burn. But once you’ve got those, you can have a lot of fun. I’m saving up for a proper fully-bespoke suit next, something with a kind of neo-Edwardian feel…

    And then there’s shoes… OK, we don’t have quite the range the ladies do, but there’s some great shoes out there. I just bought a gorgeous pair of handmade, deep blue, burnished calf-skin brogues from Barker… They’re amazing. And I’m going to have to find somewhere that carries the full range, because they do some fantastic correspondent wing-tips. Now there’s a style you don’t see much of these days!

    It’s not that menswear is intrinsically dull, it’s just that most guys don’t make much of an effort. I know I never used to… For most of my life, I’ve been like a lot of other guys in this thread – not interested, completely unknowledgeable about what looks good or even what’s available, and happy to wear basically the same olive-drab outfit every day. Then I decided to make a bit of a change, and my natural geek enthusiasm at attention to detail took over…

    Now, perhaps some Turnbull & Asser cufflinks would go nicely with my bespoke Liberty print shirt? 😉

  89. 99

    I wear polo shirts, Henleys, and jeans. I’m not in a field where I have to wear the “uniform” of slacks, shirt, tie and sport coat, and I hope I’m retired and can wear really ridiculous-looking stuff without ever having to buy a sport coat…

    Neckties… Sport coats… Vests… And all in various shades of grey, except for the pants, where blue and tan is permitted on occasion… My shop is climate controlled in the winter, I don’t need to bundle up against the cold.

    All it does is allow office drones to say to each other “Yes, I’m as much a slave to illogical conventionality as you are”.

  90. 100

    Re: beards
    I can’t remember the last time I saw a man with a beard who wasn’t either self employed or unemployed. I don’t think it’s very socially accepted over here at all.
    But besides that, I think perhaps the pink dress shirts that have become fashionable the last few years are somewhat of a step in the direction of more freedom. Oh and that Prada cool.

  91. 101

    I’m bearded, and I’m totally employed.

    As yes, the Prada collection linked up-thread is amazing. I might just have to arrange for my salary to be paid directly to my tailor and have done with it.

  92. 102

    With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery.

    Tell me honestly: Who else thought of a porn script when reading that?

  93. 103

    My brother has found a little creative latitude by incorporating some subtle old fashioned clothing: suspenders, beautiful vests, etc. He got the inspiration from the Steampunk aesthetic. It won’t work for high powered executives, of course, but with some creativity and courage, there is a little bit more area for expression for men in fashion in this arena. So sad that a lot of men are pressured to not express themselves with this art form. I hope it changes for them.

  94. 105

    I tend to wear clothes to conceal my nakedness since that’s what society demands of me. I never put much thought into what I’m buying, aside from “Will it hinder my ability to work”. Speaking of work, I have a beard, and am very much employed by someone other than myself, so sumdum, you must live in a place where people care way too much about what other people think about their appearance, rather than their ability. What a pity.

  95. 106

    But here is what is making my head explode: Why is a feminist being asked to comment on menswear? If you are curious about why men wear what we wear, why not ask men?

    Is the point you’re making that it would make more sense perhaps to ask a male feminist?

    I think the reason is that Greta has already established herself as someone who is reasonably knowledgeable about and interested in, and comfortable analyzing and discussing, fashion without being immersed in it enough to be spouting a “party line” from any particular manufacturer or philosophy.

  96. 107

    That hits a few spots.

    I’m a complete tomboy. I wouldn’t mind being seen as androgynous (damn my curves) or butch sometimes. I’ve never thought of myself as girly. I prefer “handsome” over “pretty”.

    My “masculine” style tends to be more influenced by historical menswear (with a good dash of old-timey military) than current men’s fashion, though.
    My favourite items of clothing are my two pairs of jodhpur-like chinos and my knee-high boots – something that hardly any man would wear these days. When I wear them, though, I don’t think “feminine”, I think “dashing”. It’s the same with lots of other clothes I like to wear.
    I do the more straightforward “dapper androgyne” thing too, but sometimes that’s just not sufficiently swashbuckling. 😉

    This sometimes results in the rest of the world seeing me as a fair bit more feminine than I see myself, what with all the clothes that’d look a bit “out of place” (or time, as it were) on a man.

    To torture the language metaphor a bit: I speak British English with an accent influenced by Elizabethan pronunciation and people end up thinking I’m Irish.

    Not that it’s much of a problem for me, really (although I’d hate it if lesbians read me as femme or straight) – just something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

    And dear god, I’ve been lusting after that Prada stuff since it first appeared on my radar. I wish some of that style trickles down to Topshop or H&M, otherwise I’ll have to torment my sewing machine again.

  97. 108

    How about East Asian menswear? I think a lot of the fashion designers over in the East have a more interesting range of choices, even if many men don’t follow the trends too much. Just comparing a Google Image search of British boyband One Direction vs. Korean boyband SHINee, you see a difference. SHINee has more pictures with various colors and cuts of clothing, while One Direction has a preponderance of dark colors and less flamboyant outfits.

    This probably relates to Asian men being perceived as more girly than Western men, although I don’t know which way the causation goes.

  98. 110

    @azkyroth – a page explaining the origin of the word butthurt does not refute (or even necessarily address) the claim that it has homophobic implications. In this particular case, and regarding that particular claim, it is almost completely unrelated. (How the meaning and metaphorical implication of words is constructed is far more complicated than that.)

    That’s interesting, because the last time it came up, someone cited the prevalence of UrbanDictionary entries assuming an etymology from homosexual practices as evidence of homophobic implications.

    A strange category of evidence, that can only be valid when cited in favor of one particular side of a dispute.

  99. 111


    (1) the fact that UrbanDictionary links butthurt with a homophobic etymology is irrelevant to my point. If you feel the need to respond, please do so with something relevant to the argument put forward (namely, that quoting the etymology of the word does not necessarily speak to its meaning or metaphorical implications). Please respond to the actual argument I disputed, which was that linking to an etymology was somehow a refutation/disputation of “butthurt”‘s alleged homophobic implications.

    (2) that said, I’ll bite: urbandictionary is a different category of evidence that your source, so your claim that it’s a strange category of evidence is wrong. It isn’t one category. UrbanDictionary is a user-edited website, unlike the one you linked to. Your website tells us what its research shows the etymology of the word to be. UrbanDictionary tells us what UrbanDictionaries *users* believe the origin/implications/meaning of the word to be. Implying that these are equivalent sources is ridiculous.

  100. 112

    Wow, I can’t type. Sorry.

    Also, apparently knowyourmeme is also user edited? Regardless,the point is the same, as the purpose of the knowyourmeme page and the editorial process there are different from urbandictionary.

  101. 113

    I’m happy with menswear being boring. I do not judge or discourage men who want to express themselves through fashion, but honestly I just want to be clean and comfortable, and that’s about it. Maybe because I’ve been socialized that way, IDK, but I prefer that my wardrobe take up as little time and effort as possible. The only thing I’ve ever managed to express via fashion was indifference, and if more were expected of me I’d resent that expectation.

  102. 114

    Do we really have to get into the actual etymology of “butthurt” to consider anal-rape (and thus, by way of male-is-default thinking and other weirdness, homophobic) implications? Come on.

  103. 115

    I prefer that my wardrobe take up as little time and effort as possible

    I totally relate to that. Most often, I just want to sped a little time as possible thinking about what to wear.

    Occasionally, I get a desire to wear something more interesting. For example, to my mind a Zoot suit is the very definition of cool. GODDAMMIT, I want one.

  104. 116

    OT..sort of… My husband works in a surgery and today he saw a little boy with pink painted fingernails on the table (he’s fine as sifted frog feathers, btw.) and he did a silent salute to that boy’s parents. We have sons who feel as comfortable shooting aliens with Nerf guns in tiaras and bows as their sisters do. We keep this a secret for reasons we resent but must consider for the kids’ safety. It is shitty, but it is getting better. Keep blogging Greta and friends! We love you!

  105. 117

    Cisgender male (oh, what autocorrect wanted to do with that), but I’ve made style choices most of my life to set myself a bit apart, though until I started wearing Utilikilts close to a decade ago I’ve hewn pretty close to the “proper” line. In high school 50 years ago I wore a stretch swim suit sort of like today’s cycling shorts instead of the semi-required grey “gym shorts.” Could have been part of the reason that I was suspected to be “queer,” though I wasn’t bullied, just heckled a bit.

    When I worked at a med school, I developed a look that evolved from early-70s fashion crimes to jeans, dress shirt and tie through experimentation with a wider range of colors and patterns. Which tie will I play off against which shirt today? The next step was trousers held up with braces (I’ve read enough Britporn to not say “suspenders” before an international audience) so I had another element to play with. The next mutation was “real” bow ties, and yes, knowing you’re probably the only person in the room who knows how to tie one is a lot of the fun. There are—or were—more whimsical bow ties than neckties available; I even have one that when properly tied is in the shape of a fish. Much of this time I was doing RenFaires, and putting on my business garb put me “into character” as much as donning my Faire garb.

    I miss those days. My current career is in a very casual dress environment, and my duties preclude wearing my Utilikilts, so I’m pretty well stuck with cargo shorts and polo or T-shirts. On the plus side, I find what I do more rewarding than anything else I’ve ever done, so I don’t have to get into character to get myself out of the house.

  106. F

    @ The Lorax

    Just drop the concepts of “fashion” and “dressing up” for a moment. (Yes, I realize the post is exactly about these things, but bear with me.) What about different sorts of clothing that might be comfortable or interesting, whether or not they are “dressy”?

    I’m all on board with the idea that none of this matters to you. You may only be inclined to wear clothing at all for protection, warmth, and and normal social reasons. I’m just saying that you don’t have to be interested in fashion, “looking good”, dressing up, or having artsy inclinations to be dissatisfied with clothing. options.

    I dress like complete crap 90% of the time. Because anything I wear is going to look like complete crap by the end of the day anyway, and possibly be destroyed.

  107. 120

    I’m not much of a fashion guy, but it would be nice to have some more options. Skirts seem like they might be nice on a hot day(I might get away with a kilt, but a lot of Americans just see those as skirts, especially if they don’t know the wearer has Scottish heritage), and I’d love it if it were socially acceptable to carry a purse… nice middle ground between a messenger bag and a backpack.

  108. 122

    If you feel the need to respond, please do so with something relevant to the argument put forward (namely, that quoting the etymology of the word does not necessarily speak to its meaning or metaphorical implications).

    I responded by citing a counter-example to the claim that “etymology is irrelevant,” by noting that etymology is treated as highly relevant, even foundational, to this particular argument, when the subset of etymology being examined is convenient to the side you happen to be on. As such, I regard the argument put forward as disingenuous.

  109. 123

    @ lrah

    My favourite items of clothing are my two pairs of jodhpur-like chinos and my knee-high boots – something that hardly any man would wear these days.

    I totally would, if I had the legs and flatter belly to complement it! Closest I do though is calf-high boots (14-hole docs) with jeans.

  110. 124

    From my (admittedly) male perspective, I think men are less likely to want to express themselves through style of clothing.

    I see no evidence for that being true; dudes just seem to express different things through their clothing. The fact though that I can tell what subculture any random dude I run into downtown belongs to means that they are expressing themselves with their clothing.

    I tend to be more interested in comfort and practicality.

    well, that’s convenient, since most men’s clothing (for most of the subcultures I’m familiar with) is made to be more comfortable and practical (pockets, ffs)

    And if you haven’t looked at the men’s pyjamas in your local department store, well, I suggest you do — and remind yourself how lucky you are that you aren’t constrained to wear those things in bed every night.

    I’m pretty sure men aren’t constrained to wear PJs in bed… at least, no man I’ve ever seen in his sleepwear wore PJs; or even owned PJs (except for the one who slept in silk PJs, which are quite comfy I imagine, if you like the feel of silk).They slept nude, or in boxer shorts and/or t-shirts; or in their regular clothes.

    Anyway, I’ll leave the question whether menswear is too restrictive to those who are actually restricted to/by it, but personally, if I could spent the rest of my days wearing men’s cargo pants and cargo shorts, I’d not complain. I’d wear primarily men’s shirts, too, it they could handle boobage at all.

    Pretty much the only aspect where men are clearly fucked is the near complete inability to adjust office-wear and formal wear to temperature (thus, I blame over-airconditioned places on menswear requirements :-p)

  111. f.

    Yeah, so, speaking as a woman who likes to dress androgynously sometimes – I have to throw in my lot with those who like menswear because it is consistent, a bit higher quality, and not as extremely beholden to trends. I like to buy some very feminine pieces like silk blouses and cute dresses, but day to day I wear a lot of clothes made for men. All my pants are men’s straight cut chinos and jeans, I like buying used button downs, and I prefer men’s t-shirts because they are long enough for my long waist and usually not see-through.

    Part of this is just the way I’m built, of course, with small breasts, broad shoulders and muscular legs. But honestly? I get tired of having to search for shirts that aren’t paper-thin, or jeans that aren’t an overly trendy cut (high-waisted? super-skinny? bootcut? aughghghghgh), or cardigans that will actually hit me at the hip instead of flopping over my ass or stopping at my natural waist.

    So though I turn to womenswear for my accessories and for dressy, fun pieces, damn I love the men’s section for just… clothes that do a good job of covering my body.

  112. 127

    […] Men’s fashion from Greta Christina’s perspective – I recommend the comments in addition to what she writes. I also want to add a few things: cuff links and in a certain sense men are very lucky. One comment mentions that menswear is basically either formal or casual with little grey area in between while women’s clothing has a huge grey area. Slightly annoying when a man wants to be able to wear a wide variety of clothing at a business casual workplace? Yes. At the same time it’s extremely liberating. Every time I get dressed for work I have to think about whether or not it’s appropriate for work. Do I wear a suit? A skirt? Is this shirt dressed up enough even though it is, in all honesty, a t-shirt? Basically, I’m simultaneously envious of how simple it is for men and happy that I get more leeway to “express” myself, if that’s how you wish to put it. […]

  113. 128

    “*And now I’m waiting for some asshole MRA to point out that I’m sexualizing him. Yeah, being sexually attracted to my own husband, how can I?”

    Would they say that men never do that to women? Or would they say you’re a hypocrite for doing it but complaining when someone does it to you?

  114. 129

    Here’s something that’s been on my mind for a while, and since there’s such a diverse range of fashion knowledge on display, this might be a good place to ask it.

    I’m genderqueer, MAAB, and am looking for appropriate “neutral” cloths, which obviously gets a bit difficult when you get into the more formal area where things tend to be strictly delineated. Anything too male-keyed is absolutely humiliating for me to wear (although I tend to buy things like jeans, T-shirts, etc in male sizes just because the fit is better — I wish there was more variety, though!)

    My question is, what’s a good gender-neutral outfit that’s appropriate to wear in situations like job interviews where I have to worry about being “appropriate” and where it would be awkward to have to explain about being non-gender-binary all the time? I was thinking one of those academic-looking tweed jackets with the leather patches, a turtleneck, and slacks, but I’d be interested in hearing other suggestions. (I’m just starting a master’s in library science, and will be attending school in Seattle and hopefully staying there afterwards to work, so the comment above that things are more relaxed in the Pacific Northwest fills me with joy!)

  115. 130

    Since I need GerAnimal tags to make my clothes match (I’m only 1/2 kidding) I don’t venture too far from what I’m comfortable with. Lucky I get to basically wear Khaki’s and a polo shirt each day, so that makes it a bit simpler. When I was in the Army it was even simpler, humm, the green ones or the green ones?

    I do agree that men have it easy when it comes to clothes. I was talking with a friend one day and we put together a wardrobe that would fit in a single small suitcase, and let a man be approprately dressed for almost any social occasion or event.

    1 dark suit (or a very conservative pinstripe)
    2 dress shirts, (white and a patterned one that works with the suit)
    1 pair Khaki pants (well fitted)
    1 Sport coat or blazer (0pt)
    1 pair tailored khaki shorts
    i Polo or button sport shirt
    1 pair dress shoes
    1 pair of top-siders or other casual shoes

    toss in some socks, underwear and a couple of ties, you could handle anything from a night at the opera to a clam bake and be good to go. By making sure that everything works with everything else you can wear the blazer with a tie, an open collar shirt, or even the polo (depending on the situation).

    Just my .02


  116. 131

    I do get what you’re saying Greta, but I love men’s clothes. I don’t actually aspire to any clothing-based self-expression beyond wearing shirts with my favourite bands’ logos on them.

    As far as I’m concerned, PZ nailed it at number 7:

    Also, there isn’t no expectation that I should look good, something beyond my reach forever. I settle for looking conventional.

    I love the freedom of an aesthetic where you’re not expected to be attractive or sexy, or to put in more than a minimum of effort, and I wish I could experience it properly. There’s not a lot I can do about my appearance, but I would dearly love to be free of the expectation that I do something with it. And bloke clothes come with pockets. Pockets are important.

    Re the Prada men’s fall collection: oh HELL yes! I want, want, want those clothes!

  117. f.

    @ Leeloo – If I were you I’d try out some things like slim legged trousers and classic button ups. You’re right that knits can have a nice gender neutral quality to them. Maybe also try wearing some pastels or bright colors that can soften your outfits a little? Maybe some of these looks could be inspirational:

    Otherwise, what about your hair and accessories? Search through pictures of short hairstyles on both male and female identified people, a lot of them (like short sides & back with long sideswept bangs) are currently worn by all genders. Ankle length trousers with bright accent socks are also a thing right now. And brogues and chelsea boots, though traditionally menswear, look great on everyone. You also have a lot of options when it comes to scarves – skinny jersey scarves, infinity scarves, big bulky wool ones. If it’s to your taste, it is easy to subtly queer an outfit by adding some delicate details – a skinny belt instead of a broad one, an open-knit sweater, a geometric or floral patterned scarf or pocket square, a satchel instead of a backpack, tiny stud earrings, things like that.

    IMHO, “professional” in many contexts, unless you are working in a business that expects you to wear traditional formalwear, basically = flattering, non-revealing, well-cared-for, subdued clothing. You can go pretty androgynous with it. As a woman, I certainly do, and nobody has ever accused me of looking unprofessional.

  118. f.

    Also Leeloo, I am from the PNW and yep. It is a relaxed area. But not particularly fashion conscious. If you want to look truly gender neutral in Seattle? The universal garments are basically Polarfleece jackets and Tevas.

  119. 134

    @azkyroth: your assumption that all etymologies are created equal when discussing the cultural and metaphorical implications of a word is incorrect. Since they are not, merely using one specific kind of etymological entry to support a point does not require me to accept any etymology of any type. Moreover, I did not quote UrbanDictionary to you, nor would it be my first or most important argument on this point, rather I defended the fact that it is a very different of source from the one you quoted and therefore not equitable. So how on earth is my argument disingenuous. Your refusal to address any aspect of my actual argument, rather than respond to past arguments you’ve had, on the other hand, is rather chock-full of red herrings.

    Regardless, even if I were a hypocrite, it wouldn’t invalidate my point, which is based on pretty darn basic linguistics. Seriously, sometimes I feel like the last 40 years of linguistics research is simply ignored by the vast majority of people, even skeptics.

  120. 135

    I’m so glad you posted this! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as a woman who is really into all the neon colors and stuff that’s in style right now.

    The city I live in is relatively conservative in terms of dress, but women dress much more interestingly than the men because they have more options and are allowed to.

    I’d love to see more men take risks with fashion. All I see now are men in business or business casual dress or men in incredibly boring jeans/shorts and t-shirts.

    It’s funny, because I primarily dress for comfort first and style second, but since I’m a woman I can still dress interestingly, even if I’m just wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

  121. 136

    Oh, I also wanted to add that expressing yourself through style is much different than dressing up.

    You can care about fashion and style and your look and still not dress up. See: e.g. hipsters.

  122. 138

    Fitted shirts with a bold paisley print are my tool of choice for breaking up the monotonous attire of a male dominated engineering office. I also have a white suit that I bought in Thailand, but my uni lifestyle took its toll… alas, my other suits are bog-standard and boring while ensuring I look somewhat respectable and handsome.

    Outside of work, I tend to wear small, tight t-shirts over a skinny frame. As per GemmaM above, my girlfriend thinks it’s a sexy look, to the extent that she doesn’t like it when I wear a ‘normal’ sized shirt.

    When the social occasion allows less clothing, I get to show off my pierced belly button. I know of two other straight men with belly button piercings, and we all get asked about sexual preferences – I see it as a great way to start a conversation about societal norms 🙂

  123. 139

    Oh, and the day I visited an expensive menswear store to ask about proper bow ties, and they showed me a clip on tie for just $90, was the last day I visited an expensive menswear store.

    Clip on. GTFO.

  124. 140

    To everyone saying something like this:

    I’m glad that men’s fashion is simple because I don’t want to have to care about fashion, the way women are forced to.

    I sympathize completely, but surely there’s a better solution than forcing all men into the same mold. People who have lots of fashion choices are effectively required by society to invest lots of time and money into fashion, and this is a problem. But, forcing men to stay out of that arena doesn’t solve the problem, it just shields them from it.

  125. 141

    Cis male, not perfectly straight.
    I deplore that it seems it has become even harder to show off.
    Think about 15-30 years ago. There were pants so tight that your plumbing was obvious, and we’d notice, at least I would. I had embroidered shirts that actually were 32 inches at the waist. I could wear women’s blouses in colors that men don’t wear much now (red silk), and it wouldn’t really get that noticed, cause it wasn’t that different. Shorts were actually short, rather than bags that hung to your knees – dammit I wanna see a guy’s thighs and want to show mine on occasion, even though, being Greta’s age, not many are looking. When I sweat, the damn things glue to my thighs and impede gardening, walking, tennis. Crap, I used to be able to get away with purple suede hot pants – yeah, I was probably taken as looking for guys (bingo!), but it wasn’t that far out there. Swimsuit fashions: I have about 10 incredibly skimpy ones that used to be almost acceptable (my wife makes them – they are easy), but would now be unacceptable in my area. I am actually a swimmer, and am here to tell you that what is fashionable for men now sucks. It feels creepy in the water. I’d prefer you in something resembling spray paint, and not much of it.
    Young women are wearing stuff that shows off their bodies. Men not. Why? What is happening? Much of men’s fashion has always struck me as a method to make the beautifully fit guy, and the guy that’s 30 pounds overweight, look approximately the same. But the pendulum swung for awhile. Now it’s back way over. Is it just more conservatism, the finding that women don’t really wan’t to see men’s body so much, or are men worried that folks like me are looking? Spoon feed it to me.

  126. 142

    @45 Shades: Formal waistcoats (vests) are, by definition, designed to be worn under a jacket. That’s why they usually have a satin back panel so they don’t catch on the inside of your jacket. Same reason the inside of jacket sleeves are lined as such. A similar garment designed to be worn without a jacket would be a gilet and they were generally intended for shooting or outdoor activities (in England and Europe in any case). Bookster do quite a nice one as MtM:

    I’ve got so many thoughts on this topic in general I’m having trouble sorting them out in my head. Until I do so, I would just reiterate what’s been mentioned a couple of times already and which has taken me 20-odd years of dressing as an adult to figure out: Get clothes that fit properly. Whatever look or style (or lack thereof) you are aiming for, just make sure your garments fit you. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make.

    Oh, and one more thing (that’s a pet peeve of mine). If your tie is “choking” you, then your shirt is the wrong size. A shirt with the appropriate neck measurement and a properly tied tie will exert no inward pressure on your neck. The problem with this is most people don’t match the ‘ideal’ proportions between body size and neck circumference that shirt makers work to. For instance, my neck is relatively slim for my height and weight so a shirt that fits my neck properly has generally been designed for somebody with a chest/waist measurement at least 6″ more than mine. Bespoke shirts are worth it if you can afford it and, if not, get them slightly large and get a tailor to alter them for you.

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    With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery.

    Um…lots of men’s clothing is SUPPOSED to be worn near heavy machinery. Or at least it’s supposed to imply that the wearer is no stranger to heavy machinery.

    Kidding aside, though, those ties we wear are stoopid — but they’re the ONLY item we can wear that’s at all flamboyant or expressive (those decorative hankies being passe and all). And the hell of that is, even in a roomful of ties, the range of designs is laughably narrow (where did those old-money-looking patterns on the yellow backgrounds come from anyway?), and I still have a less than 10% chance of finding one that stands out from the others in a way I like. Even the Jerry Garcia ties are lame — no, dammit, runny colors are not “hip” — is tie-dye a lost art already?

    If I said the only ties I’ve even considered buying lately are in museum-shops, does that make me sound like a fogey?

    (And if you have to wear your within-the-bounds-of-approved-flamboyance tie near heavy machinery, there are some rather expressive tie-clips and tie-pins you can add.)

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    PS: A friend of mine is floating the idea of wearing clothes similar to what well-dressed men wore in 19th-century England. Pretty classy, aside from the double-breasted look, which I personally hate. I’m guessing the Steampunk crowd may be out in front on this.

  129. 145

    @tajparis and @Bengatewood, thanks for the links and the definition. Having the proper vocabulary helps the search considerably. 🙂

    It’s rather obvious that individualized tailoring helps everyone look their best, but it’s a pretty expensive bar. Last time I looked into having something tailored it was $60 for two seams in the back of a dress* — more than the dress cost. Which brings up another thing — there seems to be a huge gulf between the cost of the standard t-shirt-and-jeans and expressive men’s formal wear. Women’s fashions can be ridiculously expensive, of course, but it’s pretty easy to find stuff that’s both cheap and fun, like the aforementioned fifty dollar dress. There’s a fairly wide variety in pricing.

    On the other hand most men’s wear is usually more durable, and since it is fairly boring and unchanging they’re ‘allowed’ to wear the same fancy-dress for multiple events.

    *I don’t mean to imply the skilled labor isn’t worth that. It’s not that the fee is unreasonable, just that it isn’t within my budget.

  130. 146

    Yeah, that’s true – Quality costs. Personally, for the last couple of years I’ve been trying to buy fewer but better items of clothing as I’m just fed up with the stuff you get on the High St. (plus, I’m unusually shaped so none of it fits me properly in any case).

    On waistcoats again, fit is particularly important IMHO. Because it’s worn close to the body I think it’s a piece that you want to get right. Look for something made out of a heavier fabric as they tend to drape better, wrinkle less and generally be more flattering.

  131. 147

    My boyfriend and I are longtime denizens of the gothic/industrial scene, and one thing I’ve always loved about our subculture is the fluidity of gender roles, the acceptance of androgyny, and the willingness of some males to push the envelope and wear things that they probably wouldn’t get away with in a “normal” context, such as skirts, makeup, and so forth. Men straight, gay, bi, etc. can show up in full makeup, wigs, kilts, skirts, leather thongs, cat ears, devil horns, angel wings, whatever. The club I used to frequent had one guy who always came out dressed like Peter Pan, and another guy who would turn up in nothing but a lacy negligee and matching thong underwear. No one batted an eye.

    My boyfriend is almost overwhelmingly straight, and projects many of the attributes society associates with masculinity: He served in the Army (infantry), he did some time in prison (manslaughter), he has a very chiseled, handsome face, dark hair cut very short, and a stocky, strong-looking build with huge muscled forearms. His personality and interests are also very “masculine.” He loves motorcycles and guns and Japanese robots and technology, he builds car engines, he’s very cocky and rakishly charming. But one thing he absolutely loves is fashion. He’ll spend hundreds of dollars on the perfect vinyl pants with buckles and zippers, and he’s got a whole wardrobe of ankle-length highwayman-style jackets in black, red, and white, some eighteenth-century looking jackets, plus fancy gothic dress shirts with long tails and pointed cuffs and skull or heart buttons, and ties with either skulls or radioactive symbols printed on them. He’s got this one fantastic outfit that he breaks out sometimes (I call it his Eddie Munster suit) that’s a short black suit jacket with red stitching, pointed collars, tuxedo tails, and many hanging chains; matching calf-length shorts with wide cuffs; and gray-and-black striped leggings. It’s AWESOME. When we’re just kicking around the house or at the grocery store or something, he’ll just wear black Levis, a dark-colored t-shirt (plain or with a band logo), and his beloved New Rocks (black platform shoes with lots of buckles and straps and metal on them). But when we go clubbing on the weekends, he goes all out, and even among other goths he stands out because he looks so damn dapper, and he spends the money to get pieces that fit well (or he pays to have them tailored) and that suit his particular aesthetic. Occasionally he’ll even rock some eye makeup too. It’s super foxy. Oh, and other than the hair on his head and his eyebrows (which he plucks), he shaves off all the hair on his body.

    He’s also very interested in MY clothing, and loves to shop for me and with me. He can sew and work with leather too, so he’s made me a couple of pieces as well. He has exquisite taste in women’s clothing, and is very good at picking out things that flatter my body style. I actually won’t go clothes shopping without him anymore, because I’m not terribly fashion-conscious and have recently been adapting to a drastic weight loss and a breast augmentation, so I have no idea what looks good on me and what doesn’t. I also ALWAYS consult him on clubbing outfits, and sometimes if I’m particularly lazy or clueless one day I’ll just let him go in the closet and pick something out for me, which he is entirely happy to do. This past weekend, for instance, after we had spent a pleasant afternoon experimenting with several different looks each, I ended up wearing a tight, distressed black short-sleeved shirt with cutouts on the sleeves and chest, covered by a black-and-white striped underbust corset, with black velvet arm warmers. On the bottom I wore black booty shorts over nude tights, with black thigh-high stockings over that and exposed garters; an ankle-length see-through fishnet skirt finished it off. Footwise I rocked a pair of pointy vinyl boots with white skulls on them, and over that a pair of scrunched black and white striped leg warmers. He wore a pair of shiny black patterned pants, very low slung and tight, with lots of zippers and hanging straps. Over that he wore black vinyl platform boots with big buckles. On top he wore a floor-length black variation on a priest’s cassock (with the zipper open in the front so you could see the pants), with a high collar, criss-crossing straps across the chest and arms, and metal o-rings. We got so many compliments it wasn’t even funny. 🙂

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    I’ve often wondered about the comparative drabness of male clothing in our society.

    The urge to decorate yourself and strut your stuff appears to be a universal human urge. If you look at many tribal societies, men and women pretty much indulge in the same level of decoration. In fact, if anything, it is the males who often go to extremes: more tattoos, more piercing, more elaborate headdresses, or (my favorite) six-feet long penis gourds that need a guy-wire to hold them up.

    I have my theories about why our society appears to frown on men competing on appearances (which I will not bore you with). Still, it worth remembering that we are the odd society out on this and it is not a universal human trait.

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    indeed, may i agree with you Greta as far as “boring etc.” is concerned.
    methinks, if men* dress soc. boringly it is imo a matter of e.g. personal-/self-awareness. after all, it is accepted that human beings need to dress in public. just how an individual does it – well.
    fashion ./. style ./.

    on a personal sidenote, what i do appreciate e.g. about soc. a man’s jacket is f-u-n-c-t-i-o-n-a-l-i-t-y (!) i.e. the ones i have bought and been wearing for many years esp. traveling for work. these (men’s-)jackets have soc. inner pockets on both sides that allow for, in my case, to have all my travel documents – ticket/s, IDs, plus somesuch as gum, lipgloss etc. – inside that jacket and thus freeing me to travel without-a-handbag (!). aaaahhhh )
    because : all my other travel-stuff-bags-luggage has been work related – apart from the fact that i have been questioning, and in fact been rebelling/refusing the (the soc. universally accepted idea/concept of ) “a woman’s-handbag”
    @vests – e.g. inspiration also here

  134. 150

    And as far as carrying things, for a long time my BF would carry a sorta backpack/satchel thing shaped like a coffin, which we both jokingly called his murse. Now he carries his wallet, keys, cigarettes, etc. in an Evil Dead lunchbox.

  135. 151

    Where one works and where and how one lives has a lot to do with it. I’m fortunate that I teach kids for a living, which means comfortable and casual is more than acceptable around both the kids and their parents.

    Khaki pants plus polo shirts or short sleeved collared shirts are both professional enough for appearance and durable enough for kids and their roughhousing. It also means I have a lot more options on colours than someone stuck in an office. And away from work, I’m much more willing than most to wear a “**** you” t-shirt than most people my age, and not uptight about tights for running and working out.

    The idea of being stuck in a suit and tugging at my collar all day is abhorrent to me. Even if I had a white collar job, I’d refuse.

  136. 152

    But in general, men who are seen as caring too much about fashion and style and how they look are generally derided as being feminine, or gay, or both. (This is changing somewhat, with the whole “metrosexual” thing — but it’s still there.)

    My perception of this is slightly different. I think that men who care ‘too much’ (what an interesting phrase that is!) about fashion are often derided as being superficial, of having little substance, of not being serious and important. And of course, women are expected to care about fashion, as you say. I think this says an awful lot about how women are perceived in society: lack of substance is the default position for the perception of women and men who try too hard are failures, because they are more like women.

    This is nearly the same as what Greta said, but without the implications of effeminacy. Those exist sometimes too, but I’m not sure they are the core of the issue.

  137. 153

    I always found it kind of sad that men who care about their appearance in American culture are tagged as “feminine” (though this isn’t as big a problem as it used to be, IMO). There’s nothing exclusively “feminine” about wanting to take care of yourself and present yourself in the most attractive way possible. Of course no one likes people who are insufferably vain, but I think a little vanity is a good thing; it’s a spur to improvement. I feel better when I look good, and consequently people treat me better because I come across as happier and more confident. And as far as I know, no one has EVER accused my BF of being “feminine,” despite the care he takes over his appearance. Quite the opposite; men often approach him telling him how cool he looks (admittedly my BF carries himself with a lot of confidence and has a very gregarious personality, so he can pull off extreme looks without getting a lot of negative feedback), and he has women flirting with him pretty much constantly. I don’t see attention to fashion or appearance as a masculine/feminine thing; it’s just a human thing.

  138. 154

    “Menswear sucks.

    With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery.”

    Thank you for expressing this so well! I stumbled on this Blog quite by accident. I just happened to be in a particularly frustrated mood today, and I typed something like: “Why is menswear so fucking boring?” into Google, and it returned this Blog entry.

    Like many other commenters have pointed out, it would be great if men were allowed more freedom in what they wear… Or rather, have alternative choices become more socially acceptable.

    I’ve also decided to say “fuck it” to a large extent and simply start wearing what I like… I am a straight, happily married man, and my wife also LOVES fashion of all kinds, so whenever I cook up some crazy outfit, she’s generally all for it.

    I’ve incorporated all sorts of new elements of style into my wardrobe, without really caring too much whether it’s considered male or female. Although I do appreciate fashion androgyny, I’m far more intrigued by gender fluidity. At what point does something become uniquely male or uniquely female? I would like to see the gamut of acceptability expanded in both directions… While I can’t expect people would ever accept me wearing an evening gown, (yes, it would be fun, no I wouldn’t look good in it), certain elements of style should be perfectly acceptable for both genders.

    I’ve incorporated all sorts of items into my daily wear, and it’s made me very happy for the most part. Some examples of these may include: traditional tartan kilts, utility kilts, South-East Asian sarongs, Indian dhoti, African kikoi, floral trousers, Thai fishermen’s pants, all manner of coloured and patterned tights (usually worn with shorts), high heels (like this: — I don’t mean stilettos or pumps, although I must admit that would be fun), nail polish in various colours (usually to match my outfits), silk scarves (often worn as cravats or ties), and other items too.

    Whenever I wear any of these things, I don’t try to cross-dress. I wear my clothes as a man, and don’t try to pass as a woman, although someone with a very traditional view of gender-appropriateness would certainly be left with their head spinning.

    Personally, I think this Blog post should be shouted from the rooftops to whoever might listen. I hope that more fashion Bloggers, fashionistas, and those in the industry continue to explore the fringes of acceptability and keep whittling at society’s narrow perceptions and the tiny, little gender box that we’ve put men into. In that, I am 100%, fully in support of feminist causes because by breaking the cycles of bullshit that affect women, we ALL benefit. I am sick and tired of femininity being a pejorative. All those stupid little cultural elements that have made it into our vernacular… “You throw like a girl…” “…Cry like a little girl….” etc. Eliminate those negative associations and BOTH men and women will find freedom to express themselves in the ways they feel comfortable, not by the artificial, misogyny-infused rules of current society. Rigid gender roles suck!

    To answer Greta’s original question, the best way for men to express themselves is to go as far as they feel comfortable in pushing the limits in their particular life situations. For some, that could mean wearing a kilt around town. For someone else that might mean something as mild as wearing a dress shirt to work that’s not white, but a pastel shade. For someone else yet it might mean trying out some nail polish in public and not giving a crap what anyone says. But in all cases, the key is to try new things, be adventurous, and treat what you wear as something FUN and enjoyable rather than a pain and necessity. If you’re not comfortable in what you’ve got on, you’re doing something wrong. Life’s too short to be uncomfortable.

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    (Gay, cis male here:)

    “I’m glad that men’s fashion is simple because I don’t want to have to care about fashion, the way women are forced to.”

    “I sympathize completely, but surely there’s a better solution than forcing all men into the same mold.”

    I hope this is true, but lately I’ve been leaning more and more towards the idea that men’s relative freedom not to care about fashion is actually just the flipside of the fact that we almost always have a uniform (either offical or de facto) for situations in which presentation is important. Human beings do seem to notice and respond to difference and variation more than uniformity and lack of change (variation both over time, and among individuals at any one time).

    If all the people in a given category dress the same way, and keep dressing that way for a long time, other people get used to that, and when they meet someone in that group dressed that way, they simply think “Oh, another one” and move on.

    If there’s no fixed norm for a category of people, then those people may have more dress options, but other people notice and react more to what they wear, because each one is new and different. Other people also more likely to wonder what a “non-uniformly-dressed” person means by what they wear (“means” in the “fashion as language” sense), to read things into the choices and to judge the choices (because it seems humans can’t help reading and judging, at least privately). When there’s a uniform, people just make the standard assumptions about what it means.

    I’m not a lover of uniformity in dress, but it does seem to have practical applications.

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    Slightly OT question:

    Does anyone else find that almost any outfit, no matter how unimpressive you think it looks by itself, looks much more impressive and striking when worn by a group of people en masse? It’s something like the effect of a group of people singing exactly in unison or making perfectly synchronised movements. I’d be curious to know if other people find this.

  141. 157

    Gareth, if you’re thinking along the lines of the “Nothing Suits Me like a Suit” sequence from How I Met Your Mother, I’m completely on board with you. Also, I love Neil Patrick Harris singing.

    I’m straight, cis, and male. I’m also color blind, which I think brings its own challenges and pressures to my clothing choice.

    For a large part of my life, I’ve exclusively worn t-shirts and jeans. Just make the shirt big enough to cover my torso, the jeans long enough to hit the floor, and I’m good. Make everything black, too, since I have trouble telling what colors things are and the notion of matching and clashing colors confounds me to no end. My fiancee tried to explain to me that one of my few shirts that isn’t black is some sort of “seafoam green” color that I honestly cannot see. I see tan and have no idea where this whole seafoam green thing came from.

    But I can’t do colors very well at all, so I just let her handle that sort of thing for me.

    Regarding, if I may, women’s clothing. I hate shopping for clothing with my fiancee or any of our friends. I look at the options and I am unable to keep from asking how two things differ when they look the same to me, why they can get away with charging such obscene prices (5 for $5 underwear is a sale? What the fuck is that bullshit?), why women don’t get pockets you can actually put anything in (I’ve been able to shove a liter of vodka in one of my pockets. I couldn’t even shove one of those little mini vodka things into a pocket on women’s jeans). I feel like the clothing industry profoundly fucks women over by overcharging and killing functionality. Which is terrible.

    And when it comes to men’s clothing I find myself hating a large amount of that too. I can’t do ties. I don’t like the way they feel and I can’t tie them. I don’t like turtlenecks – anything that’s tight on my neck is a no go. Stripes are out. I don’t like them. If it’s not black or dark enough I can’t tell it from black, I get worried that maybe it doesn’t actually go together and I just have no idea and that I’m going to look foolish.

    I like my jeans and t-shirt, but I’m getting married this October and beginning my PhD in the fall. I’m going to become a professor, so I have a nice patchy longcoat which makes me happy, but I also want to mature things up a bit, and I think this is where I get a bit queer in my tastes.

    I like suits. They look nice, they’re fairly simple, and while they are warm, I’m okay with that since I live where it snows a lot.

    I learned as an undergraduate that I also really like skirts. Not kilts. Skirts. They’re fun to twirl in and they feel so nice and nonrestrictive. Pair with some nice platform heels and I am just in a grand mood. Corsets too. In all other things I hate having to have someone help me get dressed, but a corset is well worth it. When I shave and let my hair down for it, with just a little makeup I’m able to pass reasonably well. It feels good to do drag, and I particularly enjoy when I get double takes from some of the guys. It’s a confidence booster.

    I never really thought about transgressing traditional dress rules outside of events like drag balls and Halloween, though, until I met one of the new professors in my department when I got near graduation. Her sense of style was remarkable. I may have developed a bit of a crush on her, but I loved the jackets she wore and the boots, the skirts. Every day her hair looked different, no two stylings appearing within the same two week period. I think I fell in love with at least three really nice pairs of thigh-high leather boots.

    I really truly wish I could get myself a nice pencil skirt and thigh-high leather platform boots, a good corset, and some dress shirts that don’t look weird with the rest of it. I can’t afford that, but it’s something I dream of. I would absolutely love to make that my outfit one day a week while teaching. I enjoy the way I can use clothing to confound expectations about me, and I really love the way women’s clothing fits on me. But I also like the sharp simplicity of a nice suit and I don’t think I could ever toss that aside for the other.

    I’ve just kind of rambled on, but I hope I’m being coherent or at least consistent. I can’t even tell. I’d like to be able to mesh really nice suits with the comfort and beauty I find in my limited experience with wearing “women’s” clothing. I hope some day I can.

  142. 158

    With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery.

    Cut the last four words and I am on board. Male consultant here, and I am so sick of looking at the same gray suits all day I would rather get a banana costume than wear one myself. Luckily, I am not an employee, so I can get away with a lot more than most of the guys I meet, but I still do not really know what to do with that freedom. Sure, one can experiment with uncommon colors, cuts, even the occasional three-piece, but beyond that, there do not appear to be many choices for someone who is not a professional fashion designer.

    Maybe I will be reincarnated as a JRPG character, they really got that clothing thing figured out pretty well.

  143. 159

    I like the simplicity of menswear. I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about as many things as women seem to when choosing an outfit. However, I do wish there were slightly more options for men who want to have them.

  144. 160


    Great post! A coupla thoughts…

    The French Revolutionaries regarded high-formal, ceremonial “fancy” dress as signifying aristocratic exploitation, injustice, waste and degeneracy.

    Virtuous, patriotic French citizens, they decided, should not resemble spoiled princes, shiftless dukes and miscellaneous dandified palace fops.

    Their reaction was to adopt, both practically and ideologically, what I will call Utilitarian Minimalism in male clothing. Simple cuts. Durable fabrics. Fewer “layers.” Nothing baroque or delicate. Subdued tones. Radically-reduced facial makeup and jewelry for men – preferably none.

    Indeed, the Revolution actually featured a political faction known as “Sans Culottes” (without breeches), whose very name illustrated this cultural movement.

    (There was an equivalent diktat, mutatis mutandis, for women’s dress.)

    To a large extent, this endures. As pointed out above, even the standard male ‘dress’ suit makes as few concessions to style as possible. Even status-symbol versions, however terribly expensive or coveted from skilled tailors or designers, are rarely intended as statements of personal artistic expression. Most remain Utilitarian Minimalist uniforms of the political/business managerial class.

  145. 161

    I’ve never been one to like the conformity of menswear. I do admit that once when I was in elementary my Mom accidentally got me what we both thought was a button up boys shirt, but we threw it out after I got teased at school for wearing a blouse (how do kids that age know those things?)(also glad to see from comments that I wasn’t the only one with this experience). When I got to HS (an all boys Catholic school) I played along with the rules of dress code, but still loved having interesting patterns and colors that pushed the rules. I was often involved in costuming for the stage, so I sometimes got a pass to wear something interesting or do something that wasn’t in the dress code (yes to beard, no to shaved head).

    I like that currently I work in an environment that allows me to wear whatever pants I want and any of my current collection of colorful shirts, including a growing collection of Hawaiian shirts. When I need to dress up, I’ve not had anyone comment if I’m wearing pink or purple dress shirts and ties.

    I wish I could do more. I like interesting hats and costumes, but my head, neck and shoulders are too large for most interesting things I find. A lot of the more fashionably interesting pants these days are tight-fitting. I don’t like tights, especially around my legs. I’ve been wanting a kilt or two for a long time now, I’m going to take this discussion as a sign I should look again.

  146. 162

    Mostly I just make do with well fitted trousers (adding sport coats and ties as appropriate) accented by a selection from my large collection of Jhane Barnes shirts. The cuts are clean and simple but the fabrics are fabulous (of course that’s her whole thing). I have some of her suits too but don’t get much chance to wear them since I moved to California.

    Oh, and happily, the original 501s shrink to fit me perfectly.

    For shoes I find Cole Haan to be the perfect range of styles, quality and price.

    I agree that men should have more acceptable choices. There are a few south asian looks that I’d like to try and I want a top coat in the style of the Cossacks. If I had the budget I’d be all over that Prada stuff too.

  147. 163

    […] “Or, to put it more analytically: The range of socially acceptable clothing for men is far, far narrower than the range that’s available for women. As I said when I wrote my Fashion is a Feminist Issue piece: Fashion is one of the very few art forms/ languages/ forms of expression in which women have more freedom than men.” Fashion Friday: Menswear, and Some Thoughts About Gender Roles – Greta Christina’s Blog […]

  148. 164

    My favorite men’s fashion choices to prevent yarn-vomit: brightly colored accents on suit jackets, like terra cotta over-stitching on the buttonholes and matching pocket handkerchief; warm chocolate brown single-breasted suit with cool-toned grey shirt, bolo tie, matching grey snakeskin boots; pants with the cuffs rolled to show an accent color, ties, cufflinks, and socks in matching fandoms (i.e. bowtie and TARDIS cufflinks with blue socks).

    Straight men are allowed to have silky/satiny ties, but no other sensuous fabrics. Message: men are not sensuous, unless they’re gay. Women can have pantsuits in every color, men can only do so if they’re okay with being labeled pimps or hipsters. Message: menswear in colors announces a counter-cultural lifestyle. The patriarchy isn’t *just* boring, it is the source of boredom.

  149. MK

    Something I noticed while shopping with a male friend… not only do women have a wider range, but nice-looking clothing is a lot cheaper for women. A man needs to spend quite a lot to look good in a suit, whereas the clothes a woman can wear in the same context might be available for half the price.

    I think this is connected to that interesting intersection of class and sex whereby women of the lower classes are more socially aspirational than the men. Here in Australia, the lower-class/broadly-“aussie” accent is part of the masculine stereotype, the crocodile dundee thing, whereas linguistic surveys have found that the vast majority of lower-class women up-shift their accent towards the RP of the moneyed/political classes.

    I wouldn’t presume to untangle all the causes and effects involved here, but the upshot as relates to fashion is that a) women are expected to try to look classy and neat no matter what, whereas lower-class men are expected to look like slobs, hence why cheap menswear is inevitably stuff like sweatshirts and cargo pants, and b) women are expected to change up their style often, buying new clothes as they become fashionable, hence why cheap women’s clothing apes expensive women’s clothing in appearance but falls apart really quickly.

    Just some interesting stuff to think about re the ways capitalism impacts men and women.

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