Women’s fashion is amazing. It’s engineering in action. There was a really amazing Twitter thread which went into everything that goes into the tailoring and construction of women’s fashion, and the level of thought and detail that goes into their clothes.
You can read the thread here, and it is genuinely one of the most interesting things I’ve read.
I’ve long admired the variety in women’s fashion, compared to what you get with men’s*. For a start, look at the colour palate that women have compared with men — go to a club on a Friday night, and you’ll see women wearing all sorts of colours, and then look at the men, who are very likely wearing a combination of black, white, navy blue, or bottle green. Maybe one of them will be feeling a bit lively and be seen wearing something striped. If you go shopping for trainers, men have started getting some brilliantly colourful options, but they’re few and far between in amongst the racks of black, white, and blue. Turn your head to the women’s trainers, and they’ve got pastels, tropical options, as well as the more practical footwear that you don’t have to worry about around rain puddles.
Of course, there’s exceptions, but men don’t tend to wear bold prints and colours in the same way that women do.
Away from colours, it occurred to me that the shape and cut of men’s clothes are pretty much uniform. You’ll see women in trousers, shorts, jumpsuits, short skirts, long skirts, dresses, wraps, stuff that shows their shoulders off, high necked items, things that display their backs, clothes that give them cleavage, things with a slit up the side to show their leg, coupled with a variety of necklaces, ear-rings, things to adorn their hair, make-up (and the seemingly infinite possibilities with that), heels, flat shoes, ballet pumps, strappy things, trainers, cardigans that match their handbags or clutches, suits, dungarees… and I’ll stop now, because you get the picture.
Faced with all these possibilities, men’s fashion basically breaks down to this:
- Necklines: V-neck or crew neck
- Full length trousers or some shorts
- Sleeves that finish at the wrist, or that finish above the elbow.
- Shoes or trainers that almost certainly cover the foot
- Suit and tie.
- Maybe a ring or a posh watch.
Look in a man’s wardrobe, and it’ll basically be the same cut of clothing over and over in different colours. Shirts, t-shirts, jumpers, shorts, and jumpers. They won’t have interesting cut-outs to show off a man’s midriff, shoulders, or back. The options are, basically, ‘how tight or baggy do you want it?’
Okay, that’s a bit lazy — looking at men’s fashion, it pretty much sits in the same four spaces — ‘military’, ‘sports’, ‘tailored’, and ‘sofa’. You’re not going to find interesting silhouettes — something as simple as the width of a man’s trouser is enough to turn men’s fashion on its head.
It isn’t surprising really, given a lot of men’s views on fashion. Most blokes think the fanciest you can be is to dress like James Bond, rather than someone like Young Thug.
And a lot of men will no doubt be reluctant to try anything new, given that the response to Lil Uzi Vert’s fashion choices was, at best confused, and at its worst, homophobic. Even though it happened as long ago as 1998, David Beckham is still required to defend the fact he wore a sarong once.
As an aside, shout out to David Beckham who, when asked about it recently, said: “Sarongs are great. That’s one thing I never regret because I thought it looked great and I would still wear it now.”
Of course, we have to acknowledge that women’s fashion comes with its own price — many women feel pressured to look a certain way or maintain a standard that’s frankly a pain in the arse for them (there might be a spanx joke in there but I can’t be bothered formulating it). There’s a lot of complex social issues around fashion, which frankly I’m not smart enough to pick apart, which is why I’m sticking to the simple concept of it all, and the options afforded to people who want to dress themselves.
The fact is, at every layer, women’s clothing is superior to men’s. I’ve spoken about this countless times in the pub or wherever, but think about underwear choices — women can go comfortable, or wear something jazzy to make themselves feel fancy, or show-off to their partner — fancy bras, lacy knickers, comfy period pants, socks, tights, stockings, suspenders, garters, bodies, those bras that look really fancy and are strappy across the chest, corsets, see-through things, things that match, push-up bras, strapless bras… things that are designed for comfort (let’s not get into the pain of finding a bra that fits properly just now)… and things that, should you drop your robe, let’s your partner know what time it is. The amount of choice when it comes to the cut of your undercrackers alone, puts men’s to shame.
Men: Socks, briefs, boxer shorts, vests, and that’s yer lot.
Again, it isn’t surprising when you think of the reaction to anything that falls outside the very strict bracket that exists — men in thongs are creeps, they are dodgy if they wear speedos, and remember everyone’s horror when those underpants were released that are best described as ‘strapless’? NSFWish, but have a look if you need to refresh your memory.
To my mind, when men’s fashion dares to do something new, it gets mocked (by both men and women — this is not a slight at any one group). The last time men wore bold prints and the like, was the 1970s, regarded as the ‘time fashion forgot’ (which I disagree with). When Emo happened, you’d see young men with Dragonball Z haircuts, make-up, fluorescent fishnet gloves on, and straps, buckles, and more.
Both groups are still pretty much roundly laughed at.
More recently, the Afropunk movement has embraced bolder looks, with hair dyed pastel colours and floral prints mixed with loudly coloured Chuck Taylor’s, or whatever.
In mainstream fashion, by and large, it’s a pretty drab affair compared to women’s, with men dressed head-to-toe in grey, admiring someone like David Bowie for looking like he came from space. Look at the love Prince still gets, and you can see that there’s an appetite for mixing things up, if only men were braver in their purchases.
It seems that, when it comes to men’s clothes, we don’t have that fun sweet-spot that women’s fashion so frequently hits. Naturally, there are men knocking around who are considered well-dressed and stylish, but it’s variations on a pretty strict theme. A well-dressed man usually means ‘wears suits quite often’.
Is it because men feel like they’d be dismissed as being disastrously wacky or camp? Is it because so many guys don’t have that will to play dress-up and change their looks from week-to-week for the hell of it?
I don’t know the answer because I’m just musing here, but it’d be nice if, in the coming years, this situation changed and men, and men’s fashion, started taking cues from the world of women’s fashion.
[*Throughout this piece, I assume you knew what I’m getting at, when I say ‘men’s fashion’ and ‘women’s fashion’. I’m fully aware that you can wear whatever you want and forget about gender-labels and all that.]