Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Boys in Dresses: Ignoring Labels

In the previous Boys in Dresses post (which you can check out here) I outlined some of the different outlooks when it comes to men wearing clothing from the women's department. I talked about the spectrum, as I see it, of "fashion freestylers" that ranges from men in kilts all the way to androgynous boys. Within the online community, there seems to be a lot of separation and even animosity between these different outlooks, which I find unfortunate. A lot of the online forums for men in skirts tend towards the kilt side of the spectrum, often not wanting much to do with men who step too far out of a traditional masculine look.

Another topic I spoke about in the previous Boys in Dresses post was the "One item rule", that a man should only wear one item of women's clothing at any given time. I often see people say things like, "Let's get people to accept us wearing skirts first, then we can incorporate something else." I think the general idea is that a man wearing a skirt, tights, and heels openly as a man presents a very jarring shock to people's preconceived notions on fashion, whereas a man who has just replaced his dockers with a skirt is a lot less jarring, and thus may be more easily accepted. I reject this way of thinking based on one reason: I'm not waiting around for anyone's approval on how I want to dress.

Social perception defines what is viewed as masculine or feminine, and men are expected to stay within the masculine box. However, I think it is silly, and even outdated, to cling to such preconceived notions. At the end of the day, a dress is just a piece of fabric, cut and sewn into a particular shape. I just don't understand the need to put a gender label on that piece of fabric, to say that only girls can wear it. I'm going to beat a dead horse a bit here, but I have to bring up the elephant in the room: pants. It wasn't that long ago that people got in an uproar about women wearing pants. See, previously fabric made into pants had that pesky "for boys only" label on it, until women challenged that and took to wearing them.

As I said above, I think it's silly to put all these restrictions and expectations on people based on gender. With my fashion, I'm less concerned about masculine and feminine, and more concerned with body shape, and how something looks. For example, I've received a lot of compliments on my legs. It just seems natural to me, then, to want to show them off. If my legs look great in a pair of sheer tights and high heels, why shouldn't I wear them? If my body looks good in a dress, why shouldn't I wear it? Because boys shouldn't wear that? Well, why not, and says who?

I just don't agree that men & women should only look a certain way, that fashion choices have already been made for me based on what's between my legs. Don't get me wrong though, I am a man and I'm happy about that, I just happen to be a man wearing a dress. It's just fabric, garments chosen because I like the way they look and feel.  The fabric on my body doesn't change the person I am nor does it dictate my sexual preferences. I ignore the gender labels on clothing, because I simply cannot imagine living my life as anything other than myself, unashamedly so.


  1. I read an article about this. Actually, it was about a new wave of men's fashion entering the spotlight, some of which were actually flaunted by actual men celebrities. One included a "murse" carried by Terrence Howard. If I can find that "article" I'll link you to it.
    But it seems we're getting somewhere, but in the most guy-ish-perceived way possible. Know what I mean? For example, what you don and the footwear I don would be labeled a "mirt" and "meels" now.

    Point being: we're getting recognition, but only in the eyes of fashion. But! It's a move forward, if anything.

    Check my Lookbook. There's a guy I'm following that sported a couple of unique looks and twists to his own wardrobe, packed with heels nonetheless~

  2. I've seen the article of which you speak. I found it interesting, though to be honest I hate all the garment renaming shenanigans, as it just comes off a bit mocking I feel. I can agree though that the recognition is mostly positive.

    From my viewpoint, I'd just like to see some of the gender stereotypes removed from men's fashion. I think a lot of the trends (in fabric & color choices) in menswear are dreadfully boring, so I worry that any menswear dresses, skirts, heels, ect would also be just as boring. I'm less concerned with an outfit looking masculine or feminine than it just plain looking good, if that makes any sense at all?

  3. I find that stockings are more comfy even though it means wearing a garter belt. I had a dozen pr. of panty hose from JMS. I found cutting the legs off and using them as stockings works very well, no runs and for six plus they are longer than most nylons offered.

  4. This kind of thing makes me want to open a clothing store where everything's sized by inches and sorted by type of garment rather than by genders (and none of that "plus size" crap), with handy conversion charts for those who only know how to shop by mens or womens standard sizing.

    *sigh* a girl can dream!

  5. I want to make a comment to the one-item rule. I recognise it since i have used it for a long time myself, but i dumped it when i eventually realized that the rule is based on wrong assumptions.

    As you mention the general idea behind the one-item rule is that wearing MORE female clothes as a man is MORE shocking to the audience. Surprisingly enough this isn't true.

    When you wear MORE female clothes other people will actually find this LESS shocking. The reason behind this is quite simple: You look more like a woman, so it's closer to the stereotypes they already know and which have grown up with, and which are so familliar to them. It is therefore easier for the audience to accept you because it makes you look closer to something they know; a woman. The downside is that they won't see you as a real man anymore. But hey, do you think this is any different for the one-item rule users? You are different either way.

    Skirt-wearing men who endorse the one-item rule are really harder to accept for the audience, because the look does not resemble anything they know. You don't look like a man, since men do generally not wear skirts, but you also don't look like a woman either. So what do you look like, then? They will probably put you in the category 'crossdresser' or 'transvestite', which is mostly not really a comliment. Furthermore the one-item rule usually doesn't exactly grant a fashionable look, which doesn't really help either. It actually makes things much, much worse.

    So: The one-item rule makes acceptance by the audience not any easier; on the contrary. It actually makes it harder. The more you look like a girl and the better and fashionable you look, the easier the acceptance by the audience will be.

    So why do they endorse the one-item rule?
    The real reason for the skirt-wearing men to use the one-item rule is because it makes acceptance easier for THEMSELVES. Because to them wearing female clothing conflicts with their own values. They can't really accept their desire to wear female clothing, so they reason it away by rationalizing it.

    The more they look like a girl, the more it conflicts with their own values, so the more shocking it is for them to look like that. So they try to maintain the manly look as much as possible, in order to minimize their internal conflict. It makes them feel better.

    So the real reason behind the one-item rule is that it fullfills the sole purpose of justifying the skirt-wearing for the skirt-wearing men themselves.

    The moment i realised this was the moment when i abandoned the rule. Since then i have experienced that people generally react much better to your appearance when you dress better and more feminine and fashionable. The better you look, the better the reactions.
    In the end it's all about what people find attractive to look at, and how easy it is for them to put you into one of the existing categories.

    Keep rockin!