Fashion is by nature a contentious beast. The only form of art in which everyone is obligated to participate, the corduroys and cottons we cover ourselves with give clues to those around us about who we are, and what sort of person we want to be. Some pretty unorthodox stuff occurs in every high fashion catwalk, but there are boundaries to be pushed even when it comes to mainstream casualwear. Just the other afternoon I purchased a routemaster red floral jumpsuit, with such a complex arrangement of straps and flaps it took nearly ten minutes in the changing room and a friend’s assistance to work out quite how to physically get it onto my body. It’s ridiculous. I look like I could be in a 70s glam rock band. Money well spent.
But I couldn’t help feeling, as I handed over my heard-earned student loan to the cheery girl behind the till, that something in the world of modern casualwear was amiss. Specifically in terms of the creative divide between a masculine and feminine wardrobe.
Now, I invite everybody out there to wear whatever makes them feel most comfortable, gender binary be damned. But there’s a pretty stark contrast between the limits of male and female oriented fashion: specifically, women’s fashion is given societal consent to be far more experimental and boundary pushing than that of our male counterparts. And I think that’s a real shame.
Just look at the recent Kickstarter attempting to fund the RompHim – if the name didn’t give it away, it’s a romper suit for men, not any sort of invitation. Harmless, right? Still with a typically masculine cut, with a turned-up collar, the shorts cut off at the mid-thigh, it was a man’s version of something women have been wearing for years. Not particularly an attempt to feminise men’s fashion, pastel hues and button prints be damned, but rather a way to expand the boundaries of what a men’s fashion item could be. Eye-catching, practical, easy to throw on in a pinch.
Esquire responded with the headline “The Bro Romper Exists and I Don’t Want to Live on This Planet Anymore”. So it’s safe to say it’s not been going down too well.
Women’s fashion allows for all sort of cuts, colours, and shapes: we’ve got jumpsuits, rompers, bralettes, dresses, leggings, crop tops, peplums, blouses, bikinis, tankinis, full-piece swimsuits, killer heels, infinite variations upon the skirt. Men’s fashion, in comparison, is distinctly lacking. T-shirt, button-up, jumper. A few distinctions amongst the humble trouser family. Maybe a vest if you’re feeling brave. There even feels like a degree of stigma surrounding men wearing shorts outside of the gym. Put your knees away, am I right lads?
That’s not to say that the way women dress on the daily isn’t policed in itself, but the limitations upon men’s fashion are disheartening. I’m not calling for men’s fashion to become more effete, although I’ll be honest I wouldn’t frown upon everyone in 24/7 drag. Rather, men’s fashion ought to expand its high-street horizons, retaining its masculine essence but pushing the same creative boundaries. Allow the RompHim. Give me Johnny Depp’s iconic sportswear crop top in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Remember when Kanye wore a skirt? That was an experience.
I’m saying this all as a rather feminine woman, who only wanders into the men’s section once in a blue moon, attempting to find an XL t-shirt I can pull off as a dress. But still. I just feel like men’s fashion ought to have a little more to chew on.