“A Handbag!” was Lady Bracknell’s appalled response to discovering that her daughter’s suitor had been adopted after being discovered abandoned in a handbag at Victoria Station. Naturally Lady Bracknell’s horror in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of being Ernest concerned the nature of Ernest’s origins. Today she would likely have a similar response to young men’s fashion choices which may well include a handbag.
Women Wearing the Trousers
The last century saw an ever increasing trend for female attire to encroach on traditional male territory. Until then men had always worn the trousers but once women started wearing them there was no stopping the march towards more androgynous looks. Women adopted trousers, trouser suits and jeans. Of course these were initially styles that featured feminine cuts but eventually even those went out the window when boyfriend jeans became all the rage.
The Men Fight Back
For a long time any form of retaliatory action by the men was distinctly absent. There is definitely something in the male psyche which is resistant to feminisation. Women on the other hand have never appeared to have a problem with adopting a more masculine approach. It was OK for women to wear the trousers or the shirts as this was simply some kind of evolution. Men wearing skirts was another matter altogether.
Men in Skirts
Many people may have though that they would never see the day when men crossed the line so to speak but that day is coming and in many ways has already arrived. After all, is there any reason why trousers should be considered intrinsically male and skirts essentially female? Surely these things are purely a matter of how fashions evolved and nothing to do with the nature of masculinity. Clothes are, or at least should be, more about how we wear them or perhaps who is wearing them. I suppose kilts are the obvious subject to mention here. Kilts are basically skirts and yet nobody has ever seemed to think that they are feminine.
Whatever the truth of all this, there is no doubt that the tide has changed. Men now carry bags and wear super skinny jeans. We are even seeing the appearance of meggings (male leggings). Many of the most successful brands in recent times are ones which have adopted unisex styling. Top designers are mixing men and women on the catwalk and now Selfridges have announced a revamp of their Oxford Street store which will see the gender divide removed from the fashion floors.
Gender is becoming less of a factor in fashion and those with their fingers on the pulse are reacting quickly to what is a rapidly changing world. Men in dresses may be a little way off, at least in the mainstream, but unisex fashion is where it is at and there is probably no going back. Boyfriend jeans, girlfriend jeans, men wearing girl’s jeans, man bags, denim shirts and the lumberjack look are all symptoms of a move towards gender free fashion and it will be interesting to see what comes next.
Article by Sally Stacey