The boys in their summer dresses

It seemed pretty unlikely that when Irwin Shaw wrote “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses,” his classic hymn to “a million wonderful women, all over town,” drifting along the sidewalk as warm breezes shot through. on their hemlines, he could have imagined a day when these “girls” would also probably be men. As sexist and dated as Shaw’s heavily anthologized 1939 story may be, it exposed truths about urban existence and the unadulterated joy of watching.

These pleasures, widely held back over the past 16 months, are back as we venture out of our caves. To the delighted surprise of at least one observer, a considerable number of us apparently used the confinement time to rethink some schiboleths about who should wear what.

Khoa Sinclair, for example, treated the lockdown as a period of experimentation, a chance to push a style already liberated from rigid binary conventions into the realm of “next-level femininity.”

So there was Mx. Sinclair, 26, on a recent hot afternoon strolling through Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, her smooth forelock wrapped in an anime flip, inked arms protruding from the sleeves of a curvy pleated Issey Miyake gown.

“For a very long time, people were so stuck one way or the other,” Mx said. Sinclair said, referring to the decrease in sexist dress codes. “Homosexuals have been playing with this for a long time. But now you see a lot of guys in dresses that don’t identify as so feminine.

You see hip-hop eminence and taste designer ASAP Rocky wearing a Vivienne Westwood kilt on the cover of the latest GQ. You see Madonna’s 15-year-old footballer son David Banda slipping down a long hallway in a viral video as he is dressed in a white silk Mae Couture number that he says is ‘so liberating’ .

You see a wave of male teachers in Spain coming to school wearing skirts to support a student kicked out of class and forced to seek advice after wearing one. You see Lil Nas X on “The Tonight Show” in a long tartan skirt – a manly symbol in Scotland, but in a few other places – and Bad Bunny at the Grammys in a Burberry coat worn over a classic black tunic Riccardo Tisci looking like to a nun habit.

You observe, on a recent balmy afternoon in Washington Square Park, guys dressed in various ways in ragged dresses reminiscent of Kurt Cobain’s cover of “The Face” in 1993; a Britney Spears checkered mini schoolgirl; and a cap sleeve blouse and skirt set, also by Issey Miyake, accessorized with black ankle socks and lugged patent leather shoes.

“I started out wearing feminine tops, then feminine bottoms,” said Robert Saludares, 24, a beautician who grew up picking coffee beans on a farm in Hawaii, of his Miyake outfit. “Now, honestly, I just shopped in the women’s department. “

If the streets are the ultimate testing ground for societal change, they do not always lend themselves to easy statistical measurement. For that there is the internet. Searches for fashion items that include gender keywords have increased 33% since the start of the year on Lyst, a global fashion platform that aggregates data from 17,000 brands and retailers. Pageviews for feather boas increased 1,500% after Harry Styles wore one to the 2021 Grammys. Within 24 hours of Kid Cudi’s April appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in a dress Off-White summer, the brand’s website saw a 21% increase in searches for similar items.

“When we started to see a lot more male celebrities wearing skirts, we said, ‘Let’s try to do a skirt modification in the men’s section of our app,’ said Bridget Mills-Powell, Content Manager for Lyst, by phone from London. “We didn’t think it would work as well, but then we got a very high commitment, higher than our other lists.” Reposted on Instagram with an image of Lil Nas X, the fitting of the Lyst skirt “exploded,” she said.

It has been nearly two decades since Andrew Bolton, the Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, mounted a visionary exhibition called “Brave Hearts: Men in Skirts”. And, while cultural anthropologists like Mr. Bolton have been early in detecting the types of cultural change that often appear first in fashion, even he may not have foreseen a moment when two male figures of a Emmy-winning series would get married on air. with one of them wearing a skirt, as David Rose (Daniel Levy) and Patrick Brewer (Noah Reid) did on “Schitt’s Creek” in 2018. (Coincidentally, the skirt was by Thom Browne, a pioneer of post-genre dressing, and also Mr. Bolton’s boyfriend.)

Somehow, in the years since the 2003 Met show, our eyes have adapted to images that may have shocked us, like that of British comedian Eddie Izzard – a Longtime transvestite (who started using pronouns ‘she / she’ last year) who once remarked on a UK talk show that there was nothing inherently feminine about her outfits: ” These are not women’s clothing ”, Mx. said Izzard, in what is perhaps his most famous statement. “These are my clothes. I bought them. “

In a video posted to promote the June issue of GQ, hip-hop artist ASAP Rocky also takes on stereotypes, talking about the pink furs, pink Loewe suits and pink diamonds he often shows off on red carpets. and at the forefront of fashion. shows. “Being able to have that comfort by wearing something that is considered feminine,” he said, “it shows me masculinity. “

In addition, our clothes can no longer automatically be considered a ‘say’ for anything, as was the case in a repressive era when, say, locked up homosexuals were forced to report their sexuality to each other. through the kind of coded sartorial gestures that gave rise to insults like “sparkling like Dick’s hat”.

“We’re thinking about it all,” said Will Welch, editor-in-chief of GQ. “A guy in Allbirds and a hoodie could be a billionaire. So you can no longer make assumptions ”, especially on the sexual orientation of“ these children of Washington Square Park in dresses ”.

For 30-something fashion stylist Mickey Freeman, who avoided pants for about six years, a kilt is a tool to flout societal restrictions on what constitutes black male identity. “Most people have an internal guideline on how clothes play into a man’s masculinity,” Freeman wrote in an email. Guys looking to loosen the “internal chains” of the genre presentation can benefit from a try to wear a garment created without two legs and a zipper.

And for Eugene Rabkin, 44, a fashion journalist who posted a story last year on StyleZeitgeist, his popular online magazine, titled “How I Ceased Worrying and Learned to Love Clothes for women ”, this process was rooted in comfort and aesthetics, not in discovering gender. . (As, indeed, is in much of the non-Western world, where men are as likely to be seen in tunics, dhotis, or lungis as they are in trousers.) When Mr. Rabkin, who conspicuously identifies As a cisgender and heterosexual, bought her first “woman” item of clothing in 2003, her uncontroversial selection was a pair of Ann Demeulemeester combat boots that Nicole Kidman wore in the September issue of Vogue.

“There’s nothing particularly feminine about them to me,” Mr Rabkin wrote, referring to the skirts, tunics and other clothing he has since acquired in the womenswear collections from designers like Rick Owens, Raf Simons and Jun. Takahashi. “What I do when I shop for women’s clothing is not a transgressive act of rebellion against conservative societal norms.”

While shopping with his wife for basics at Uniqlo, Mr Rabkin once found himself in a dressing room adjusting the waistband of a quilted skirt she had tried unsuccessfully and then suggested. would suit him better. It made.

Another option, perhaps too little appreciated, is the idea of ​​treating clothing as an occasion to play. Three years ago, when Brendan Dunlap, 24, was a student at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., He began to question the sometimes arbitrary binary division of apparel departments. “A lot of gender rules just don’t make sense to me,” said Mr. Dunlap, a substitute teacher in San Francisco. “If I like the expression of myself, how is the whole world of clothing and women’s fashion not available to me as a man?”

From a screening of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” which he attended in a blue wig and high heels, Mr. Dunlap embarked on what he called a “slow and steady journey” from of what was at first a waterfall and which later became a joyful daily practice.

“I dress completely for fun now,” said Mr. Dunlap, who identifies as a queer man and serves as a true standard-bearer for gender fluidity as part of the “All Pronouns” pride campaign. This year’s Levi’s All Love.

“It was a true hack of life to find out that we can make our own rules,” said Dunlap, noting that the freedoms he enjoys may not be available to everyone. “I have a certain bodily privilege as a tall, slender white man who is conventionally attractive.”

Still, there’s something refreshing about a cultural pivot point that allows someone like Mr. Dunlap to wear jeans and sneakers when the mood strikes or, “wear the hottest mini. short that I have and the highest heels to go out to the grocery store. “

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