“Girls can wear jeans
And cut their hair short
Wear shirts and boots
‘Cause it’s OK to be a boy
But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading”
-Madonna, What it feels like for a girl
Clothes: a practical necessity, but also a hugely significant factor in how we form and express our identity. For what feels like forever, people have had a lot to say about how women should look or dress, but what about men? When you think about it, there are huge restrictions on what is socially acceptable for men and boys to wear. Skirts and dresses are the main taboo. Personally, I find this oppressive, just imagine if women were no longer supposed to wear trousers! Here’s why we feel our expectations towards how people dress is unfair.
In terms of dressing, gender identity plays a significant role. It’s sad, but the indelible watermarks of tradition don’t let us get rid of the long-enforced gender stereotypes that most of us don’t even notice we conform to. For example, at a formal ‘black tie’ event, men are expected to wear suits (with trousers, goes without saying) and women dresses. There’s no two ways about it. Even outside of events like these, in the workplace or other formal events women rarely wear trousers – we both wear trouser suits daily and see very few others like us – and it’s pretty much unthinkable for men to wear skirts. It goes both ways.
The thing is, we’re all quite happily settled into these stereotypes and this has led to one repeated criticism of our belief in equal clothing rights. Just today somebody said that this blog is pointless, as men would simply look weird in skirts and quite frankly don’t have any interest in wearing them. Well, this is a very upsetting response in terms of society, but also very selfish on a personal level. It’s unfair to assume that just because you would never want to wear a skirt, no other man would or should. We merely believe in the freedom to be able to choose.
We mustn’t forget Ms Amelia Bloomer and her spectacular bloomers. The bicycle was just becoming popular and the voluminous skirts of the time were impractical, rendering women unable to ride them at all, just because of their clothing. When Ms Bloomer invented these, which still had the general shape of a full skirt, she was ridiculed though it was just for practicality’s sake. In many hot countries, especially parts of Asia and Africa, it is far more practical and comfortable to wear some variation of a skirt or robe. This is clearly seen in the native dress for both genders-loose and free clothing which keeps one cool in scorching heat is essential in such climates. I will swear by trousers and jeans for comfort and practicality any day but having been on holiday to India several times I must admit that they make for very hot legs which don’t breathe very well-this isn’t good, as overheating is a very real possibility in the wrong clothes.
If we can open up to the simple fact that certain types of clothing are suited to certain climates and certain activities, I’m sure general acceptance would follow. Besides, we think men can look pretty damn good in a skirt! In fact, I’ve noticed that for once, fashion is beginning to dash this particular stereotype. Designer Marc Jacobs has been seen wearing a skirt-kilt number as well as a fair few runway collections featuring some form of skirt for men, be it a kilt, a three-piece suit or in some cases what looks to me like a dress.
All in all, this is a topic that we talk about for a long time! But we’re not alone in feeling strongly about this issue, and there are examples of men who don’t conform and break from tradition. As Eddie Izzard said, “They’re not women’s clothes. They’re my clothes. I bought them.”
–The Cat and the Ace