Gender norms — They tell us how to act, how we should look, how we should behave. They’re these expectations we place on each other. The worst part is that they’re embedded in us from the time we grow up, to the time we are off on our own.
One of my least favorite gender norms placed on men is the restrictions that they have as far as embracing fashion and investing time into their appearance. I’m talking about the scrutiny that young men experience for trying to break the boundaries to which they can dress without being labeled. I appreciate when men look different — the desire to wear something that catches peoples’ eyes, and makes them turn their heads.
One example of this that I think we may all be familiar with is Jaden Smith. When he recently wore a skirt in Louis Vuitton’s womenswear advertisement, it nearly broke the internet. This wasn’t the only instance where he was in the spotlight for his fashion choices — his appearance in Vogue last year seen with a flower behind his ear was all over social media.
Within the last year, we’ve seen a rise in crop tops being worn by men, particularly athletes. But by far the biggest toss-up in the entertainment and rap industry was when Young Thug released his album, JEFFERY, which featured him in a long purple gown. It completely challenged his identity and complicated the concept of “black masculinity.”
When I think about the trends that we see in fashion, like crop tops, dresses, skirts, pastel colored tees, super skinny jeans, short shorts, tunics, and purses, I can’t help but chuckle because these are all trends we’ve seen before. They were just in a different decade with a different set of people who embraced them. But now, just like at any other time in history, we live in an era where we are judged for the ways that we express ourselves through fashion.
I interviewed a friend of mine, Nile Harris, a senior Chemistry major who is the ultimate Tumblr boy, curl goals, and juice god. He is notorious for his style and effortless swagger. But I didn’t just interview him because of that sole reason. I interviewed him because not only is he fashionable, but he is going into a career where his interest in apparel and personal style wouldn’t typically be seen.
When I asked Nile how style has evolved for men, he also agreed that it has become much more experimental.
“I think before men have definitely been in this box of masculinity where it’s not “man” enough to wear certain colors, or certain fitting clothes, but I think that barrier has slowly but surely been eliminated as time has been passing,” Harris says.
When asked what specific trends he has seen in the media, or even on the average person, he said that one of the things he is noticing more and more of is men beginning to wear tighter fitting jeans.
“I remember back in middle school it was pretty much a social death sentence to wear skinny jeans, but now it’s like, if your jeans drag on the ground you can’t be trusted,” Harris says. “For myself, I definitely do own a few pair of skinny jeans, but I still enjoy not so fitted jeans, just to keep a variety.”
You could wallow and worry about what people will think, or you can embrace the idea of being different. This doesn’t require you to go out and buy a skirt, or sport a crop top for the next time you want to hit the gym, but it does challenge you to stop looking at style through a microscope.