The Men's Fashion Gap - What happened and how did we get here?

The Men's
Fashion Gap What happened and how did we get here?

In the past few decades, the fashion world has evolved radically with so many changes that have come to stay.

These changes have encouraged both men and women become more expressive with their dress; this is the reason why it is no longer rare, however still uncommon in some parts of the world, to see men adorned in what would traditionally be seen as female or camp clothing.

This forces the social conservatives out there to ask: Is this socially acceptable? Is this the new “normal”? My personal answer to this would be, “I hope so!”. However, when it comes to men wearing, say, dresses or corsets or lace, the general consensus in society is “no”, yet when women wear clothes from the men’s department, no one bats an eyelid. This is where the stigma and denigration towards men’s clothing begins.

Slowly throughout the years, this stigmatisation has eaten so deep into society that men feel like they can no longer express themselves confidently through their dress at home, work or out and about without the fear of insultingly being labelled something that they are not.

History has shown that a lot of the clothes adorned by women today were originally being worn by men. Let’s take a look at a few of them;

  • Jeans: One of the most common pieces of clothing worn by women and men alike. History has shown that it was originally meant for men. In the past, miners, cowboys and other labourers wore jeans because the denim they were made from was meant for sturdy work due to its resilience. As with everything, jeans have evolved since then, and they now come in all colours and styles – they are no longer just for hard work. Some designers have dedicated themselves and their career to catering jeans for women, allowing them to feel confident and sexy in a well-made pair, cut perfectly for their body.
  • Heels: Surprised by this? Don’t be. Heels were originally meant for men. For example, Persian soldiers in the 16th century wore heels into battle because they made riding on horseback much easier. They also became a symbol of status and class by aristocrats. As fashion trends evolved, women adopted not only heels, but a large part of what was considered men’s clothing.

    The intellectual movement, known as the Enlightenment, came with the regard that education, and not privilege, should be emphasised and thus more practical fashion choices for the aristocracy became popular. This became known and The Great Male Renunciation – a term coined by psychoanalyst John Flügel – to denote the time when men relinquished their dazzling and refined forms of dress and left it to women’s fashion.
  • Shirts: Once again, believe it or not, shirts were initially meant for men until the 20th Century – although there was a closely related garment called a chemise that was worn as an undergarment beneath their dress, robe or gown. Now, women typically own many shirts, in all different styles and types, because they can be extremely versatile - they can be worn with almost all styles of pants such as trousers, jeans, shorts etc…
  • Jumpsuits: Even though women have adopted this piece of clothing, it was initially worn by men to work. Just like jeans, jumpsuits were generally regarded as work wear and made from durable fabrics. Nowadays, women rock jumpsuits in a tonne of styles, prints and fabrics.
  • Loafers: The highest class of slip on shoe. Originally for men, some styles have been adopted by women such as the penny loafer or casual tassel of its comfort and versatility.

Women, now, are accepted to freely wear any type of clothing they feel, and, to be honest, rightly so. Women have been stymied in their fashion for a lot of history. When the Great Male Renunciation hit, men left all of their bright dazzling fashions for more conservative clothes and gave their fashion to women like a hand-me-down. Men have dominated fashion throughout history and women have been told what to wear – the great “Politics of Pockets” debate also continues.

It seems like men’s fashion has never recovered from the Enlightenment movement. Stuck in suits for formal wear, flat shoes for any occasion, and as long as each of your legs go into two separate tubes of fabric, then all is right with world.

We are in a time where equality of the sexes is one of the hottest topics in society. The gender pay gap is at the top of these issues, and I, as a man, cannot fathom why on Earth a female worker would be paid less than me to do exactly what I do. There is definitely gaps on every side of the gender spectrum, though, and it’s time we started to fight what I’m coining as the “Men’s Fashion Gap”.

Men must be allowed to express themselves and who they are in society - in any way they deem fit in order to bring out the best in them. We can’t simply continue to denigrate and pillory men because they want to wear something out of the “norm”. There are so many reasons why men want to choose to wear, for example, lingerie and the society needs to accept them for who they are.