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It’s not always easy to be a woman. Millions of my sisters in the US marched in January after the inauguration of President Donald Trump for that reason, as well as to remind the leadership that, yeah, it’s tough, but we’re up for the challenge. We demanded equal pay, respectful treatment and affordable healthcare then and now.
I’ve always held onto one secret blessing that comes with being a woman. It might sound silly, especially after all of the difficulties I’ve just mentioned; nonetheless, I love that being a woman gives me the freedom to express myself through my style.
I can reflect how I feel through my hair and fashion choices. On a brain’s-not-there morning, I slip into an all-black ensemble, maybe adding a pair of bright, fun flats if I need a little mood booster. I love experimenting with the trends each season, even if it means I look back on photos and cringe. I have a faux fur coat and I whip that out on occasions when I need to feel the most fabulous, whether or not a poofy, luxurious jacket is in style at the time.
I have fun with my hair, too. I’ve colored and cut it more times than I can count. I’ve tried different styles, too, from loose chignons and fishtail braids to braided pigtails and top knots. I can accessorize my hair on a daily basis with clips, pins, flowers… the list goes on.
When I look at the men around me, it doesn’t seem as if they’re having quite as much fun as I am. And, it seems as though men who do go out on a limb get lambasted by the sartorial world, as well as by the rest of us everyday people.
The latest example of this comes with the rise of the “RompHim.” Women have always had the pleasure of wearing one-piece, jumpsuit-like outfits known as rompers. They’re like dresses with shorts, and they’re great for a spring or summer’s day when a dress might be too unstructured for comfort (read: we need shorts to separate our sweaty legs).
So, a pioneering fashion label called RompHim decided to make this dream-come-true a reality for men, too. They started raising money, and the Internet lost its collective mind. At first, people assumed it was a joke, but the brand’s creators were very serious about their intentions. They wanted to provide men with exactly the comfort women enjoy while wearing rompers without pigeon-holing them into a too-preppy, too-high fashion or too-plain style.
Instead, the public thought it was ridiculous and too feminine for a man to slip into a romper-style outfit. A simple pitch for a new product led to a conversation about how a man’s masculinity – and what society as a whole expects from men – can be defined by what he wears.
Who knew men’s wardrobes were so linked to the core of their masculinity? Think about it, though – how often do you see men branching out? Even in Hollywood, where people take red carpet risks, men’s choices are predictable – women don brightly colored gowns, sequined mini dresses, structured pant suits and even crazy, Lady Gaga-style frocks. Their male counterparts walk down the red carpets in well-tailored suits. That’s really it.
There are occasional examples of men taking risks, and they usually receive just as much backlash as the RompHim did. A simple Google search for “Pharrell’s Hat” will bring up countless pictures and articles written about the singer and producer’s choice to wear an extra-large brown leather hat on the Grammy’s red carpet. What’s even crazier is this happened three years ago, and yet it’s fresh in my mind because it was received so poorly by the Fashion Police-type pundits.
Closer to home, we can still find the occasional tongue-in-cheek joke about how real men wear pink as if a man has to be super macho to wear a particular shade or else his entire masculine existence will be shattered by a salmon-colored polo or pair of shorts. This isn’t productive at all – it only discourages men from exploring the more traditionally feminine aspects of themselves the way women are allowed and encouraged to.
I love fashion because it allows me to express myself, but it also makes me feel good about myself to try something new and unexpected and knock it out of the park. Experts believe that your wardrobe reflects your mood, confidence and health. How would your confidence fare if the world didn’t think you should be have the freedom to express yourself? I’m sure lots of once-daring, fashionable men went through this same set of questioning when trying on something out-of-the-box.
At the end of the day, society’s assumed gender fashion roles tie back to sexist stereotypes on both sides. Women are generally expected to look feminine and put together, while men are assumed to be more “chill” with their look because they’re not supposed to care. Otherwise, they’re assumed to be less masculine. Surely it’s true that many guys inherently probably don’t care about fashion at all. However, if these societally constructed ways of thinking hadn’t been ingrained into our minds, would they? We may never know.
Either way, those men who do want to enjoy fashion shouldn’t be criticized for it. The more we continue to enforce outdated masculinity stereotypes, the more we are contributing to divisiveness and even danger, since we know that overhyped masculinity is tied in with violence. You may think, “It’s just fashion, it’s not that serious,” but the bigger picture really is that serious.
That’s why we should work toward making fashion a more inclusive world for both men and women. And, for one of the first times, we as women have the upper hand to make the opposite sex feel equal within what’s considered our department. So, if you see a guy wearing pink, or a romper, or a gigantic leather hat, or anything in between, don’t scoff – commend him on breaking the mold, tell him he looks great and build that confidence. Fashion should be fun, after all.