Lately I’ve been wondering something about myself. Am I the only woman not trying to specifically present as masculine that looks to menswear for style guidance?
It’s true that I have a tomboy streak that has never gone away. I still like picking up frogs when I find them, most insects fascinate me (as long as they’re not swarming…I can’t stomach a swarm), I like to clamber up a good ocean-side boulder, and I’ve never gotten into nail care or other stereotypical feminine activities. But still, I’ll go with a well-placed ruffle on a silk blouse every now and again and I’m way into endlessly collecting fall jackets that evoke a variety of womenswear eras.
I have to say, though, I look at and read menswear magazines and blogs more than those for women. There’s something so appealing about the ways in which menswear uses a solid, classic foundation to depart from, and alter with, contemporary innovations and cultural shifts.
Maybe a little ironically, given social and gender assumptions, menswear reflects a much broader spectrum of masculinity than womenswear does for femininity. Menswear magazines alone boast styles that range from the fey aesthete, to the cultured European businessman, to the urban mariner, to the mid-Century gentleman, to something akin to the put-together “every man.” And don’t get me started on menswear blogs! Thomas McBee’s and Adam Boehmer’s posts here on IBC last week were two great examples, but there’s also Sartorially Inclined, Highsnobiety, and Swipelife (which isn’t specifically menswear, but they feature some great menswear lines and tips), just to name a few.
Point being, I thought I’d take this opportunity to encourage some of you female people to check out menswear sources to riff off of, to cite some examples of how menswear styles can translate, and to implore more menswear designers to make some xxXs pieces that might work in a more unisex way. LIKE BASIC WOOL FISHERMAN SWEATERS. Ahem.
Off we go…
As Thomas pointed out when he cited these guys in a previous post, these two dudes are obviously crushing it. They’re somehow managing to straddle the worlds of dandy-ish business aesthete, classic James Dean cool, rugged fisherman/poet, and Swiss yodeler-with-striped-socks. This is exactly the look I like to try to translate to outfits for a pleasant walk about on a Sunday afternoon.
Fortunately, this girl already figured it out.
In my mind, those two dudes and this lady run into each other by some antiquarian books lying at their feet on a cobblestone sidewalk and decide to form an alliance of well-dressed people who drink espresso and lead by example.
That girl made me think of something else that always bugs me. The problem of handbags. What’s the deal with handbags? They’re so ugly so much of the time. Even the ones that everyone says are supposed to be the best. They’re not the best. They look like leather diapers that are overfilled with things you don’t want to think about. I don’t need to cart around a leather diaper with little designs all over it. Gross. Even that little bag that girl up there has. It looks like if a marshmallow had sex with a diaper. What a disgusting love child. That bag is a prom night dumpster baby if I’ve ever seen one. Which I haven’t.
Guys seem to have a variety of bag options ranging from over the shoulder leather satchels like this:
To NICE backpacks like this wool Bill Amberg bag:
So instead of handbags that look like all the other dumpster babies, I look for bags that look more like the cool stuff guys get. Like this:
A large part of the draw of menswear is the return in recent years to a variety of “classic” vantage points. Sturdy, single source fabrics, the incorporation of both a rugged outdoors look AND a more sophisticated “I have a fully-stocked wet bar” look, and a resurgence of old school grooming techniques. It’s all very tactile and grounded feeling. There’s something so comforting about the idea of a classic barbershop that serves scotches on the rocks. Or of wool suits and silk socks.
While there’s an issue with the bizarre quilted skirt and floppy hat, overall that Beams girl is looking pretty ready to sit in front of a fireplace with a warming brown liquor.
Wool jacket! Pocket square!
Menswear is also fun to mess around with because when you’re not a guy and you’re not presenting as particularly masculine, incorporating elements of guy style can create a really fun, unexpected look that sets you apart from the sea of lady snore-fests out there. Barbara Stanwyck knew that.
So does this cute little person:
This scenario has been playing out in menswear for some years now: the whole no socks/leather shoes/rolled trousers thing. I hated this on guys at first. Maybe it’s because I don’t know many men who take care of their feet and so I assumed that, without the protection of socks, there was a mess going on inside the leather. I like it better now.
But I like it best when women do it.
I don’t know why menswear sources overall seem to be more inspirational than womenswear sources. Unlike most womenswear junk, they’re full of suggestions, rather than orders. I like all the tips and tricks that mens magazines dole out and the ways in which products seem to be incorporated as elements of a whole lifestyle that smacks of ease and simple luxury. What the hell am I supposed to do with the likes of this:
Heading: “Slave to Fashion”
It’s really unfortunate for her that fashion seems to be a super ugly, boring slave master. Additionally, can we STOP calling people slaves to things already? It feels so weird. We don’t say “Oh yeah, she’s concentration camper to fashion.” Or “She’s such an indentured servant to eclairs.” I mean, right? Anyway.
Incorrect. Jesus. INCORRECT.
Anyway, in conclusion, I am such a mail order bride to menswear ideas, it’s ridiculous.
Next week: the country’s rapidly going down the shitter! Let’s look to ’70s punk rock for how to dress for the coming class war.