Male fashion is feminized by society

Illustration by Blake Fernandez

Fashion isn’t just for women, men can be just as bold and stylish. However, that doesn't mean every male can do this without feeling self-conscious because of society's views on what is deemed a masculine or feminine trait.

Fashion is more than just clothes that cover your body — it’s a projection of confidence. Confidence coming from wearing a statement piece can make a person feel more interesting, creative and strong. That's what fashion is about. Self confidence and expression, regardless of gender.

Fashion gives the wearer the chance to visually express who they are and what they are about.

For instance, a first-day-of-school outfit makes a person excited to show off to their friends and classmates their ideal outfit. This freedom of expression brings confidence and pleasure to the wearer when they are recognized for looking good on a particular day. For people who have this passion, every day feels like they are wearing an outfit that shows off and displays their personality.

Men who try and express their sense of style often aren't taken as seriously as they should be. Society tends to view male interest in fashion as feminine or unmanly. This stereotype and gender restriction diminishes the confidence they were seeking by forcing them to conform to what is expected for men's fashion.

Because men feel marginalized by society, they often feel conflicted about wearing colorful and striking patterns. Some of these self-conscious feelings come from microaggressions that are nonverbal: puzzled stares or eye rolls are common when out in public. Other roots of insecurity come from people's reactions with their friends. For example, when a group takes notice of a certain fit a pair of pants has on the body and starts negatively talking with their peers about the person's choice of outfit.

All of these judgments hurt and can make a person feel like an outsider who isn't allowed to properly express themselves as who they are without feeling ashamed, simply because they are not a woman.

From a societal standpoint, men typically use the same color pallet for dressing themselves, such as black or white t-shirt, dark-colored pants and dark-colored shoes.

Why do men have to be limited to the dreary fabrics and materials when there is a world of vibrant possibilities on the market.

People used to think that men don’t shop for the purpose of finding fashionable clothes. When they shop, it’s for the purpose of functionality such as cargo shorts, a polo shirt and comfortable shoes. I believe that this causes the stereotype that fashion-conscious men are likely to be labeled as gay, which is a homophobic stereotype that society has placed in people's minds that to be a gay male, one probably dresses feminine. These binary perceptions of gender are extremely closed-minded.

The idea that a man can have an interest in clothes that are predominantly associated with women, and still identify as straight, is hard for many to understand. These old gender norms are outdated and belong firmly in the past.

I think this notion of dressing standards is being challenged today, thanks to fashion-forward celebrities who help normalize the idea that men can also be consumers of designer clothes.

Public figures like A$AP Rocky and Tyler the Creator have pushed the boundaries of what men can wear. For example, Rocky is known for his creative take on merging the styles of streetwear and high fashion. His loyalty to high fashion brands like Dior, Raf Simons and Calvin Klein proves the validity of his passion. As well as being a rapper, he is a model for these brands, and frequently raps about what designer clothes he's wearing and accessorizing with.

Rocky has been seen recently wearing a headscarf known as a babushka that takes influence from Russian culture. Babushka is a term associated with older women in Russian society that tie a scarf around their head in a particular style.

In an interview with the fashion outlet W Magazine, Rocky acknowledges the jokes he received through social media for looking like a grandma. Even though he was ridiculed, he still encouraged people to wear a silk scarf, and even musician Frank Ocean took inspiration from his outfit by wearing one as well.

Arguably more of a fashion influencer, Tyler the Creator initially inspired younger-aged people across the world to buy the now notorious street-wear brand Supreme. Back in 2012, Tyler influenced a popular style of blending skating and streetwear and now has a cult-following of people wearing his own clothing brand, Golf Wang. His style now sees both men and women wear trendy clothes through his use of pastel colors, as well as designs of flowers and bees.

Men shouldn't conform to the societal views of what is acceptable to wear. Men should be able to confidently wear gender-challenging pieces like items in the color pink, having earrings and wearing fitted clothing, and not have their sexuality be challenged by harmful gender stereotypes.

In any circumstance, people shouldn't be judged for how they look or dress regardless of gender or sexuality. Clothes are a projection of who a person is and what they stand for. Discrimination for how a person looks isn't a joke and shouldn't be treated lightly.

As fashion moves forward and society evolves, people of all genders and ages should look to the example set by the fashionable celebrities of our day and get rid of the old-fashioned clothing expectations set by past generations.