HOW WILL THE CONVERSATION AROUND GENDER INFLUENCE MENS WEAR IN THE FUTURE?
As our understanding of gender and traditi on alg end er definiti ons become sev ermo ree lastic,stretch ed metaphorical ly i nto hyper-individual shapes, i twill al so bestr et che dinto new shapes l iteral ly. After al l, there is no expression of identity more l iteral than clothes.
The point of fashion, at least when it is doing its job, be it menswear or womenswear, is to sense the direction society is moving in both culturally and politically, and then to give that form. That is why a garment has resonance with the viewer: it gives them a new way to signpost who they are at that moment in time. For menswear specif ically, this new elastic def inition of gender means that just as women have long dipped in and out of the classic male wardrobe - appropriating its tropes as it suited them ( pun intended), whether as armour against the male power structure, or to signal equality of intent, or to allow themselves to redirect and manipulate the male gaze - now men too wi l l increasingly appropriate the tropes of womenswear, from prints (f lorals! f iligree!) to fabrications ( lace! gauze! brocade!) and silhouettes. Indeed, it i s possible that for some designers menswear and womenswear may merge entirely - not just on the runway - when menswear is shown with womenswear because they are part of the same story, but conceptually too: so much that the discrete terms ‘menswear’ and ‘womenswear’ will effectively cease to exist.
This is not the same thing as genderneut ral clothing, which most of ten s eems l i ke another t erm f or bas i cs such as jeans and T- shirts. It is, rather, gender- bl i nd clothing, and t here i s nothing basic about it. Menswear has moved in tiny increments for decades - a third button here, a softer shoulder there, al l framed by the boundaries of the suit and tradition – but this genderbl i nd alterat ion would al l ow it t he same showy zigs and zags of form and content that have come to be seen as the province of womenswear.
On t he one hand, t hat could be enormously l iberating, at least for the imagination. On the other, it could give everyone whiplash. Or, all in likelihood, it will be a bit of both.