Have you guys ever read Andrew Mukamal's blog? If anyone caught that Bravo reality show about Kelly Cutrone when it was still on the air , then you'd remember him as Kelly Cutrone's long-haired Rick-Owens-obsessed assistant.
Well, Andrew has a daily style blog, and I absolutely love it. He clearly has some kind of ridiculously enormous disposable income because his brand lists are comprised 100% of names like raf Simons, Balenciaga, Hermes, Givenchy, Proenza Schouler, etc. Normally, this would annoy me in a jealous-poor-whiny-middle-class-student kind of way. But Andrew Mukamal is not even remotely comparable to your average rich trend/blog clone. He doesn't act like he's too cool to be excited or impressed. He takes runway caliber concept pieces, throws them together in ways that you never thought of, and wears them like they're everyday-wear (which, I guess they are really). His looks aren't everyone's cup of tea, but I like his attitude.
He's also known for breaking traditional gender boundaries when it comes to men's fashion. He's the perfect example of how the men-sporting-skirts-and-dresses 'trend' that's slowly picked up steam in the past 5 or 6 years isn't really a trend at all. It's one of the last great paradigm shifts in fashion.
Example: here's Steve McQueen in Yohji Yamamoto (to be fair, Yamamoto has been doing this sort of thing for much longer than 5 or 6 years):
I would really, really encourage you to watch Andrew's video from June 20th that addresses gender-free fashion:
Summary if you didn't watch:
Andrew was featured in Bill Cunninghams' NY Times "On the Street" feature last week wearing a long black dress, and Bill Cunningham wrote an accompanying commentary about how men wearing clothes traditionally considered to be women's wear are finally reaching the final frontier of fashion-- that is, men can finally, without criticism, (or rather, in about 10 years truly will finally be able to) wear whatever the fuck they feel like wearing-- whether that be a traditional suit and tie--or a floor-length black dress.
Andrew goes on to talk about how women (really, women of Western culture), in the past century starting with WWII (unless you count women's 'industrial' trousers of the late 1800s), began to more freely integrate conventionally non-feminine pieces into women's fashion (namely trousers, jackets, etc), and now (Western) women are free to dress in whatever kinds of outfits they choose. Unfortunately, gender constraints are still very much present in fashion for men (of Western culture), who are by and large constricted to only certain kinds of pieces-- certain silhouettes, certain colors, certain fabrics, and a certain fit. We're slowly (probably too slowly) inching toward an atmosphere in fashion that caters to, as Andrew puts it, "democratic…gender-free, trend-free dressing". Bill Cunningham makes clear that this isn't about men emulating women's dress or dressing to look like women. It's about men and women making decisions to put clothes on their bodies that have nothing to do with gender (and hopefully one day, nothing to do with trends, but still everything to do with personal style).
Watching Andrew's video has made me think a lot about androgyny and its meaning in the fashion environment I choose to immerse myself in. I'm drawn to androgyny. But I think that maybe the way fashion magazines/media talk about androgyny is potentially counterproductive to removing gender norms in fashion. The typical definition of androgyny deals with gender ambiguity*, but the typical fashion magazine describes potentially androgynous looks in terms of gender, rather than in ambivalence to it (see: "Menswear Inspired" , "Girls who like Boys who like Girls' Fashion"). I'm drawn to androgyny, but lately I've been thinking about what it actually means, and what it maybe should mean.
*I guess you could argue that androgyny could also be defined as 'pertaining to both men and women', but for my purposes, I consider it to be more pertaining to gender ambiguity.
Let's stop for a moment and imagine (Western) fashion on a normative gender spectrum.
Over on the left we have conventionally feminine dress--dresses, frills, hourglasses, fine fabrics. On the right we have conventionally masculine dress-- trousers, structured silhouettes, rugged, natural fibers. Women (for our purposes, and because it's this context we'll say pink!) find themselves on the left end of the spectrum and men (for our purposes, and because it's this context we'll say blue!) find themselves on the right end of the spectrum.
I might have once posited that perfect androgyny would find itself directly in the middle of the spectrum (green). ie. that there was one kind of adrogyny-- the kind that made you think things like "Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes sure do look the same in Romeo + Juliet" or maybe something like this:
*EDIT- Emily and Jessicat have keenly pointed out that oftentimes in mass media fashion outlets, "androgyny" has become the term given, not to the 'middle-of-the-spectrum', but uniquely to women simply dressing toward the masculine end of the spectrum, rendering this kind of "middle-of-the-spectrum" androgyny less visible!
But maybe defining androgynous dress as being smack dab in the middle of the spectrum (*or as uniquely being women dressed in menswear, as is often illustrated in magazines) is just as restricting and oppressive as putting 'feminine' to the left and 'masculine' to the right. Obviously, androgynous dress definitely includes that kind of middle-of-the-spectrum dress, but there's so much more. But maybe we should think about androgyny in fashion in the same way that Andrew Mukamal thinks about gender-free dressing.
Or maybe the term "androgyny" in fashion might better serve to just be replaced by "gender-free dressing." This would mean that "androgyny" in fashion doesn't find itself in the middle of the spectrum-- instead, it is the spectrum. The whole durned thing. Wear whatever the hell you want without defining it in terms of gender, because really, who gives a shit?
I don't know, it's just clothes.
If you didn't want to read my ridiculously long post [kinda don't blame you (TL;DR)], then at least PLEASE do yourself a favor and watch this video by Andrew Mukamal and read/watch Bill Cunningham's commentary (here and here) on gender-free fashion.