Different styles go hand in hand with different forms of expression. Goths convey their worldview through dark clothes and white make-up. Hipsters wear skinny jeans and retro oversized glasses, emphasising their non-mainstream fashion sensibility. Many businessmen wear suits to work, in an attempt to look neat and professional.
Exceptions to that rule include Mark Zuckerberg, who believes traditional business attire is becoming increasingly unnecessary. Always one to dress casually, mostly appearing in a hoodie, Zuckerberg has instilled his own beliefs in Facebook where comfort and informality reign supreme. And guess what? Facebook’s revenue is soaring, according to statistics.
In terms of fashion, I fall into the same category as Facebook’s founder. Growing up in Ireland, I had to wear an uncomfortable school uniform for more than a decade and my line of work doesn’t require that outdated ‘business style’. I can work successfully without the need for special and elegant clothing items.
Expressing your political beliefs through gothic clothing is understandable – the same with expressing your business ambition through your new Armani suit. Do I conform to either style? No. Do I understand people who do? Yes. However, there are some fashion trends emerging that I just cannot fathom.
I guess I first noticed it amongst business and law students in Maastricht, where I used to live. Since then, I’ve noticed it everywhere in Germany where I currently live. Namely, the feminisation of the modern man. Strolling down the medieval cobble streets of Maastricht, many different styles catch the eye.
Those relaxed ‘Zuckerberg-esque’ guys clad in hoodies, those sophisticated looking fellows looking well in shirts and suits, and then those oddities that really stand out – young men with slicked back hair, white pants, purple Ralph Lauren polo shirts and to top it off, a pink sweater proudly tied around their necks.
While I find this new pink phenomenon somewhat difficult to understand, many women have come to laud pink’s remarkably unforeseen arrival on the male fashion scene. Where it was once labelled effeminate and homosexual, pink is now praised, making men appear more courageous and dynamic, combining especially well with a fresh tan.
However, it’s also well known that a sizable portion of the female population loathe pink on men, turning their backs on what they view as unsexy flower-coloured disgraces.
For pink is the quintessential girl’s colour. Some modern observers may argue against this, insisting that colours evolve. Some even believe pink has become a colour of empowerment for the 21st century man.
Perhaps I’m outdated – for me, pink will always remain the colour of dolls, flowers, dresses and other ‘unmanly’ things. From my side, the only manly shade of pink can be seen when I cut into a delicious juicy medium-rare steak cooked to perfection.
Shockingly, a report surfaced in the Daily Mail newspaper claiming that men wearing pink shirts earn £1,000 more per year more than men who don’t. It’s a sensational claim, but is it actually true? Perhaps. Still, I wouldn’t be seen dead wearing a pink shirt, even if you offered me an extra £1,000 per year.
I’ve found that the pink trend hasn’t picked up as much steam back in my native Ireland as it has in continental Europe, though it certainly exists there. Stroll around parts of Amsterdam, London, Düsseldorf, Berlin, Milan and countless other cities and you’ll see the pink shirt brigade out in force.
Another interesting fashion item blurring the boundaries between masculinity and a descent into full blown femininity is ‘the skinny jeans for men revolution’. A controversial staple of the hipster subculture, skinny jeans have, like pink pullovers, turned into an overnight sensation in the world of male fashion.
Skinny jeans were originally designed to look good on women – they’re supposed to stick extremely close to the female body, displaying its natural curvature in proud glory. If worn correctly by a woman, they can look magnificent.
If worn in any way by a man, they look wrong…catastrophically wrong. Men’s bodies lack those special curves and those brave enough to sport skinny jeans only end up looking like they’ve raided the wrong floor in H&M.
Another very bizarre item of clothing often worn in tandem with skinny jeans is the dreaded plunging v-neck t-shirt. Once again, this started out as a way to illustrate the shape of the female form, most notably, cleavage. The fact that men adapted these t-shirts (bear in mind that most men don’t possess cleavage) is somewhat unfathomable.
More than once, I’ve passed guys on the street sporting these ‘revealing’ t-shirts showing off an ample amount of black, curly chest hair. Exactly what kind of a statement they are trying to make by wearing a woman’s top designed to illustrate cleavage remains a mystery. Just like skinny jeans, it looks plain wrong and more than a little bit ridiculous. When a man wears a plunging v-neck t-shirt in combination with a pair of skinny jeans it’s not a case of borderline transvestism, it is transvestism.
It’s also vitally important to mention the scarf factor. Once upon a time, men used scarves to keep warm in winter. Plenty still do. However, a certain new trend has gained serious traction across the world – the notion that scarves are an acceptable masculine summertime fashion accessory. Unfortunately, most summer ‘man-scarves’ have taken inspiration from their female equivalents.
Women have successfully used scarves to add a splash of colour to their outfits for decades. Men are now appearing in pubs and restaurants wrapped in thin swathe scarves, coloured magenta, fuchsia and lilac. Sure it’s creative, but there’s something a little bit sinister about it. Wearing a t-shirt in thirty degrees of heat in combination with a violet-coloured wrap-around scarf is a slap in the face of the traditional male identity.
Some claim we have to move on from our established fashion conventions. Men can’t stay in the stone-age forever, right? I just think there might be a better way to accomplish the transition than wearing a scarf in July, which most people probably assume you stole from your girlfriend’s well stocked collection.
Indeed, moving forward in the world of male fashion has produced its fair share of cringeworthy experiments that just didn’t work. At the beginning of June 1998, David Beckham was photographed wearing a sarong in the south of France. Though this garment is commonly worn by men throughout Southeast Asia, it’s almost exclusively used as beachwear by women in the western world.
Though Beckham’s appearance sporting a sarong was praised by some as a courageous fashion statement, the vast majority of observers quite rightly ridiculed the former football player for his feminine night out – it was a step too far and poor Becks made that step much too soon. There’s only one kind of skirt that looks good on a man, however, and it’s called a kilt.
Tracing its history back to the 16th century Scottish highlands, kilts have become symbols of masculinity. But how can this be possible if they look like skirts? Traditionally, wearing kilts involves ditching your underwear, a free swinging and manly aspect of this particular garment.
On top of that, Mel Gibson and his entire Highland entourage wore kilts in the movie ‘Braveheart’ when they violently went into battle against the English. Perhaps even more poignantly, Sean Connery is a frequent kilt wearer. While David Beckham may think he’s an excellent fashion trendsetter, everybody knows who the true masters of masculinity really are.
Is it time to start getting worried about the slide of male fashion into the bright pink clouds of feminine ambiguity? Some men look in the mirror, donning their very best pink shirt or pullover and they feel they look damned good. Fair enough. If that makes them happy, then why not! Everybody has to feel free to wear what he or she chooses without being harassed.
Still, I have to say that I’m more than a little worried. Every time I pass a man decked out in a pink sweater on the street, my eyes hurt. Every time I end up sitting next to a man wearing a swathe scarf in the pub, I can’t help but cringe. Every time I see a man sporting skinny jeans and a plunging v-neck t-shirt, I feel like getting sick.
We men are losing our masculine identity and I can’t help but wonder where things will end up. If the male fashion scene keeps evolving so quickly in this manner, I really fear that within a decade or so, I’ll end up sipping my beer with men clad in mini-skirts and tights. Whatever happened to good old manliness? It seems that in the 21st century at least, it’s giving way to new-age sensitivity. As for me, I’m not venturing down any pink alleyways in the near future – I’m keeping that sensible and safe Mark Zuckerberg look.
Imagenote: Ahmed Caram via Flickr