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The boys in their summer dresses

It seems pretty unlikely that he could have imagined when Irwin Shaw wrote “The Girls In Their Summer Dresses,” his classic hymn to “a million wonderful women all over town,” floating on the sidewalk while a warm breeze swept up their seams pulled a day when these “girls” were likely to be men. As sexist and old-fashioned as Shaw’s much anthologized story of 1939 may be, it revealed truths about urban existence and the unadulterated joy of looking.

These joys, most of which we had withheld for the past 16 months, have returned as we leave our caves. To the delighted surprise of at least one observer, a considerable number of us Obviously he used the time in captivity to rethink a few lines of thought about who can wear what.

Khoa Sinclair, for example, treated lockdown as a time to experiment, a chance to bring a style that is already free from rigid binary conventions into the realm of “next-level femininity”.

So there was Mx. Sinclair, 26, was recently strolling through Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on a warm afternoon, a sleek forelock in an anime flip, inked arms sticking out of the sleeves of a curved Issey Miyake pleated blind.

“For a long time people were so stuck with being one way or another,” said Mx. Sinclair was referring to the decreasing gender dress code. “Queer people have been playing with it for a long time. But now you see a lot of guys in clothes who don’t identify as feminine. “

You see hip-hop eminence and flavor maker ASAP Rocky in a Vivienne Westwood kilt on the cover of the latest GQ. You see Madonna’s 15-year-old soccer player son David Banda in a viral video down a long hallway wearing a floor-length white silk Mae Couture number that he says is “so liberating.”

You see a wave of male teachers in Spain coming to school in skirts to support a student who was excluded from class and forced to seek advice after wearing one. You see Lil Nas X on “The Tonight Show” in a long tartan skirt – a masculine symbol in Scotland, albeit in a few other places – and Bad Bunny at the Grammys in a Burberry coat over a classic black Riccardo Tisci tunic worn that resembles a nuns habit.

You see guys in Washington Square Park recently on a mild afternoon in a ripped dress reminiscent of Kurt Cobain’s 1993 cover of “The Face”; a checkered miniature school girl from Britney Spears; and a set of blouse and skirt with cap sleeves, also by Issey Miyake, equipped with black socks and patent leather shoes with cleats.

“I started wearing feminine tops and then feminine bottoms,” said Robert Saludares, 24, a beautician who picked coffee beans on a farm in Hawaii, of his Miyake outfit. “Now, to be honest, I only shop in the women’s department.”

When the streets are the ultimate testing ground for social change, they are not always suitable for simple statistical measurement. That’s what the internet is for. On Lyst, a global fashion platform that aggregates data from 17,000 brands and retailers, searches for fashion items that contain aender keywords rose 33 percent since the beginning of the year. Feather boas page views rose 1,500 percent after Harry Styles wore one to the 2021 Grammys. Within 24 hours of Kid Cudi appearing on Saturday Night Live in an off-white summer dress in April, the label’s website saw searches for similar items jump 21 percent.

“When we started seeing male celebrities wearing skirts more often, we said, ‘Let’s try editing a skirt in the men’s section of our app,'” said Bridget Mills-Powell, Lyst’s chief content officer, over the phone from London. “We didn’t think it would do that well, but then we got really high engagements, higher than our other lists.” Re-posted on Instagram with a picture of Lil Nas X is the lyst rock edit “Blown up,” she said.

It has been almost two decades since Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, put on a far-sighted exhibition called Brave Hearts: Men in Skirts. And while cultural anthropologists like Mr. Bolton recognized early on which cultural changes in fashion often crop up first, even he might not have foreseen that two male characters on an Emmy-winning series would get married – one of them wore a skirt like David did Rose (Daniel Levy) and Patrick Brewer (Noah Reid) in 2018 at “Schitt’s Creek” did. (Coincidentally, the skirt came from Thom Browne, a pioneer in post-gender dressing, and also Mr. Bolton’s friend.)

Somehow, in the years since the 2003 Met show, our eyes have gotten used to images that may once have shocked us, like that of British comedian Eddie Izzard – a lifelong crossdresser (who started using “she / her” pronouns last year use). ), who once remarked on a British talk show that her outfits are not inherently feminine: “These are not women’s clothes,” Mx. said Izzard in what is perhaps her most famous utterance. “These are my clothes. I bought it. “

Also targeting stereotypes, in a video posted for the June issue of GQ, hip-hop artist ASAP Rocky talks about the pink furs, pink Loewe suits and pink diamonds he often found on red carpets and in the first rows of fashion showcases. “Having this comfort of wearing something that is considered feminine,” he said, “it shows me masculinity.”

In addition, our clothing can no longer automatically be viewed as “telling” something, as it was in repressive times when, for example, closed-back gay men were forced to signal their sexuality to one another through the kind of coded clothing-like gestures that lead to insults such as ” queer like Dick’s hat band ”.

“We’re rethinking all of this,” said Will Welch, editor of GQ. “A guy in allbirds and a hoodie could be a billionaire. You can’t guess anymore ”, not least about the gender orientation“ these kids in Washington Square Park in clothes ”.

For the 30-year-old fashion stylist Mickey Freeman, who has done without pants for six years, a kilt is a tool for disregarding social restrictions on black male identity. “Most people have an internal policy on how clothing affects a man’s masculinity,” Freeman wrote in an email. Men who want to loosen “the inner bonds” of gendering can benefit from doing a test run to wear a garment made without two legs and a zipper.

And for Eugene Rabkin, 44, a fashion journalist who published a story in his popular online magazine StyleZeitgeist last year called “How I stopped worrying and learned to love women’s clothes,” that process was rooted in comfort and aesthetics, not in the discovery of sex. (As in much of the non-Western world, where men in tunics, dhotis, or lungis are just as common as trousers.) His first garment was bought by Mr. Rabkin, who firmly identifies himself as cisgender and straight for “Women” in 2003, his undisputed pick was a pair of Ann Demeulemeester combat boots that Nicole Kidman wore in the September issue of Vogue.

“There is nothing particularly feminine about them for me,” wrote Mr Rabkin, referring to the skirts and tunics and other items of clothing he has since acquired from the women’s collections of designers such as Rick Owens, Raf Simons and Jun Takahashi. “What I do when I buy women’s clothing is not a transgressive gesture of rebellion against conservative social norms.”

While shopping with his wife for basics at Uniqlo, Mr Rabkin found himself in a locker room adjusting the waistband of a step suit that she had tried on without success and then suggested that it would suit him better. It did.

Another option that may be underappreciated is the idea of ​​viewing clothing as a playground. Three years ago when Brendan Dunlap, 24, was a junior at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, he began to question the sometimes haphazard binary division of clothing departments. “A lot of gender rules just don’t make sense to me,” said Mr. Dunlap, a substitute teacher in San Francisco. “If I love self-expression, why is the whole world of women’s clothing and fashion not available to me as a man?”

Starting with a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” in which he participated in a blue wig and high heels, Mr. Dunlap embarked on what he called a “slow, steady journey” that was initially a stunt and then became a happy everyday life was exercising.

“I dress completely for fun now,” said Mr. Dunlap, who identifies as a queer man and is serving as a figurehead for the fluidity of the sexes as part of this year’s Levi’s “All Pronouns All Love” Pride campaign.

“It was a serious life hack to discover that we can make our own rules,” said Dunlap, noting that the freedoms he enjoys may not be available to everyone. “As a tall, thin white man who is conventionally attractive, I have a certain level of body privilege.”

Still, there’s something refreshing about a cultural fulcrum that allows someone like Mr. Dunlap to wear jeans and sneakers as they please, or “the shortest mini I have and the highest heels to go to the grocery store to go ”. . “

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