From gowns to skirts, many men spanning decades have elevated their fashion choices by adding these stereotypically feminine garments to their wardrobes. By doing this, they have defied cultural standards regarding gender expectations, all while being true to themselves and their style.
As the world progressively evolves in terms of acceptance of nonconforming ideas and lifestyles, men rocking dresses have become more common in the media. Billy Porter regularly dons extravagant gowns on the red carpet, while musicians like Kurt Cobain strummed guitars while wearing floral dresses. The truth of the matter is that fashion is not about gender, it’s about expression and personality.
The entire idea of skirts and dresses being gendered was brought about by a combination of tailoring innovation and particular occupations. The tradition of men in cloth wraps, skirts, tunics, robes, and other non-pant items is actually vast and ancient.
In the past, Egyptian men wore schenti, which were simple wrap-around skirts that were belted at the waist. Elite society saw Greeks wearing chitons and Romans sporting togas, while the basic garment for both genders and all classes was the tunica. When trousers did become popular in Renaissance Europe, they still had reminiscent qualities of a skirt with their swelled-out proportions.
Today, men’s clothing trends and views on masculinity are evolving; we are moving back to the age-old outlook on non-gendered attire that ancient civilizations embraced, but yet moving forward to reshape the idea of fluidity in fashion. We are becoming more open, more accepting, and more free.
Harry Styles for Vogue, Source: Metro Style
In December 2020, Harry Styles graced the cover of US Vogue. He was the first male in 127 years to be featured on the cover, and he did so wearing a beautiful white and black dress.
According to Harry’s Vogue interview, he’s always been interested in clothing, especially the garments that were categorized as feminine. His sister, Gemma Styles, reminiscenced on the fact that their mother would dress them up often. While Gemma wasn’t a fan, Harry always loved trying on new, fun looks.
“As a kid, I definitely liked fancy dress,” Harry said. There were school plays, the first of which cast him as Barney, a church mouse. “I was really young, and I wore tights for that,” he recalled. “I remember it was crazy to me that I was wearing a pair of tights. And that was maybe where it all kicked off!”
For Harry, fashion isn’t black or white; it’s a never-ending expanse that doesn’t need labels. “When you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play. I’ll go in shops sometimes, and I just find myself looking at the women’s clothes thinking they’re amazing.”
“It’s like anything — anytime you’re putting barriers up in your own life, you’re just limiting yourself,” Harry explained to Vogue. “There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never really thought too much about what it means — it just becomes this extended part of creating something.”
Harry’s ground-breaking Vogue cover, alongside some beautifully dressed males at the 2021 Met Gala, brought the conversation of “feminine” male attire into the western mainstream. The stereotype of gendered clothing is slowly being pushed out. In its place is the ideal that clothing is an expression; we can wear whatever we want regardless of gender.
Drew Jarding Takes On The School Dress Code
Drew Jarding, a seventeen-year-old Illinois native, noticed that his school’s dress code was only being enforced on females, even if the male students wore similar garments or showed the same amount of skin. He decided to stand up for his friends by donning identical outfits, such as dresses and skirts, each day until more attention was put forth into changing the gender-specific dress code.
“I also noticed that the majority of the girls would even get called out for wearing normal clothes,” he explained. “Depending on how endowed they were, though, changed how they were treated.” For Drew, the dress code was a mere cover-up for underlying, old-age issues plaguing the stereotypes of clothing.
Drew’s journey to bring awareness and protect his friends has garnered him over 1.9 million TikTok followers that are along for his revolutionary journey to dismantle sexist, gender-conforming ideas pertaining to clothing in schools and beyond.
The HBM sat down with Drew to talk about his experience.
The HBM: Can you tell us about your story growing up?
Drew: When I was a child, it wasn’t hard for me to make friends with my classmates at school. I loved making people laugh, and I loved how everyone thought I was funny. Girls seemed to appreciate my humor more, and I theirs, so I would tend to have groups of friends mainly consisting of females from a very early age.
These friendships allowed me to gain personal insight on the [facets] and minor details about femininity that I had ignorantly not been aware of. Not to mention the fact that my household consists of my mother, aunt, and grandmother, which had all taught me to be sensitive and kind to those no matter gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and so on.
The HBM: When did you begin to notice social constructs relating to gender?
Drew: From a very early age, I noticed that we as a society put so many restrictions on what we allow ourselves to wear. It was a strange concept to me, and honestly, it still is. I simply just don’t understand why we would do that to ourselves.
High school, though, is when I really started to explore fashion and experiment with female clothing. It allowed me to try a variety of different outfits. Once I let myself see past the usual fashion constraints, I felt like I was free. I could wear whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Nothing was holding me back.
The HBM: What’s your outlook on gender? Has it changed drastically as you’ve grown older?
Drew: I look at gender as just that. Gender has nothing to do with color or ethnicity, nor size, clothes, and shoes. It’s ridiculous that we let a word warp our brain into believing that there is a certain path we have to take in this world.
Growing up, gender didn’t really impact my relationships, either. It was merely a fact about people. It wouldn’t change how I viewed them, so I didn’t feel as if it was important. All I care about is the person and who they are.
The HBM: When did you begin wearing dresses and skirts to school?
Drew: I’ve worn both women’s and men’s clothes together for some time. I have to say that they complement each other very well. I love styling vests that are typically worn by women with a nice collar and khakis or jeans. I’m especially intrigued by female jewelry and combining it with very masculine accessories.
Wearing skirts and dresses to school, though, isn’t an everyday thing for me. However, as I saw my female friends getting dress-coded, I decided to throw on a skirt to make a video about my viewpoint on gender and clothing.
The HBM: How did your classmates respond to your clothing? The administration?
Drew: My classmates were extremely supportive of my clothing choices, and they loved the cause I was dedicated to. Oddly enough, I wasn’t afraid of what others would say. I felt empowered and those around me could really tell how happy I was. There wasn’t any negativity at all. I kind of like to think that I’ve inspired people to live on the edge a little more.
The HBM: In a few of your TikTok videos, you and your friends wear matching outfits to show how dress codes are sexist. How did this go over? Did you receive negative pushback?
Drew: My school obviously became aware of the videos I was posting to my Tik Tok channel, which led to them restricting me from continuing the series. However, they were very understanding of the message that I wanted to get out there.
The administration promised to listen to us and to talk to their staff about changing how they view the dress code. Unfortunately, they were mostly empty promises. My classmates, on the other hand, stayed very supportive and really admired and appreciated the whole concept.
The HBM: There is also content on your page mentioning your entire school staging a walkout to show administrators that you should be able to wear any clothes you want, no matter your gender. Did the walkout cause the dress code to be altered?
Drew: Nothing came of the walkout and we were not actually listened to. Our principal made sure we thought that we were being “heard” so that the movement would die down. It was very sad because nothing came of what we had so desperately tried to change.
As I mentioned previously, the administration said that they would review the dress code, but nothing changed. It honestly felt like a punch to the gut. We had all worked hard to bring awareness to the issue, but it felt like we were just hushed with small lies.
The HBM: You have a huge following on TikTok, has social media helped you flourish and feel more comfortable wearing what you want and not what constructs tell you is ideal?
Drew: Yes, most definitely! Social media has allowed me to feel confident in myself. People actually care about what I wear and do, which is amazing to me. I love that I always have a safe place to go with social media. It’s like another home that I’ve built from the bricks of my views and opinions.
However, I don’t rely on TikTok. Social media can be very unhealthy if you get obsessive about it, and I don’t want that. I love my current status on the app, and I plan to update regularly. When I see myself getting too invested, though, I try to step back and take time to myself. I, however, will admit that my followers have created an amazingly positive community.
The HBM: You are spreading the word in almost every video that clothes have no gender. What advice would you offer someone who wants to follow the same path but is hesitant?
Drew: Just do something, anything. if there is no action then there is no change. If need be, start small and get bigger; baby steps lead to something more important. You can do it. Have faith in yourself, and you can make things happen. I know I did.
Throughout the history of Western civilization, ingrained and rigid gender roles — coupled with sexism — have helped to maintain marginalized ideas of clothing. However, Drew, much like Harry Styles, is fearless about embodying authenticity with fashion. They’re embracing the fact that clothes do not define gender in any way, shape, or form, and that fashion is for everyone.