February 20, 2007

Dressing Men? What a "drag"!

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There are innumerable double standards in our society for men and women. From employment and pay to expectations about sexual behavior and general conduct, men and women are viewed and judged differently. This same concept holds true for world of fashion as well.

It is a common fact that women will look at, purchase and wear men’s clothing on a regular basis. Men’s tee shirts, button downs and sweaters often appear in women’s wardrobes. As long and baggy looks become trendier, women are able to incorporate men’s clothing to attain popular fashion looks. In fact, the idea of wearing men’s clothing has become fashionable in and of itself.

In addition, the very look of men’s clothing has shown up repeatedly in women’s wear. Trousers, blazers, vests, military wear and similar items were once strictly the domain of menswear, but are now fair game for anyone. Happily, they now appear regularly on the runways and in the stores as apparel for female consumers.

Women also have the advantage of wearing a variety of different types of clothes, especially for work or business. We have the option of dressing in skirt suits, pant suits, dresses or other similar outfits. It is notable that in the past a woman wearing pants was an uncommon sight, but now they a more conventional choice than even skirts or dresses. Men, of course, are restricted to suits and, sadly, don’t have the option of wearing skirts or dresses. In fact, political pundits recently joked that a video recording a comedy sketch in which Rudolph Giuliani wears a dress may dim his presidential prospects. This is odd considering that women wearing men’s clothing is entirely socially acceptable. Doing so doesn’t make her masculine or homosexual; it makes her creative and chic as well as comfortable and cozy.

Essentially, women can get away with wearing any men’s top or accessory without seeming atypical. However, the same does not apply to men. When men wear women’s clothing it is generally considered to be a sign of homosexuality. How many times have you seen a man wearing a belly shirt or tights? Clearly, it is significantly less socially acceptable for men to wear women’s clothes.

When this rare practice does occur, it is looked at far more as an indication of sexual orientation than as a simple statement of fashion or comfort.

This notion of a double standard in women wearing men’s clothing and vice versa is especially obvious in terms of jewelry and bags. Women can easily wear men’s chunky jewelry or watches and use men’s messenger bags or briefcases.

However, the idea of a man wearing women’s jewelry, watches or purses is not as readily accepted in our society. Few men would feel comfortable wearing a delicate, feminine charm-bracelet or carrying a red patent leather clutch.

Also, men aren’t offered as wide of a variety of fashion options as women are. Thus women can wear either tight or baggy items whereas men must confine themselves to more baggy clothes unless they’re either European, homosexual or want people to assume as much. However, there is really no reason why the same standard that applies to women’s fashion shouldn’t also apply to men’s fashion.

All that aside, fashion in general is easier for women. A woman can go out in nice jeans, stilettos, a wife beater and an interesting beaded necklace and look presentable. Conversely, if a man goes out in nice jeans, loafers, a wife beater and a necklace he would have considerably more trouble getting into a club than his female counterpart. This lends women an advantage, as they can stay cool in a sweltering club by wearing a skirt and tank top while men are trapped in pants and a long-sleeved button down.

Although equality between men and women has increased and homosexuality has become more socially acceptable, there are still stigmas attached to the type of clothes that people wear, especially when they wear items designed for the opposite sex. In short, whether they are wearing stilettos, flip-flops, boots or sneakers, men and women are definitely not on equal footing in the fashion world.