When the topic of sexism is brought up the first thing that usually comes to everyone's mind is women but when I think of sexism the first thing to come to my mind is men’s' fashion. Now before your feathers get all ruffled let’s take a moment to stop and think this through. Why is it that women can wear pants, skirts, dresses, suits, outlandish hats, any kind of jewelry, heels, combat boots, suspenders, pretty much anything they want but men, oh the poor men, they are limited to a typical menswear uniforms of pants, shorts, suits and shirts. Sure they have vests, ties, socks and hats to mix it up but for the most part they are still miserably limited.
I was having a conversation with my father over dinner one night a few months back about this exact issue and was surprised to hear how vocal my 65 year old conservatively dressed dad was about how he wished that he had as many options as women.
“I would love to be able to walk into a men's department store and have the same options as a woman. Jewelry, shoes, socks, pants or skirts, colors, long waist coats or interesting buttons. We don't need to go back to bell-bottom pants but we can bring things back that still fit in with what our expectations of men's fashion are. I want some variety. It's been the same for hundreds of years. Literally today the way men dress is the same as their fathers dressed and their fathers father dressed. I don't mean young men who follow fads and trends, I mean men who are in their 30's, 40's and so on and have begun to dress like professionals. It's disappointing and I want to see a change.”
This is coming from a man who lives in Greenville, South Carolina and is seeing how most of the country lives outside of major cities like New York, LA or Miami where you will find a wider variety of options for men only because it has become more acceptable for men to dress in more creative ways. Outside of these cities it's not that the options are necessarily unavailable but that the mind-set of the people is very different. For most people in the United States they would have a fair amount of anxiety if they saw a man wearing a skirt just like in the 1930's there would be high levels of anxiety and complete disdain when seeing women wear pants.
It seems to me that not much has changed except that the sexism has switched sides. Sure when you look at the menswear collections every now and then you’ll come across a skirt or kilt but these are far and few moments unlike the women’s-wear collections that are overflowing with pantsuits and menswear inspired pieces. I find it especially interesting that the only reason people wouldn't have tinges of shock when seeing a man in a skirt or dress is if they 1) were homosexual or gender bending in some way, shape or form or 2) came from a culture that it is common to find men in long robes and dresses. Today women don't have to be any sort of sexual orientation or come from any culture to wear whatever they so choose. It's their right as human beings to wear whatever they want and that was the whole point of feminism (obviously not soley based on clothing but you get my point).
Women spent years in oppression and fighting to overcome that but it seems to me that there is still some sartorial psychological oppression happening in the Western culture for men. I'm just waiting for the day when men all over the country parade down the street's in skirts, dresses or whatever it is THEY want because they have the right without being categorized to a sexual or cultural label.
What do you think? Is there sexism in men's fashion today?