I should of blogged this ages ago….. To start my blogging comeback off with a bang I thought I’d upload this article I wrote for the Journalism Award at GFW. Linking in with my love for feminine menswear, here is a depiction of the market at the time.
I know it’s rude to stare, but what if you were admiring? Is it the same thing?
My daily tube date with the Northern line has taught me the unspoken law of London Underground etiquette: ‘Eyes down. Don’t smile’, and that usually suits me just fine. Today, however I can’t take my eyes off him. The boy in front of me is wearing make-up, and it is flawless. So subtle yet unmistakable, he has mastered the art of foundation better than any M.A.C girl I have seen manning the concession in Selfridges. How does he do it? Of course it is nothing new; the 1970’s saw men emblazoned in glitter, with David Bowie leading the crowd into Glam rock glory. It seems that after a very masculine nineties the made-up man is back… and he is beautiful.
Menswear can be a touchy subject. I mean, when is it ok for a man to don a bag? Sure if it is a laptop bag, but what about a Chanel? How do you know when it is masculine enough to be labelled a ‘man bag’? It is a minefield out there. Yet, if it is on trend then anything goes. Like all fashions, the feminization of menswear has done the rounds. We have seen Henry VIII in tights, Ziggy Stardust posing in platform shoes and now we have men in Uggs and guyliner.
Paris fashion week is when the feminine boys of the noughties come out to shine. They can be seen creating a stir amongst the cool hunters at the men’s shows. Even Diane Pernet has been witnessed with one on each arm. As if these scenesters were born into the wrong era, you can imagine Warhol himself claiming them for his factory collection in pre punk London. Charles Guslain, a 16 year old Parisian has a wardrobe that would make the sartorialist blog himself silly. Jean-Paul Paula, model, stylist is also a serious contender. They can regularly be spotted posing for the shepherd of fashionista’s; facehunter, sporting a Rick Owens creation and a pair of spectacular shoes. Jean-Paul has mastered this look so well that he was asked to model the womenswear catwalk show for Iris Van Herpen, showing that androgynous fashion is no longer restricted to the Grace Jones’ and La Roux’s out there.
Igor, a performance artist also from Paris, takes it to the next level. In platform heels he has not only decided to do away with trousers but to forget fabric all together. Well who needs clothes when you have electrical tape, right? Instead, he straps his legs up in black tape to form skin tight trousers. Literally. All in the name of fashion? Maybe he deserves the iconic status just for sheer effort.
This style has graced the pages of our favourite men’s magazines for a while now. Stylists are using younger boys with more delicate features. Models are snapped in more homo erotic poses but that in no way means homosexual styling. Josh Beech is comfortably propping up a topless Ash Stymest, yet even the eyeliner screams heterosexual attraction. This model pairing, as well as the eminent Cole Mohr and Luke Worrell show that if you have attitude to go with them painted nails then your sexuality is not questioned. The last time men felt inclined to shop in the women’s section was the seventies, when the anarchist attitudes was a perfect platform for this trend. Bands like the New York dolls illustrated this flawlessly, as the author Chris Sullivan explains, “The New York Dolls walked down the Kings Road in high heeled shoes and lipstick and everything, but they were fucking hard”.
To feminize a man yet keep his tough masculinity seems like an impossible task; however the visionary stylist Panos Yiapanis has mastered this as an art form. A collaboration with Steven Klein was bound to result in something historical but their story for Arena Homme + was nothing short of a stroke of genius. Strong make-up and lace tops don’t stop these men proving their strong masculinity and power, not even in a geisha wig.
Even the more typically masculine magazines cannot ignore the growing desire for men to be in touch with their feminine side. GQ Style, which is known to have a more classic approach to menswear, has highlighted this in their maintenance section, a whole section dedicated to men’s fitness and grooming. The GQ man can find how best to moisturise or even that all important lip balm. The average man is looking after his skin more now than ever and thank goodness because whatever you may have heard, a rough surface is not pleasant. Garth Spencer of GQ style tells me there is an increasing demand by more body conscious men:
“The men’s skin industry has boomed over the last 10 years, also overtaking the women’s side when it comes to growth and product development. Living in a super competitive world where the new and youth are obsessed over, it is hard not to be influenced by mass media. This obsession has made a steady growth for grooming brands/ products year on year, even in a financial downturn.”
It is no surprise then that the effeminate man is back when you consider societies obsession with the beautiful woman, it was only a matter of time before we started the search for the beautiful man. Celebrities like Russell Brand have had a helping hand in the men’s make up revolution. Let’s face it; eyeliner on men has become more acceptable since Johnny Depp staggered around as Jack Sparrow, the pirate whose masculinity would not be challenged by any female. Garth also emphasizes the brands ability to utilize these obsessions with the ‘ideal’, “Designers have realised this and created a world of their own when it comes to brand loyalty. Not only can you wear the “Armani” shirt but you can buy the furniture and entire skin range too.” The metrosexual is lounging in beauty bliss with Yves Saint Laurent bringing out their Touche Éclat, a highlighter to banish signs of fatigue. Not to mention Clinique’s range of concealers and bronzers available.
Not only are the designers meeting the grooming requirements but they are sending the full package down the runways. Spring /Summer 2010 was the ultimate season for feminine menswear as Hedi Slimane accomplishes customary menswear pieces in traditionally female fabrics; a chiffon shirt is luxury at its best. John Galliano’s make-up techniques give the models a god like status, proving that make-up on men is hot! And Walter Van Beirendonck had the hairiest and most masculine of what Gays call ‘bears’ in pastel pink combats and crotch hugging tighty whites. However the daddy of effeminate men’s fashion, Yohji Yamamoto has been setting the standard long before then. In 2004 an eager crowd was met with older models in shirts worn long like dresses.
So yes it is ok for a man to don a bag. Yes it is ok for a man to wear make-up. The effeminate man is no longer the shy drag queen who couldn’t fully come out of the closet. Look again: he is the stunning boy giving you attitude because you dared to question his Givenchy skirt shorts.