The Harry Styles Case: Cisgender Men in Dresses and Pearls?
Article written by Maya Vukovska
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be the first in something? Well, Harry Styles knows. He made history as Vogue’s first male cover star in the magazine’s 128-year existence. And wearing a white dress at that! The singer’s photo session has, of course, provoked much controversy. On the one side, there were the conservatives who called for “bringing back manly men.” On the other side, there were Styles’s female fans who’d find him sexy AF no matter if he’s wearing cowboy boots and jeans or his grandma’s culottes, so whoever doesn't find him man enough may kiss his pretty ass. But the iconic magazine received backlash also for its choice to put a straight white guy on its cover instead of a trans woman of color, who'd much more deserve such an honor. The polemic has gone even further by addressing the issue of cultural impropriation. Now, it is not only about Harry wearing heels, dresses, and nail polish. It is about cis men in general. So the question is: Is it appropriate for them to wear women’s clothes, or is it not?
The concept of gender is undergoing dramatic reevaluation- a fact that is cheered by many but also seen as the world’s end by equally as many. But despite the negative attitudes, the tendency of nonbinary people being extensively present in the mainstream is growing by the day. But even people who do not fall into this category are engaging in gender play - walking on red carpets, and showing up in late-night shows dressed like Cinderella at the ball. And although they are often accused of doing it just to get themselves headlines, I personally believe that a bigger part of those “cis-sies” (a term used by award-winning journalist Tre’vell Anderson) do it because it feels right, and it feels liberating.
If it is not against the law…
Quote me the constitution of any modern, civilized country that regulates what kind of clothes male and female citizens can and cannot wear in public, and I will show you a pink elephant! I mean, if the clothing is not against the social laws of basic decency, no one should be forbidden to wear whatever they please. “Gender appropriate clothing” must be regarded as anachronism belonging to the past. Men who challenge the boring societal preconceived ideals of what is right and wrong to wear are actually more men than those men who disguise their insecurities behind the rough-and-ready masculine appearance.
Straight men won’t be called trans when they wear skirts and makeup - no matter if they do it as a part of their artistic performance, or it’s their preferred everyday style. In a perfect world, men, famous like Harry Styles or not famous at all, will be wearing what they want because they’re feeling good in their own skin, and not because they want to attract attention. In a perfect world, even the most skeptical fuddy-duddies won’t mind if a Bulls fan sitting next to them in the sports bar is wearing a pearl necklace and a bouffant skirt.
De-gendering of fashion
Like it or not, genderless fashion IS the future. Thanks to a strong push from the Zoomers, the fashion industry has realized that fashion has no boundaries, and the shoppers are more willing than ever to experiment with clothing. Even the most luxurious brands have put efforts into creating collections that speak to our gender-bender era. Gucci for example is successfully riding this new wave - the fashion house has created a separate category called Gucci MX, the goal of which is “to dissolve the lines of the gender divide in the name of self-expression.” Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, and us here at Andrew Christian have also embarked on an exploration voyage that aims at abolishing the gender frontiers.
At the end of the day, what is left to say on this (still) highly controversial topic? Well, the only piece of wisdom that comes to me right now is: No matter if you are а man, woman, or nonbinary, cis or trans, young or old, when you wonder what to wear, remember that a Little Black Dress always does the trick!