Wednesday, 13 August 2014


There are fewer issues discussed more frequently in the menswear industry than that of androgyny. Ever since Jean Paul Gaultier chose male model Tanel Bedrossiantz as the face of his A/W 1987 womenswear collection, the fashion industry has been bending gender roles and rewriting the rules of masculinity. It’s widely-known that, in fashion, the concept of androgyny is nothing new - Women have been wearing traditionally ‘male’ clothes for decades, ever since Coco made it OK to wear trousers and Yves introduced ‘Le Smoking’. No headlines are made when designers include masculine tailoring or boyfriend shirts in womenswear collections, and a simple Google search of ‘androgyny’ brings up countless images of stylish women dressed in their boyfriends’ clothes. Women such as Grace Jones and Tilda Swinton made it fashionable to take the lines of gender and blur them to the extreme; arguably the only well-known male equivalent to these two women is David Bowie, who famously indulged his androgynous side through a series of personas such as The Thin White Duke and Ziggy Stardust. In summary, it seems that women now have complete freedom when exploring the realms of androgyny and, now, the new school of innovative London designers are working their hardest to secure this same sartorial freedom for men worldwide.

Grace Jones - a pioneer of andr

Perhaps the best example of male androgyny in action is J.W Anderson, an Irish-born designer whose unusual silhouettes and unorthodox fabrics caught the eye of the fashion elite. Since establishing his eponymous label back in 2008, Anderson has gone on to create something of a signature aesthetic, and it is one rooted firmly in androgyny. He talks frequently about erogenous zones, quoting the collarbones and the nape of the back as erotic areas which are rarely exposed. It is here that his silhouettes take on deeper meaning – at first the cut-outs and exposed flesh seem to be a mere design detail, yet they actually hint at vulnerability and present an element of subversion. These elements of sexuality were more present than ever in his Autumn/Winter 2014 presentation, known to many as the ‘sexy secretary’ collection. Based on call-centre workers, Anderson set his sights on taking the banality of everyday uniforms and elevating them to high-fashion status – he achieved this via a series of chunky platform heels, peplum jackets and tight pastel knitwear that clung suggestively to the nipples. Many labelled the collection as a controversial attempt to garner media attention and boost the designer’s profile, a claim which he refutes. As opposed to a mere publicity stunt, the collection appeared to be a conscious effort to re-open the dialogue regarding androgyny for men. It highlighted the fact that men aren’t supposed to be ‘sexy’ or ‘vulnerable’ – they are supposed, instead, to be powerful and masculine.

J.W Anderson A/W 2014
Continuing this dialogue is designer Astrid Andersen, a woman that also chooses to expose the men she sends down the runway. However, in contrast to Anderson’s lithe, fresh-faced models, Astrid’s boys are all athletes, comprised only of solid muscle. In some ways, her casting choices are one of the most important aspects of her aesthetic as a whole – she revels in the visual contradiction of dressing a huge hulk of a man in a cropped pink floral. Although Andersen works mainly in the realm of sportswear, she manages to incorporate androgyny by using mesh fabrics and lace trims, as well as incorporating kimonos into her latest collection which looked suspiciously like dresses. The genius of these ideas is that they aren’t at all contrived – they aren’t a deliberate attempt to convey androgyny, they are simply a byproduct of the collection’s Eastern sportswear aesthetic. They’re also brilliantly wearable and serve as proof that no matter how ‘masculine’ the model, it is still possible to incorporate androgyny without turning too many heads.

Overall, the menswear industry is accelerating at a faster pace than ever before. More designers are showing more collections which means, inevitably, a wider range of aesthetics and more variation for men. The rules are changing – hemlines on shirts are dropping to the extent that ‘oversized’ now basically constitutes a dress, whereas traditionally feminine prints such as lace and florals are being re-interpreted by designers to cater to a male audience. As with anything, there is a spectrum of outrageousness – it’s quite clear that the brand of androgyny that we see on the catwalk will never become ubiquitous on the high street, so don’t expect to see a host of men in your local Topman wearing floral crop tops. However, the range of options means it’s now easier than ever for men to nod towards androgyny without taking it to the extreme extent that high-fashion does. If you choose to wear stacked-sole trainers, think of Anderson’s chunky heels. If you choose to wear a mesh jumper, think of Andersen’s sportswear and acknowledge that the runway is there only to plant the seed of an idea which can then be incorporated into an everyday wardrobe. By following this philosophy, we can ensure that the concept of androgyny will be one that permeates the dress of men worldwide. 

'Miniskirts are back!' - Ada & Nik A/W 2014

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