Manning Up in a World of Androgynous Fashion

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Manning Up in a World of Androgynous Fashion

Growing up, how to dress like a man was, for me, never really in question, nor was the existence of that label—”menswear”—as a category. I was to wear a shirt (of waist length), along with some variation on a chino or denim and a sweater (preferably, crew neck). Granted, I could choose color, or pattern, or whether or not to accessorize —with watches, bracelets, etc. —but the general theme was never in question. However, the last decade in which I have gone from childhood to young adulthood has been perhaps the most definitive ever with regard to readjustment or realignment of gender norms and expectations. Now what it means to dress like a man or a woman isn’t so clear anymore, and perhaps those labels, man or woman, don’t even exist anymore to begin with.

Pretty Standard Menswear 

Now, I can’t help but to feel somewhat isolated. Don’t get me wrong, I like fashion and dressing well, but I’m still fairly conservative with regard to my clothing choices. I still dress in chinos and jeans, pretty standard t-shirts and sweaters (although sometimes I decide to be bold and wear a v-neck these days). However, I can’t deny that what it means to dress well is changing, and changing rapidly. Honestly, bootleg cuts aren’t going to work anymore, and I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t have one or two items that even 5 years ago I would have thought to be over-sized or too long. And I can’t keep my head in the sand any longer.

I have maintained that fashion is less about looking good than a means of self-expression. By being a reactionary in this regard, and shying away from androgynous elements of fashion that make me nervous—as they might make you—I am conveying something about the way that I choose to present myself to the world.

Barnes Pull Quote

Zara’s new genderless clothing line

Moreover, if I insist on upholding out-dated perceptions of what it means to dress like a man or dress like a woman, then not only am I just making myself look silly, but I’m supporting old institutions in which separation and delineation of gender roles are allowed to flourish, which I think are fundamentally socially irresponsible practices. So count me in. I’ll try. I’ll be honest — I’ll still have my t-shirts and my chinos and my crewneck sweaters, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But little by little, I will come to terms with what, I think, is the fashion of the future. That may sound dramatic, but it just is what it is; one need only look at Zara’s new gender neutral line or Jaden Smith modeling skirts; the trajectory is pretty clear. So, like I wrote before, I’ll try.

Hopefully, you will too.


-Jacob Barnes

Images Courtesy of and

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