The Question of Gender
Gender, a hot topic of late, especially looking into the distinction between genders and how they play a part in our everyday lives. Differences in gender in the workplace has been an issue amongst many industries over the years, discussing opportunities and equal pay. However, I want to focus on something that isn’t focused on as frequently in gender roles; the place of the heterosexual male in the fashion industry. In an industry where women occupy 70% of the workforce, and are the primary consumer in the industry.
Despite this, we are seeing the proportion of leading roles that are held by men are much higher than those by women. The growth in interest and development of men's fashion in the last ten years has landed some major changes in the way a stylish man is seen. You no longer have to be gay to be able to dress well, or differently, for that matter. With names including A$AP Rocky and Kanye West popping up over the fashion scene due to their massive success and influences in the industry. A$AP Rocky has become somewhat of an icon. He's been spotted at fashion week's around the globe, become a regular name at Vogue, and is the face of many collaborations, with his recent Selfridges Bodega pop-up store and front-face of the Dior campaign. While Kanye has seen great success in his Yeezy collections, consistently turning to be one of the most talked about shows.
As someone currently studying fashion retail, and previously business, I have learned about two industries that share similarities in the way they function. While I studied business, my class was made up of fifteen boys and 3three girls, but now, my class is three boys and twenty girls. Is this to do with the idea that fashion is still for girls, and men are still not interested in fashion? Or, has it got something to do with the hegemonic portrayal of the heterosexual male?
There seems to be an issue with what it takes to be a man, a pressure on the idea of being hyper-masculine. It’s seen that you need to be big, play as many sports possible and act a certain way. There are many attributes that can be considered as making someone a 'true man', but with all of society’s expectations, we lose what makes a person, a true identity. Many of us will try and fit into these stereotypes.
Whenever I introduce myself to someone and explain that I study fashion, the question that's immediately fired back is “are you gay?”. That's a pretty backward assumption for 2017 and for an industry that is as open-minded as it says. There are a number of heterosexual men who are killing it in the game at the moment, from Virgil Abloh, who has seen a huge success from his OFF WHITE label, even Pharrell Williams who has been an icon for fashion for a number of years and has recently come together with Adidas and Chanel for a $1000 shoe collaboration.
Why is there such a stigma toward heterosexual males, on what may be considered an effeminate job role? Is it to do with the number of well known effeminate males leading in the industry?
Around the world, there has been a number of changes in how gender and sexuality play a larger role in our lives. Being one of the most open minded industries, the fashion world has seen many of these changes at the forefront of the campaigns and catwalks. Taking a look at Vivienne Westwood’s menswear show from June 2017, it questions whether gender or sexuality are even relevant anymore. Featuring men wearing silk dresses and frocks, breaking the boundaries that previously would have been a risky move to make. We then have brands such as Zara who are launching unisex collections, as well as H&M who recently launched their unisex denim, which features many oversized and casual pieces looking back at some traditional denim wear.
The main issue isn't in the industry but outsiders, those who aren't used to the true identity of the fashion industry and its full diversity. Heading away from the city, I found that this problem escalated. As we edge away from the city, where coming across anyone who works in fashion is a rarity, meeting a male who works in fashion is almost a surprise. More people need to be educated that the industry you work in doesn't determine your sexuality, there is room for all genders and sexualities across the spectrum within any job role. If an individual has a skill they should be able to use it in a comfortable environment.
Why should individual's sexual preferences can be questioned if they are in a certain career? For some, this may lead to a challenging path to get into their dream career. The heterosexual male has as much place as anyone else in the fashion industry, their sexuality shouldn’t determine their skill set.
Written by Otis Anderson @otis_anderson
Images Not Owned by ASBO Magazine