Masculinity is a social construct that has shaped the history of what it means to be a man. The idea of masculinity focuses on a man being the epitome of strength and dominance. He’s the bad boy, the jock, the boy next door. Masculinity defined menswear design for decades, in a way, forcing designers to keep the idea of menswear strictly “masculine.”
Recently, though, in terms of menswear, the fashion industry is pushing towards emphasizing one’s own identity. We live in an age where everyone is searching for some form of individuality and clothes are the place to show the world who you are. Because of this, masculinity in fashion has begun to soften and the social walls it built are beginning to topple.
For men, we use clothes the majority of the time to express our interests, personality and personal style. Menswear as of 2019 has been redefined by bright colors and feminine silhouettes. Dior in their Spring ‘19 collection featured looser tailored suits with soft shades of blue, purple and pink. Compare this to Dior of the past when runway after runway featured dark, sharp suits. This shows the tide of change that has begun to roll over the fashion industry. The industry is creating pieces that emphasize one’s own personal style, and, in a way, give men across the world the opportunity to really branch out and show the full extent of their personality with their clothing.
This push by the industry to create interesting ideas for men to dress and express themselves is something that resonates very deeply with me. Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania the idea of masculinity was stressed on every boy I grew up with. My dad was a football coach, my brother an incredible athlete. To me, they represented what it meant to be a man. It stuck throughout my childhood, however, I tried to be like every other boy my age.
As I grew into my teenage years, I began to struggle with my sexuality. The idea of being gay was foreign to me. Growing up in a small town, I never really knew what it meant. I beat myself up over it. I hated myself for being someone that I believed was the complete opposite of who I am. All around me were reminders that I wasn’t a real man like all the guys around me growing up. I would try to bulk up, talk deeper, dress how I thought a real man should. It took a mental toll on me— the idea of fitting into a mold I couldn’t created a mind-numbing experience. Days and nights melted together. My mind shut down from the constant insecurity and anxiety of dealing with my own identity.
As I rounded 16, I started expressing myself through the things I wore. Fashion, for me, has always been about telling a story and showing a person’s ideas through clothes. I began to wear well-fitting clothes with interesting patterns and unique colors that stood out amongst the sea of Nike shorts that surrounded me. Masculinity shaped my whole childhood; and because of its checklist-like theory, later caused my struggles with sexuality, confidence and mental health.
From these struggles, I learned that society tries to force us into molds we may never even fit. Through fashion, though, I was able to accept my self. The fashion industry has been pushing to break many men out of the world of conformity and into one where everyone has the power to define their own ideas of masculinity.