19 November 2009

Androgyny is not the new black

Once again, The New York Times has published another of its "that's-not-a-trend, it's-just-life" stories.  Remember when they uncovered the high school hugging epidemic, and the subversively hip male potbelly?   Well, now they've latched on to androgynous dressing.  Kids these days. 

Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times

The quotes from those on the front lines of this trend are embarrassing:
“My generation is more outside the box than the generation before me,” said Brandon Dailey, 26, a hairstylist in Manhattan. “Our minds are more open to different things, and that sometimes means mixing it up in what we wear.”
Oh yeah? How or why his mind is more open than someone his age 15 years ago is obviously besides the point.  Trend stories wouldn't be this delightfully absurd if they actually proved something.   

But remember, derivation is the new originality (according to a friend who has no linkable online presence), so let's not ignore the fact that dandies wore girdles, Rudolph Valentino wore eyeliner, Marlene Dietrich wore top hats, David Bowie wore leotards, Watts wore boys underwear, and Diesel has sold unisex jeans for the past 20 years.  Why pretend that gender-neutral styles began with the 70s glam-rockers and suddenly reappeared thanks to the aggressive marketing of American Apparel?

Now don't get me wrong.  It IS a cool look assuming you have the right lanky body type to pull it off.  Probably about 90% of the people featured on The Sartorialist adhere to the philosophy.  Here's a sampling of the styles from just this past week shown on the site: 



And even the J.Crew copywriters urge their customers to "shop the men's section, we do!"

But, once again, not worthy of a "what does this mean for society at large" type of article.  Especially when the sage wisdom is coming from 26-year-old hairstylists.  (As opposed to the always insightful comments of an almost 26-year-old amateur blogger....but, whatever.)

Furthermore, can we please stop condescending to Peoria?  What does an Oakland gender psychologist really know about where exactly an androgynous look will be accepted.  Besides, the fashions that this article is discussing are so neutral that they're almost dull.  I'd be suprised if anyone even noticed.  It's not as if the we're questioning whether the Dupont Drag Race would be embraced nationwide.  (Even though it totally should...because it's awesome.)

So why tell us that something so common is a "new thing" that "may be long term"?  Probably because it's the kind of article that gets emailed around.  It reinforces my old purchases from the Brooks Brothers boys department and everyone else who has been shopping and dressing like this for quite some time already, making it seem as though we were all on the cutting edge.  And it also sets the stage for them to wait a few weeks before they decide to write an "Ultra Feminine/Masculine styles for Winter 2010" article.  Because how does retail stay afloat?  By confusing us into submission and contradictory purchases. 

1 comment:

Kyle said...

A damning indictment of mall-based clothiers? Really, I just like the idea that androgyny is somehow thinking "outside the box." What else is "outside the box" to Brandon? Shopping on Amazon? Printing airline tickets at home? Rooting for the Red Sox?


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