When you hear the words “fashion”, “model” and “catwalk”, what do you think of? Most likely, those words recall tall, rail-thin women wearing impossibly complex dresses that no-one would ever be seen wearing on the high street.
Fashion, at least high fashion, is an industry largely targeted at women. The strange outfits seen on the catwalk are then toned down, and shape the day-to-day fashions that we see in high street stores.
Does that mean that men don’t care about fashion? Well, it would be unfair to stereotype. Some men do like to just throw on a pair of trousers and a shirt, but some men take more care over their appearance. The thing to remember is that men and women have different kinds of fashion.
Nature vs. Nurture
From childhood, boys and girls are taught to behave differently. Girls are encouraged to dress up like princesses and are given dolls that they can use to practice hairdressing and applying makeup. Meanwhile, boys are given action figures with big muscles and even bigger guns or encouraged to go outside and play sports.
It’s gradually becoming more acceptable for men to be “metrosexual “, but if a young boy is caught putting on makeup or dressing up, they’ll most likely be teased by both their parents and their peers. It’s only natural that this attitude will continue on to later in life. In general, men choose outfits that are practical and comfortable and stick to simple colors that will always match. This doesn’t leave the door open for much in the way of unique menswear.
Women’s fashion involves experimentation. Designers try to out-do each other by coming up with outfits that are bold, outlandish, and in many cases difficult to wear. That the models manage to wear the outfits, instead of, as they would say on Americas Next Top Model, the “clothes wearing them”, is a testament to the skill and poise of the models.
The outfits that we see on the high street are usually easier to wear, but often still impractical. This is a hold-over from historic fashions, which were designed to show that the wearer was well-off enough to not need to perform any tasks that would require practical clothing. Think high heels (difficult and uncomfortable to walk in), loose skirts (embarrassing in the wind), and strapless tops (also potentially embarrassing).
Men’s fashion doesn’t follow this trend. Designer menswear is usually similar in form and function to plain old outfits from high street stores. The only difference is that the material is higher quality, while designer clothes tend to sport better (read: slimmer) cuts.
Many men who care about how they look will prefer investing time and effort into improving their health and physical appearance, rather than buying a new designer outfit each time they have a big Saturday night out.
The Future of Men’s Fashion
There are at least a handful of designers who are trying to put the “unique” back into unique menswear. At London Fashion Week, there were some incredibly unusual and outlandish outfits. Fashion week featured men dressed in barrels filled with carp – being shot at by other men dressed as crabs wielding sniper rifles. Just as with women’s fashion, however, we’re unlikely to see sniper crabs on the high street – but we may start to see more experimentation as a result. It will be nice to live in a world where men’s clothing choices are more varied than just black suits or trainers and jeans.