Menswear has paid tribute to its past in recent seasons, but can the same be said for men’s values?
Over the past year or so, I have really begun to notice a shift in the way men are dressing. Guys are trading their standard jeans and t-shirts for sharp tailoring, even in casual environments. Could this be the start of a resurgence of the gentleman?
Of course, working in the fashion industry allowed me to see signs of this sartorial restoration quite a few seasons ago. However as we all know, what’s being sent down the runways doesn’t always translate to the high street; this is particularly the case when it comes to menswear.
This trend is different from many others though, in the sense that it goes beyond being just a trend altogether. The dandy approach to dressing harks back to simpler days gone by when men were well-mannered, witty, intelligent, well groomed and culturally aware.
I’m not saying that I fully support the whole “when men were men” notion. I would always consider myself a feminist, and feel that chivalry is something that should work both ways. However, there are definitely situations where we could learn a lot from our history.
What seemed to happen, both in and outside of fashion, is men lost sight of how far they had evolved as a gender. Whether it’s through primitive aggression, ignorant view points or taking no interest in their appearance, men are often stereotyped in society for all the wrong reasons.
So how did this happen? How is it that our forefathers often overshadow our generation of men when it comes to being well-respected members of society? Perhaps we’ve got so caught up in desperately trying to prove ourselves and our masculinity to one another that all these values have been made redundant. Surely a gentleman knows himself well enough to not care what other people think?
Fearing the Femme Fatale
Around the same time the gentleman disappeared from society, women experienced a revolution. No longer just the objects of their husbands, the feminist movement in all its many shapes and forms allowed women to fight against the hands of patriarchy so they could finally have their voices heard.
This process, although incredibly overdue and necessary, undoubtedly had a huge affect on the male ego. Perhaps the entire lad culture is a form of retaliation against the liberation women have continued to experience throughout the years.
Although patriarchy is still more than present in modern day society, one area in which women have always managed to enjoy freedom is fashion. Looking back in time, men once donned everything from top hats to tail coats, as well as all sorts of accessories. Today, the limitations seem to only allow a shirt and tie for formal occasions and a hoodie and jeans for the weekend.
In November 1994, the term metrosexual was coined in an article by English journalist Mark Simpson, who wrote:
“In the Eighties he [the metrosexual man] was only to be found inside fashion magazines such as GQ, in television advertisements for Levi’s jeans or in gay bars. In the Nineties, he’s everywhere and he’s going shopping.”
And so was born the metrosexual, a straight man with gay attributes who normally lives in an urban environment and who cares a lot about his grooming and appearance. The description seemed to portray a type of man who was defying the lad culture that went on to become popularised throughout the 90s.
More recently in 2011, Simpson spoke again about metrosexuality in his eBook Metrosexy – A 21st Century Self-Love Story. In this he argues the enormous impact of metrosexuality on our ideas of masculinity and femininity:
“Contrary to what you have been told, metrosexuality is not about flip-flops and facials, man-bags or manscara. Or about men becoming ‘girlie’ or ‘gay’. It’s about men becoming everything. To themselves. In much the way that women have been for some time. It’s the end of the sexual division of bathroom and bedroom labour. It’s the end of sexuality as we’ve known it.”
Although this concept might sound liberating to many, there’s no denying that metrosexuality has negative connotations within society. With everyone from footballers such as David Beckham to the male cast of reality TV show The Only Way is Essex falling into the metrosexual stereotype, the look seems a million light-years away from the classic gentleman.
Whether you allow yourself to be pigeonholed or not, the way we act and present ourselves at any age has a huge effect on the other people that surround us in society. Perhaps a return to the classic gentleman look, and some of his values with contemporary updates, can only be a good thing.
We need to reach a point in society where no matter your sex or sexuality, anyone can hold the door open for anyone else. Label it dandyism or metrosexuality; I just call it good manners.
So whether you apply the tailoring trend to your wardrobe or not, the spirit of the gentleman (or gentlewoman) can be channelled by us all; and will never go out of style.