Are ‘feminine’ looks the future of men’s fashion?

Gender bender
JW Anderson’s backless, semi-sheer halter tops for men raised eyebrows at London Men’s Fashion Week. (Rex Features)

(BBC) Androgyny and ‘feminine’ looks are all the rage on the men’s catwalks – but will guys actually wear these clothes? Yes they will, predicts Maya Singer.

Some fashion trends sneak up on you. Others ring out loud and clear. Last week, as the Spring ’14 menswear shows kicked off in London, one trend sounded with all the subtlety of an air horn: androgyny is the new black.

Frill seekers
Martine Rose’s collection combines feminine elements with inspiration drawn from sports and athletic kits.

The most forceful expression of this theme came from up-and-coming brand JW Anderson. The five-year-old label comprises collections for men and women, and designer Jonathan Anderson likes to overlap the look of the two. Last season, for instance, Anderson showed pairs of ruffled shorts for men much like the ones in his Spring ’13 womenswear collection. And this time, Anderson’s dominant silhouette was a lean tunic paired with fluid, elongated trousers, another shape he’d begun to articulate in his previous womenswear show. But the look that got eyebrows arching and tongues wagging was Anderson’s male halter top: backless, semi-sheer and floral patterned, the look was unavoidably effeminate. “Atrocious,” sneered The Daily Mail.

Anderson is upfront about the fact that he likes testing the boundaries between men’s and women’s clothes. But he insists that he’s not setting out to create controversy; for him, the gender-bending emerges organically, out of formal risk-taking.

“In a way, it’s funny that people had such a strong reaction to that look,” Anderson tells me. “I mean, that top started as a long raglan mac. And then we cut the sleeves off, and then we made it short. When you’re in the studio,” he goes on, “that kind of experimentation feels normal. In fact, it’s the point. You’re playing with a piece of fabric, trying to create a new line, a new proportion. But then you present that to the world, on a runway, and it becomes this ‘thing.’”

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