“In matters of style swim with the current, on matters of principle stand like a rock”
An experiential essay by James Sendall
Student I.D: 300295092
Actual word count:
Since the early 20th century the relationship between the male identity and fashion has been built on a foundation of heteronormative tradition. This is rooted in the aspects of work-wear and formal wear which were staples of the male dress code until the latter half of the century. It is here in which the male stereotypes in terms of aesthetic were born, emerging as the idea of functional fashion. The purpose of this essay is to shine light on the outdated and patriarchal views in which I have experienced on multiple occasions when simply expressing one’s own identity through fashion. This ultimately shows how clothing and fashion affects how an individual is viewed within society and is ultimately a form of body modification. This claim will be highlighted with examples from designers such as Rei Kawakubo and her collection with Comme des Garcon and Alexander McQueen’s Plato’s Atlantis collection to further examine the visual construction of fashion and how clothing can modify the human body.
The archaic idea the clothing must be functional stems from the point I have mentioned above regarding men’s fashion, this is that in previous decades the way women or men dressed themselves was a way to display their social class. While this made sense in a society in which individualistic aesthetics did not quite exist, because the availability of textiles was severely limited. The main driving force of this movement for individualistic aesthetics in terms of fashion was the industrial revolution in which mass production made the high end fabrics such as silk and lace readily available to the general public. This has evolved even further in recent decades as clothing has become more readily available due to consumerism with such fast fashion companies as H&M and Zara steadily recreating trends for a low price point. Surely with a veritable myriad of options in regard to dressing oneself, the concept of dressing with regard to expressing ones identity rather than functionality or societal requirements should be commonplace, but such is not the case for male society even in 2015. The main issue that is usually displayed is that when dressing outside of the cultural ‘functional’ paradigm, if a male perhaps wears an item of clothing which is viewed as feminine the male in question is then stigmatised and labelled ‘feminine’ in a due to the concept of appreciating ones appearance being associated with sexist female stereotypes. The implication overall by labelling such behaviour as feminine, is to draw negative implications, therefore being feminine is not ideal for a male and one should attempt to be more masculine. This is a definite indication of the patriarchal influences by society on the construction of the male identity, as such hobbies as sporting or automobiles are praised amongst male society. It would be seen more favourable by the patriarchy to simply dress uniformly as heteronormative men tend to do, this idea stems from the variety of ideas of what constitutes masculinity. These ideas link to the overall theme of fashion as a body modification device as it shows how ones dress can affect societal perceptions upon oneself
With regard to the construction of one’s identity Rei Kawakubo’s famous collection for Comme des Garçon in 1997 named “Body meet dress, dress meets body” was revolutionary in challenging conceptions in terms of how society views clothing. Within a usual fashion show audience members are presented with a range of garments curated and constructed by a lead designer at the head of a production team, this range whether it be for Autumn and Winter or Summer and Spring is the thematic and artistic expression of the designers aesthetic purpose for their range. This range is usually…