Masculinity and Style

Last weekend I borrowed Season 1 of Project Runway from the library.  I’d never seen the show and, though it didn’t blow me away, it offered solid entertainment on a weekend when I just needed to kick back and recharge.

But I did notice one thing: on every episode, they only designed clothes (often dresses) for women.  While I don’t have a problem with that, I did find it curious that this fact was never even mentioned on the show.  As though fashion was so clearly linked with women’s garments that it didn’t need saying.

A small observation that wouldn’t have warranted a blog post on its own.

Except that last night I caught an episode of “Mirror, Mirror” on the Live Well Network.  They aired a segment titled “Shop for your Man.”  The segment was chock-full of troubling (and, I thought, antiquated) gender stereotypes, such as “how to give your wife a budget.”  (In 2012?  Seriously?)

But underlying all of these overt stereotypes was an assumption that men’s personal style, clothing, and consumer choices are ceded to women.  This assumption seems extraordinarily unfair to both genders.  But it seems particularly revealing of how we (as a broadly generalized American culture) think about masculinity in ways that are incredibly limiting.

During the past year, my husband has been exploring an expanding personal style.  A process that has been his own, just as much as my style has stemmed from me.  I’ve enjoyed watching him shape an outward appearance that reflects his interests and life priorities.

But when, on occasion, he has questions, there seems to be very little (or no) public conversation about men’s style.  Why does our definition of masculinity exclude the expression of style?

{Note: If you’re interested, you can check out the “Shop for your Man” segment here.  Did you find it troubling?}

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