I came across this reader comment in response to a NYT article on boys who like to cross-dress, and I think this person hit it on the nail:
Maybe clothing for boys is just too dull and restrictive. In the 17th and 18th centuries, men’s clothing was colorful and tight and elaborate. And sometimes pink. Men and women wore beautiful jewelry. Maybe these boys are trying to tell us that our current version of masculinity is dull. MARCY LERNER, New York
I don’t have kids, but every time I shop for nephews and nieces, I’m struck by how gender-bound clothing colors and styles are. Pinks and purple dominate items for girls. Trucks and sport-themed items in manly blues and greens for boys. Really, there should be shirts with racing cars in pink, or a husky brown pajamas with butterflies.
I think there’s a carryover into different cultures as well. American/British men are more averse to wearing anything that might whiff of sissyness, like a pink shirt, or carrying a man bag, whereas European or Asian men wouldn’t think twice about it. When we were walking around London this spring, it seemed like I was in Magritte-land, but instead of every man in a bowler hat, it was every pasty-looking bloke in a black anorak and black backpack. (And since Joe and I wore our screaming orange and green rain jackets respectively, we stuck out like sore thumbs!)
The men from more uptight cultures stick to boring shades of black, gray, khaki and brown. Ugh. Boring colors do nothing for your skin tone and often makes you look so unattractive, guys. Plus it camouflages you into the urban landscape, so that if you’re walking/biking around, you’re at greater risk of being hit by inattentive drivers who don’t see/notice you.
What’s even more depressing is when you see guys of a non-white/ethnic extraction in the US wearing the same boring colors. Their grandfathers back in their native lands in Asia or Africa might have worn really colorful/patterned clothing which flattered their skin tones, but their American descendants look washed out in grey hoodies and black t-shirts, to blend and assimilate with their peers.
Yup, our current version of masculinity is dull. What would it take to shove a mindshift for men so that they can confidently/comfortably dress in more vivd and decorative clothing? Is that the real reason why men dress in such boring colors/patterns, because they’re worried about being labeled ‘gay’? I can’t believe men really LIKE such boring colors.
In this respect, it’s better to be a woman today; there’s a wider range of dress which is acceptable, from pastel florals to rich embroidery, full spectrum of the rainbow colours. We can even dress like men (YSL’s smoking jacket!). Aren’t men even a little bit envious of that? And we can wear those boring blues/blacks/grays/browns if we want, usually when we’re too lazy/rushed to try assemble an outfit.
(I had cut out this newspaper article last year, meaning to write about this. It’s so wrinkled now as I’ve been carrying it around. I was afraid I’d lose it and forget. Now I can properly recycle the clipping.)