Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It’s not cross-dressing if it’s made for men!

Tonight, on my way home from the gym, I decided to stop by Border’s. It was very impulsive, since I have literally five books stacked in the “to-read” pile on my nightstand and it is still a little early for October issues to hit the stands, but when I noticed the new Details magazine sitting there on the shelf, I was delighted to see my trip was not a waste.
After arriving home and changing clothes, I plopped down on my bed and started to skim through in my usual manner: fashion first, cover story second, short/interesting articles third, and the rest I would save for later. With this method, it is clear to see how one of the first things that caught my attention was a one page feature on “10 Rules of Style” provided by Victoria Beckham, formerly known round the world as Posh Spice. In it, she talked about why guys should avoid tight jeans, designer logos and trying too hard, and overall, I agreed with everything she had to say. The thing that stuck out to me though is when she proclaimed, “Men who wear skinny jeans won’t be wearing my jeans. I don’t think jeans should be tight around their bollocks.”
When I read that, my brain highlighted “MEN” and “MY JEANS”. I certainly would hope not! If Vicky doesn’t like men to wear their jeans tight, I can’t imagine her liking them sporting women’s jeans, even if she is responsible for designing them. Further investigation revealed that next month, Beckham will be adding onto dVb Denim by Victoria Beckham, with a brand new menswear line. Online, I even discovered some pictures of husband, David Beckham sporting the first pair of dVb jeans for men. As a reigning style icon for women in Europe and the United States, it makes sense for her to extend her denim brand as far as it will go – but how many men are willing to buy clothes from stores initially geared towards women’s apparel? Apparently, a lot of companies are trying to find out. On two very opposite ends of the fashion spectrum, two formerly “women-only” brands, Chanel and Forever 21 (see, it is possible to use the two in the same sentence) are delving into menswear too.I first noticed the Chanel men’s collection in November 2007, when Karl Lagerfeld’s cruise collection for men under the Chanel label was reviewed in British GQ. The article notes that, “Coco Chanel never turned her hand to making clothes for men, but Karl Lagerfeld is showing an increasing fascination with the challenge” - a fascination which apparently did not die, as you can now scroll through a couple of looks for men on the Chanel website (two of which are posted here). I actually saved the article because I really liked the seersucker cashmere blazer and I hoped that one day, I would peruse a Chanel boutique for some clothes for myself. Forever 21, on the other hand, was another story.
In May of this year, I was unwillingly dragged into the Santa Monica Forever 21 by a female friend who was looking to save money and find a less expensive version of the MaxMara dress she actually wanted (which didn’t happen). So as she searched, I wandered off, all the while trying to avoid pushy bargain hunters and masses of synthetic fabric falling off the racks, and then I saw it – a sad little corner of men’s clothes. It was as you would expect: lots of tee shirts, sweatshirts, some jeans, a poorly made blazer, etc. And as I looked through the merchandise, I couldn’t help but think, “What self respecting man would ever buy his clothes here?” If I am shopping high-street, give me GAP or Zara any day! And by the absence of men looking around, it seems as if the general population agrees with me.
So what is it about women’s brands suddenly catering to men? Is it okay as long as the label is good and the clothes are chic (and ultimately, expensive), or is it something that should just be avoided all together? I can’t help but wonder if Victoria Beckham’s brand will succeed along reigning denim brands like Diesel and 7 for All Mankind, both of which don’t have any “girly” stigma attached. I guess ultimately we will have to wait and see, but I don’t think I will be the first in line to grab a pair.

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