I’ve been thinking a lot about sexual signifiers recently; specifically about how people make sweeping assumptions about guys’ sexual orientation based on pre-determined and long-held social beliefs. I’m not talking about something as reductive as, “He likes clothes, he must be gay,” because it’s 2015 and I’m more surprised by young men who have no interest in clothing than by those who do, but even something as simple as, “He knows who the creative director of Chanel is, no straight guy would know that*.”
The clothing we wear is obviously a major signifier, and this printed trench coat is a doozy. It’s a runway sample from the current Spring/Summer 2015 Burberry Prorsum collection, and it is not for the fainthearted. But I like it — I find it both beautiful and intriguing — and surely dressing for oneself is more important than dressing for others. Right? Right!?
We’re living in a fascinating age of boundary-pushing clothing. Look at Alessandro Michele at Gucci — his first men’s collection included sheer lacy shirts and jackets with three quarter length sleeves. Look at Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent — his men’s collections are filled with micro-cut jackets and stacked Cuban heeled boots and gold lamé and tiny little leather pants.
As a big fan of both Leandra Medine and Natalie Joos, it always makes me laugh (and identify) when they talk about how the clothing they wear can be a major turn off for the opposite sex. Natalie Joos once wrote a blog post about how a date of hers told her exactly what she’d done wrong in her outfit and how much more he would have liked her if she’d shown a bit more skin. There was no second date. I imagine some of my more outré clothing choices have a similar effect on females. When I texted a picture of this trench coat to get the opinions of my lady friends, the response was universal: “Woah. [insert eggplant emoji here]” And not necessarily in that good way.
At the end of the day, people seem to value simplicity above all else. Ask a girl what she wants a guy to wear on a date, and nine times of out 10 she’ll reply with, “A pair of jeans and a white button-down shirt.” Ask a guy the same about a girl, and he’ll say something like, “I dunno, a tight black dress?” Complicated designer clothing is not at the top of any list. This Burberry trench coat is, without a doubt, complicated designer clothing. But as these new gender-bending trends trickle down to the mainstream and start making appearances in the Zaras and H&Ms of this world, who knows? Maybe printed trench coats or sheer lace shirts will become the norm for the average man-who-shops. If that happens, those sexual signifiers of ours are going to have to shift. Clearly I’m biased, but I’ll await developments with keen interest.
*People have thought I was gay all my life. Who could blame them — I displayed all the stereotypical signs: I worked in hairdressing salons from the age of 14, then different facets of the fashion industry for the next 16 years. I’ve always preferred the friendship of females to males, yet a lot of the time the guys I’m surrounded by are of the particularly attractive variety (male models). I love musicals, I love Graham Norton, I can name every creative director of every major fashion house. Hell, I even live with a male flight attendant here in New York. But despite all these glaringly telltale signs, I’m just your ordinary, average, straight fashion blogger.
I LIKE YOU!