It's Time For Men to Skirt Up

It’s only a few months into the new year, but Jaden Smith is already winning it. Seventeen-year-old Smith is the face of Louis Vuitton’s latest womenswear line. The campaign is not just a major step in the right direction for Louis Vuitton, but also sets a positive example that the rest of the fashion world will hopefully follow. The fashion industry has promoted a gender binary from its early beginnings. Despite some cultural advancement in the recognition of non-binary genders, clothes are a major commodity that has stayed consistent in supporting the gender binary. However, a rising trend that Jaden Smith and others are embracing may be changing the game: men wearing skirts.

It’s not just the Jaden Smiths, Marc Jacobses, and Kanye Wests of the world who are willing to test the fashion binary. Plenty of non-celebrity males have their fingers on the pulse of fashion. These guys took note of the rise in men’s skirts on 2015 fashion runways and ignored antiquated fashion norms. Like women, these guys are donning skirts for all types of occasions. You can spot a man wearing a skirt to a formal event or on the city streets; skirts are a staple article of clothing no matter whose wardrobe they’re in. From its sheer comfort level to a variety of silhouettes, the skirt is a staple and statement piece for all to wear!

The rise of men’s skirts is an opportunity for people to take fashion into their own hands, and out of the hands of binary-promoting companies. From a young age, masculine and feminine ideals are ingrained into the minds of children. They are taught to discern gender identity based on physical characteristics, especially by the clothes people are wearing. When a baby is swaddled in pink blankets, we assume it’s a girl; a blue-clad baby must be a boy. Times are changing, and it has become clearer to people that what we wear is a reflection of who we are but not our identity.

Who is Jaden Smith? A famous teenager with bold, oft-discussed fashion taste. He is not more masculine or feminine based upon what he wears; Smith’s decision to wear skirts and dresses, and to be the face of Louis Vuitton’s womenswear campaign is reflective of his fashion taste and personal preferences, not his gender identity. This goes for all people, regardless of status. Just because your next-door-neighbor isn’t getting calls from high profile fashion houses to model for, doesn’t mean different fashion rules apply.

We have reached a crucial point in fashion history. The growing number of skirt-clad men have a chance to throw antiquated gender roles in fashion out the window. We saw a similar phenomenon in the past. Women once fought to expand their wardrobes from skirts and dresses, to the point where it is now acceptable for women to wear pants, once a “man’s garment.”

A rising fashion trend may seem trivial to some people; however, what people wear and more importantly what people are “allowed to” wear reflects cultural values. This goes back to the idea of pink being a “girl’s color” and blue a “boy’s color.” Gendering colors and clothing indirectly assigns genders to the people who wear them, when the power of identity should really only be in the hands of the individual. This is the importance of Jaden Smith’s latest spreads, deemed “gender fluid,” as well as the necessity to de-gender clothing such as skirts.

As fashion loses its gender binary, other elements of our culture will likely follow suit. Though on the surface we put little thought into our clothing and personal sense of style, being part of a culture’s fashion trends, rules, and changes shapes our values individually and as a society. It will be a monumental day when clothing stores are not divided into two sections: the men’s and the women’s. As of right now, it does not seem as though that day will be coming soon, but if there are men bold enough to defy the fashion binary and strut their stuff in a skirt, there may be hope for us yet.

Masculinity is a fragile entity which, like fashion’s gender binary, is a false construction intended to force people into groupings that they may or may not fit into. A man is not definable, especially not by the clothes a person chooses to wear. If anything, a man is defined by his own terms of masculinity, just like the young but wise Jaden Smith. He is a man who likes to wear skirts--the latter does not negate the former. The fashion industry is learning to promote that notion with campaigns such as Smith for Louis Vuitton, and people are taking notice. Besides, who likes to wear tight, suffocating pants when they could wear a light, breathable skirt? Man or woman, the skirt sounds better every time.

Illustration by Taylor Roberts