Men in the fashion world: Dapper is as dapper does
Men face their own glass ceiling in world of fashion coverage and consciousness
Throughout history, women may have been credited for sparking trends, but it's typically men who are the driving force behind the designs. Major fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Chanel, Burberry, Dior, Gucci and countless others are currently headed by men. So it's baffling why the average man is not targeted more in terms of fashion advertisements and magazines.
"I think there's a stereotype that men do not enjoy fashion and that it is feminine," said Dan Misilewich, a senior in SPA. "It's an inverse relationship. [They] don't care because they're not given the choice too. It's just been historic that women's fashion takes precedent."
Daniel Lubrano, a junior in SOC, agrees.
"It all boils down to gender roles," he said. "Things have gotten better over the last few decades; gender roles are starting to relax a little bit. But they're still there and, as a result, [men's fashion] is not the hugest interest for people in the media to cover."
However, Margo Brunelle, the marketing and PR representative for J. Crew, says that the number of men's fashion magazines is proportionate to the percentage of men reading them.
"The number of men's magazines are warranted by the demand," Brunelle said. "I don't think the supply is going to force the demand. I do think that with [men's fashion] magazines and television shows, that they're more 'how to.' Typically we find that women don't need so much 'how-to' direction."
A lot of men's fashion coverage believe that most men don't know their blacks from their blues, and so they offer fashion advice and tips for dressing and grooming without taking into consideration the veterans who are aware of these things. Women's fashion coverage is more forgiving: There are still the ubiquitous tips on hair, skin care and fashion dos and don'ts, but they are usually pertaining to current trends and not old assumptions.
It's presumed that women know the basic rules of fashion but need direction in terms of new trends. Men are expected to be clueless when it comes to clothing, which is why many are believed to rely on women's advice, giving females all the more reason to believe that they are more knowledgeable on the subject.
"Women have naturally shopped for men," Brunelle said. "The wife will see an outfit for her husband and buy it for him."
And women don't seem to mind shopping for their spouses.
"Generally guys don't like to shop as much as women," Brunelle said. "Women shop socially and men shop out of necessity. In general, men take fashion a little more literally. Women can see an item and plan to wear it in the future. Men are more 'buy it now, wear it now.'"
Then there are men that break the stereotypes and follow men's fashion.
"Just from a design point of view I like to see what people are doing," said Lubrano. "I love fashion because clothing is very architectural. Just the way that everything is structured. Two designers can have the same material, the same colors, and it'll come back completely different."
Neeraj Kumar, a senior in CAS, agrees with Lubrano but is a little more unnerved by some of the current trends.
"There are some men's fashions that are acceptable to be into," Kumar said. "I love nice ties - a nice pair of black shoes with a suit looks very classic, but I think the minute men get into the tight French Connection T-shirts, the Diesel everything, at that point when they're trying to look [vintage] - it costs a lot to look poor now. Men are so obsessed with getting that look and they're paying so much money for it. I have vintage T-shirts that I've paid no more than a dollar for."
The show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" hopes to bring more people like Lubrano and Kumar together and forge a meeting ground to change the stereotypes and fuse the male species into a fashionable one. It's a how-to show for men that has been credited for experimenting with men's fashion through the areas of expertise of five gay men who attempt to help a straight man find style.
"I enjoy [the show]," Misilewich said. "I think a lot of it is on a budget and it's things that everyday guys can take and use. It's showing people that fashion doesn't have to be a feminine thing. Guys can try on clothes and enjoy it and build an impressive wardrobe."
Then again, not everyone feels the show is living up to the publicity that surrounds it.
"I don't think they're doing that much for men's fashion," Lubrano said. "I think they're getting a lot of ideas out there but at the same time the show is very theatrical. It's very frivolous and it's funny but I don't think it's taken seriously by anyone. I don't know many people that say they've taken advice from it."
Others feel that the show, despite its attempt to tackle a man's sense of style (or lack thereof), it still markets itself toward women.
"I think that [the show] says a lot about women," Kumar said. "These [straight] guys are all catering themselves to the women and what they want. Now the idea of a guy who's kind of hairy, with baggy jeans and T-shirt, is not really in vogue anymore. From what I see with that show, women want men who are manicured, pedicured, waxed, shaved, gelled, primped, plucked [and] wearing the latest designer [clothing]."
Though the show may have its pros and cons, it most certainly has created a buzz about men beginning to care more about their appearance.
"We are coming to the point where there's not much of a breakdown between men and women," Kumar said. "Men are feeling comfortable enough to get manicures and pedicures and facials. [They] now take almost as long as, even longer than, women to get ready. There's too much of an emphasis on [appearance]. That's not the traditional role of a man. Back in the day we were supposed to throw on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and be happy."
Michael Koczan, a junior in Kogod, confesses to being one of those men to whom Kumar is referring.
"I spend a lot of time getting ready," Koczan said. "I do enjoy going shopping once a week. I try to coordinate outfits."
Lubrano's quest for fashion once matched that of Koczan.
"I used to feel like putting myself together every morning [but] at a certain point I think I was doing it at the expense of my own peace of mind," Lubrano said. "I was spending too much time [getting ready]. I still like to have a little interest to what I wear but I think I've caved to comfort even though I don't like to admit it."
Though one can argue that men have "caved to comfort" since the appearance of clothing, it has always been women who have conformed to new designs and trends, leaving men behind in terms of stylishness.
"Female fashion is very experimental ... it always has been," Lubrano said. "Hemlines rise and drop and things change very quickly. Men's fashion, even over the past 100 years, hasn't changed much. I think people are trying to [experiment] now but they're still working in certain frameworks. You'll have experimental [men's] T-shirts but it's still a T-shirt. The basics for men's wardrobe have always been the same. Some people really experiment [with men's fashion] but they're not mainstream [designers]."
This lack of mainstream designers who push the envelope for men may attribute to men's short attention span when it comes to clothing and fashion in general. However, those that do break through charge the equivalent of a Rolls Royce for a piece of clothing.
"Men have trouble going into stores and paying over a hundred dollars for a button-up shirt or sixty dollars for a designer T-shirt," Misilewich said. "If they could make it more affordable for men then more men would get involved [in fashion]."
Designers would also need to target the average man's sense of style. Men as a whole don't usually conform to one style, which may explain the media's reluctance to cover men's fashion: If everyone's stuck on being an individual rather than adopting a new trend that was supposed to catch on, then what's the point?
"In general, style talks to your personality," Kumar said. "I don't really want to pick up a magazine and look at the new fashion and [look] like that person. Overall I believe that if you're going to have style be an individual about it."
"Fashion is completely personal," he said. "It should be something that's pleasing to you and that you enjoy. I don't think that fashion is something you should do for others. Some people feel they need to do it for attention, and I guess that has its place but that's not how I regard things."
The problem could lie in the fact that the men's market is so fickle that it's hard to pinpoint who to address in magazines and television shows - and all along we thought women were the picky ones.