Is it just me, or is the New York Times style section really interested in defending the manliness of men these days? You know the type: regular dudes who drink beer and watch sports games, but who also use a daily facial moisturizer and care about the thread count of their dress socks. Because, man, being interested in those things doesn’t make a guy effeminate or anything. He’s just keeping it fresh for the ladies!
In “Straight Talk: A New Breed of Fashion Bloggers,” Alexis Swerdloff introduces us to five dudely fashion writers who eagerly assert that their love of fine stitching and accent bandanas does not make them girly. Not one bit. Because that would be icky.
One of Swerdloff’s totally butch sources explains:
There are hyper-masculine dudes who “look at men’s fashion the way other guys look at cars, gadgets or even sports,” said Tyler Thoreson, the editorial director of Park & Bond, a men’s retail site.
“There’s the same attention to detail.”
In other words, these are macho fashion bloggers, writing for a post-metrosexual world. “It’s translating this sort of very-guy approach to something that’s so traditionally been quasi-effeminate,” Mr. Thoreson added.
While I’m all for more guys caring about the way they look, can we please dispense with the weird angst and implicit sexism/homophobia conveyed here? I’m hoping against hope that this piece is tongue-in-cheek; but considering the Gray Lady’s history with these sorts of articles, I can’t help but take it seriously. Why Swerdloff felt the urge to insist that these men “feel secure in their manhood” is beyond me. Indeed, as her lede points out, there are fashion bloggers who aren’t a “15-year-old girl with an unhealthy obsession with Rei Kawakubo.” They, too, are grown men (Slate’s own Simon Doonan is a fabulous example), but perhaps their implied femininity makes their equally (if not more) comprehensive knowledge of style somehow less valuable.
Here’s the thing: Fashion need not be a gender- or sexual-orientation-defined realm. Men of all stripes have always been involved in the business of clothes; a few more wax-jacketed types have decided to join the fray. Great. But is it really necessary to portray them as some kind of redeeming force? I’m sure most men in fashion are perfectly comfortable with their interpretations of manhood; after all, if traditional masculinity is defined by self-assuredness, this kind of defensive posturing and thirst for approval is about as sissy as it gets.