Paleo Retiree writes:
Out in huge numbers in NYC this spring/summer: women wearing bright, colorful pants. Not all of these pants are variations on red-orange, but I guesstimate that 80% or more of them are. Here are a few shots of street life that I’ve snapped just in the last few days:
I’m enjoying it. (Of course, I nearly always enjoy the spectacle of women pulling themselves together and putting themselves on display.) Where fashion goes, women can be terrible sheep, god knows. How do so many of them know — and all at the exact same time — to go buy tight red/orange pants? But it’s genuinely fun to see them being playful with their bodies and their adornments, and expressing their joy in the season. Form-fitting bright pants on women are nothing if not a cheery sight, and Manhattan’s gray and dirty streets are in perpetual need of cheering up. You’re rockin’ it, ladies.
Now, here’s another fashion — less in evidence than red-orange-on-women but still unavoidable — that has me a little more perplexed:
These snapz are all of guys. In other words: This season, it isn’t just the gals who are flaunting the bright and cheery colors. Guys too are wearing flamboyantly hued pants, around 80% of them variations on red or orange. Realistically speaking, a smaller percentage of guys than gals are wearing red-orange pants, and for some reason more guys than gals are exploring the raspberry/cranberry wedge of the spectrum. But it wasn’t as though I had to try real hard to capture a lot of them dressed this way either.
Guys in considerable numbers are out this summer in red/orange/raspberry pants … What to make of this?
Are young guys now mimicking women? It certainly didn’t used to be the case that a significant subset of guys took fashion cues from women. If anything, guys were more likely to define themselves visually in opposition to women. But maybe it’s not that at all. Maybe what’s happening is just that now a lot of guys are, like women, taking cues from the media:
Another hunch: Perhaps guys are now freer to express themselves in their mode of dressing than they used to be. Back in the days of “how to be a man,” bright and expressive colors were largely left to the ladies. The assumption was that women were creatures of emotions, that they were more transparent than men, and that the package equaled “expressiveness.” (Men didn’t compete with the ladies in the expressing-your-feelings sweepstakes; signs of vanity were squashed out of guys at the youngest age possible.) The traditional male was, by contrast, someone who was in charge of his feelings, and that tended to translate clothingwise into classic cuts and a subdued palette. Women were creatures of being where men were creatures of doing.
Back in the Bad Old Days, guys allowed themselves to indulge in color in two main instances. One was plain goofiness — guys being themselves, often in the most unstylish ways imaginable. Golf fashions, anyone? The other was the case of the dandy. There have always been a few guys — rock stars (and rock star wannabes) and other dreamboat types — who worked the narcissism and look-at-me angles. Here’s a guy I ran across in SoHo the other day who’s doing what strikes me as a perfectly good job wearing pink — pink! — pants.
But, pink as those pants indisputably are, watching him go by, I — as a representative troglogyte — didn’t experience a single “What a twerp,” or “He ought to be ashamed of himself,” or “That can’t be allowed to escape unpunished” feeling. Instead I respected him. I thought, “Hmm, he’s getting away with it.” I admired the panache of this modern dandy. But then he’s slim and good-looking, he’s confidently vain, he’s squiring a hot girl … He’s probably European, now that I think of it.
So my question for you is, What are we witnessing? One the one hand, maybe it’s a glorious moment: perhaps men, finally liberated from the rigid requirements of traditional male-ness, are now free to play, to enjoy themselves, to attract attention and to express their feelings. On the other hand, maybe it’s one of the clearest signs we have of Western masculinity’s final decline. Maybe what we have are a few generations of flibbertigibbet, narcissistic young men — dudez who have been rendered as vain, as anxious and as exhibitionistic (and as helpless before the dictates of the fashion biz) as many women have traditionally been.
Liberation has arrived, and it’s terrific? Or masculinity — a once-great and valuable thing — is crumbling into dust before our eyes? Votes, anyone?