The new order of masculinity is making space for boundary-breaking fashion
The modern man is all about challenging stereotypes
In December, 56-year-old Marc Jacobs shared a selfie wearing aqua on his eyes and nails artfully done in black. Recently, actor Billy Porter wore a strapless two-tone teal Hogan McLaughlin jumpsuit gown to the Critics’ Choice Television Award. His arms were hand-painted with butterflies, which as he explained on the red carpet, were an ode to the trans-community. This is, of course, not the first time that Porter was seen in a gown. It is instances like these that bring us to the question we ask each decade: how are the notions of masculinity changing across different spectrums, especially in an age where the aspirational image of a hulking ‘macho’ man is deprecating in industries like fashion and entertainment.
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Be it jewellery, carrying tote bags or physical attributes like bulked up muscles that men had to adhere to, the traditional ideas associated with masculinity are now changing. The Indian exports to international runways like Tuhir Brahmbhatt, Pratik Shetty and Mustafa DG who have walked for Louis Vuitton, Loewe and Balmain among others are no longer bulked up—a physical attribute that was once the norm to become successful in an industry guided by its vanity. Mumbai-based fashion designer Nachiket Barve feels that other than the woke ideas of masculinity you see percolating on the Internet, there are many other softer changes that might go unnoticed.
Model Tuhir Brahmbhatt
“Celebrity dads wearing baby wraps (remember Orlando Bloom?), or changes in attitude with men cooking up a storm in the kitchen—I do that all the time—gender roles are shifting. Even changes like men carrying big hobo bags instead of just a briefcase or having fun with jewellery says a lot about who the modern man is.” Of course, we’ve now entered a time where even makeup for men isn’t unheard of, even though for centuries it has remained a no-go area. Chanel has a beauty line for men called Boy de Chanel and so does Tom Ford. And, this can perhaps be traced back to the boom we’ve been witnessing in male beauty vlogging. YouTube star James Charles has more than six million subscribers on the platform alone and is the first man to model for CoverGirl.
Fashion blogger and influencer Joan Dominique Rai says, “Masculinity is just a preconceived mindset that people have. But, with education and exposure to the Internet, there’s no one type of masculine figure you see in different sectors. You now see queer men rising in corporate sectors as well, not just fashion.” In the entertainment industry, English musician Harry Styles has become a style icon by wearing heels, earrings and many other marvels from the Gucci multiverse.
Alessandro Michele and Harry Styles
For 2019 Met Gala, he wore a black pussy bow blouse, heels and a single pearl earring. The former One Direction member has also carried a clutch, worn candy-coloured suits and donned a kilt while performing in Glasgow. Sumiran Kabir Sharma, who likes to call himself a silhouette generation artist and is the founder of the label Anaam, says, “Men are no longer the sole bread-winners. I always saw my mother as my role model. She’s from Himachal Pradesh, where women are used to doing physical labour. My idea of masculinity is feminine and soft.”
Billy Porter in a green jumpsuit for the Critics Choice Awards
Even in Bollywood, the ‘boys will be boys’ formula is no longer applicable. During a talk in 2018, Karan Johar pointed out how the ideas surrounding traditional masculinity, often germinating at school or families, can be problematic. He adds, “Masculinity or femininity is being comfortable in your skin. You should not put things in boxes. Like I would not tell my child to not cry like a girl. If he wants to cry, he should cry. I wouldn’t tell him, ‘Don’t walk or dance like a girl’.”