This article was published on January 25th, 2020
Throughout the history of time, gay men have forged a path that the heteronormative set have followed across all aspects of society – particularly in fashion. From the examples to the samples, and what’s next in gay sartorial appropriation?
The modern times have placed a spotlight on gay fashion in ways that have been well documented. As warriors and gender rebels, the closets of gay men and their adoption of styles previously viewed as subversive have slowly but surely gained traction in straight society. As identity and gender rebels, the LGBTQ+ community has made bold statements through clothing that speaks volumes without saying a word. Fashion has always been about self-expression, but for members of the LGBTQ+ community specifically, the purpose of fashion has encompassed more than simply a fabric and a brand.
Styles have often showcased their sexuality and intersectional identities to others within their world, with many men using gendered dress codes that allowed them some form of visibility, viability, and a ‘voice’ to be seen.
The Sartorial Divide Is Dying
The more that gay men have woven masculine and feminine imagery together to create a new landscape in fashion, it has become increasingly difficult to pin down where gay ends and straight begins. This blurring of the lines has gradually crept into the international conscious through mainstream male stars such as Mark Wahlberg in the 90s in Calvin Klein, David Beckham’s metrosexual silhouettes, and current pop singer Harry Styles, who has pushed the boundaries even further.
Have we come to a melting point in fashion where the lines are so blurred that there no longer any lines to conform to? Gay fashion has made a series of transitions over the decades, at one point and time featuring dandies, mods, scallywags, muscle Marys, vogueing divas, progressive punks, and everything in between. From the alleys to 5th Avenue, gay culture has become THE culture to emulate in the 21st century, and the heteronormative world is playing catchup in leaps and bounds.
Gay men have more disposable income than most groups to spend on fashion, and their influence on heteronormative style cannot be denied. The byproduct of their efforts has resulted in less violence against the LGBTQ+ community based on sexual orientation, with same-sex marriage now legal in over twenty countries, proof that there is more social and political acceptance in these modern times.
There are still milestones to reach, however, and as gay subcultures continue to move closer to the mainstream and more acceptance, previous gay tropes are being abandoned or recalibrated for the next generation. With more straight men wearing the clothing that was typically categorized as gay fashion, there are more men in the LGBTQ+ community are taking it to the next level to distinguish themselves from their straight counterparts.
The Digital Domain & The Crossover
The digital era has made the search for personal identity a new conundrum for everyone, including gay men, who now have more boxes to tick off when classifying themselves to one another, as well as the world. No matter the aesthetic, queer culture has now gone from iconic House Ball looks to homo hippie and several other new fashion landscapes that are currently being featured and played up in the mainstream media, both in magazines and digital media.
Gone is the era where fashion took years to hit the entire world en masse. Today’s furious pace dictates that fashion evolve seemingly in a matter of weeks, if not days. This microwave fashion process has been adopted by some of the biggest names in the fashion industry – from Rick Owens and Stella McCartney, to Brandon Maxwell and Calvin Klein, the slant towards ‘gay fashion’ has combined absurdist, surreal, and fantastical imagery that has become commonplace on concrete jungles around the globe.
As fashion continues to shapeshift and evolve, what remains a staple is that gay men and the LGBTQ+ community will continue to be at the forefront.