What does it mean to be regarded as a "manly man" in 2020? Back in the medieval ages, manliness was perhaps defined by a knight’s ability to wield his sword masterfully and whisk his fair maiden away from dangerous captors. Think aggressive, macho, and muscular.
Fast forward to today, as we strive to become a more progressive, forward-thinking society as a whole, the term “manly” could be rightfully used to describe a male who successfully demonstrates strength, virility and courage. After all, these qualities matter more than the clothes that he chooses to wear on his back, yes? Unfortunately not, according to some.
Feeling ‘pretty’ in a frothy Gucci gown
Renowned fashion publication Vogue recently unveiled a full-length shot of popular English singer-songwriter Harry Styles in a blazer and gown on their Instagram and it quickly drew thousands of comments. Sharing about his approach to dressing up, the singer shared: "I’ll go in shops sometimes, and I just find myself looking at the women’s clothes thinking they’re amazing. It’s like anything — anytime you’re putting barriers up in your own life, you’re just limiting yourself. There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes."
Many have openly expressed their admiration towards Harry’s refreshing outlook on fashion. However, the singer was also on the receiving end of a less-than-friendly remark that was made by a conservative commentator, who called for society to “bring back manly men.” In response, the 26-year-old hit back with another shot of himself in a baby blue suit and a pleated blouse with the same remark as his caption, as his way of reinforcing how dress codes should no longer define a man’s masculinity.
Harry Styles may be the most recognised male celebrity at the moment to openly embrace feminine codes of dressing, but there are actually a few other notable personalities who have confidently rocked gender-bending attire as well. Read on to learn more.
Gone are the days where precious pearl necklaces and CHANEL tweed jackets belonged to upper-class ladies who lunch, according to South Korean rapper G-Dragon. The K-pop royalty is a regular front-row fixture at the French luxury house’s fashion shows and would show up confidently in ensembles that your grandmother would approve of (and be jealous of.)
In fact, the 32-year-old fashion renegade doesn’t seem to limit his sartorial choices according to strict gender dress codes and would rather go with what he feels his best in. In an old interview with Dazed magazine, the rapper shared: “A few years ago, guys thought CHANEL was a women’s thing, but I’m kind of skinny I can wear women’s stuff too — so I think it’s unisex… I’m actually wearing a ‘women’s’ piece right now. When I wear CHANEL I feel like I’m not just wearing clothes, I’m wearing CHANEL.”
Tomorrow x Together
Having to imagine a man dressed in pink is alarming enough for conservatives. Imagine if he turns up to a public event in a tummy-revealing, hot pink number. South Korean boyband TXT, which consists of five members — Soobin, Yeonjun, Beomgyu, Taehyun and HueningKai — represents the newest crop of male youths who aren’t afraid to deck themselves in more feminine-looking attire.
Yeonjun, the rapper, dancer and vocalist of the group, most recently made headlines after sporting bright pink locks and a matching cropped turtleneck sweater during the group’s music comeback in October. Beyond this impactful look of his, the other members have also embraced similar styles during their performance, and continue to redefine new-gen dressing.
“I think we are all responsible for our own decisions. I like when people come to their own conclusions. If people see something in me or see something I do that inspires them to do or think in a certain way, then that's one thing, but I don't seek to influence anyone to do something. People have to be their own person and you cannot shape your life based on someone else's,” shared American actor and model Luka Sabbat.
The 22-year-old has amassed a 2-million-strong following on Instagram for his effortless sense of style — whether he's walking down the runway in a chest-baring sweater or showing up to the Met Gala in an American flag-printed top, pleated skirt and trousers combo designed by Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton. For Luka, it seems that remaining authentic and expressing one’s individuality is far more important than adhering to traditional dressing norms.
In an interview with music media brand Billboard, South Korean singer and dancer Lee Tae-min revealed: “My body shape is like that of a dancer’s. It’s not too masculine or overly muscular and I wanted to take advantage of that. I wanted to break the idea of what male performers are supposed to show, what performances girl groups are supposed to show. I really wanted to break those labels, showing that dance is a form of art.” Tae-min’s performance attire would often follow suit as well, where he’s been spotted in a variety of androgynous outfits including a sheer long-sleeve blouse in his music video, Move and a red asymmetrical suit jacket with matching lace gloves.
Speaking about his affinity for makeup, the star further added in another interview with beauty publication Allure: “For me, I think there is no absolute standard on masculinity... I feel like there was a strict gender classification in the past, but the boundaries have become more blurred and our society is more about accepting and respecting each other’s differences these days. If makeup highlights and empowers my unique appeal, why not use it?"
(Cover photo from: @harrystyles)
Now, get inspired by these empowering quotes from some of Forbes' 30 Under 30 2020 personalities.