Fashion Bytes — Gravitas vs Personal Expression… & Comfort

Joan Smith of The Independent wrote recently about the difference between men’s and women’s dress and a party she attended in The City in London. She appropriately called her piece “Unbutton that jacket, and let freedom reign“, and she focuses on the lack of freedom the men at the party — and men in general — have in their choice of dress. She particularly highlights Prime Minister David Cameron’s rather uncomfortable-looking, long-sleeved, black oxford shirt during a recent trip to Afghanistan, where the temperatures can reach 120F (49C), and a photo in which Ed Balls and Labour Leader Ed Miliband were pictured in summer heat with their jackets buttoned.

Fashion Bytes has frequently addressed the topic of gender roles and fashion, discussing the restrictions on men’s dress in politics, fashion model Andrej Pejic, and the gender stereotyping of colours in baby clothes.

Smith also discusses the impressions clothes gives, and the fact that stayed and boring as they are, men’s clothing does have a certain gravitas, and suggesting that women sometimes risk being not being taken seriously when they dress for self expression. She ends her article by discussing the shift in attitudes towards tattoos from fringe fad to socially acceptable and compares it to the lack of shift in attitudes towards clothing, saying she hopes one day to walk into a party and be just as interested in the men’s clothes as the womens.

What are your thoughts on Smith’s article? Is it strange that despite all the social changes we have brought about in the last century men’s clothing hasn’t really changed? Is there a movement towards more self expression in menswear that Smith is ignorant of? Is Smith’s assessment inaccurate because she is only focusing on men in typically conservative professions (politics, banking, CEOs)? What role might a man’s career play in his choice of attire? Does self expression in clothes necessarily mean that a person cannot be “taken seriously”? Does having so much choice for women’s wear create an entirely different set of problems? What does the conflict between “gravitas” and self expression in dress tell us about how clothing is valued in society? What does it tell us about how men are valued versus women, and what they are valued for?  What will it take for men’s dress to attract as much attention and interest as women’s? How might a revolution in men’s fashion begin?

Please share your thoughts.

Photo by Tom Stoddart, via The Telegraph

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1 Comment

  • Visiting Reader August 26, 2012 07.57 pm

    What role might a woman’s career play in her choice of attire?

    Oddly, I rarely see that topic discussed. Instead, I see galleries on fashion blogs featuring “Working GIRLS.”

    As for men’s attire, in most situations, their clothes are more comfortable, adaptable, dignified, better priced and well made than clothes made for women.

    Pure self-expression is not the prime value for most people in most fields, especially serious ones.


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