There Is No Longer “Cross-Dressing”; Just Men Wearing Women’s Clothes

Christopher Makos: Lady Warhol / Amazon.com
Christopher Makos: Lady Warhol / Amazon.com

In the past couple of years, fashion has taken a turn to the androgynous. It’s hard to say when the androgynous female look rose in popularity. I like to think it was around the time of Annie Hall, but it only really began to saturate high fashion a couple years ago. And since then, we’ve seen the rise of a new ilk of androgyny in fashion: androgynous or gender-ambiguous menswear.

Andrej Pejic is one such pioneer in this niche, a male model whose feminine features have gotten him casted for more women’s looks than men’s.

J.W. Anderson is another name in fashion who’s facilitating this trend. In his men’s 2014 spring/summer collection, he sent male models down the runway in halter tops, and then this past fashion week, for his 2014 fall/winter collection, he sent men down the runway in heels.

Androgyny in fashion is no new concept, but one conversation that hasn’t been broached as much as it should is that of cross-dressing and how this newfound acceptance of androgyny has affected its meaning.

I have a lot of guy friends who are gay (#humblebrag) and wear women’s clothes. On Friday, I lent a sweater dress to one such dude and he, in return, so generously let me borrow his Prada leg warmers. And as I was bragging to my girl friend about it, she asked me whether or not he’s a cross-dresser. Honestly, I didn’t know how to respond.

The question felt antiquated; outdated. Frankly I didn’t even want to justify it with an answer, but she did shed light on an interesting fact: that cross-dressing has pretty much become obsolete. When I could finally think of the right words, this is what came out: “I mean…no? He wears women’s clothes, but he doesn’t cross-dress.” And that right there seems to encompass the gender roles that fashion is beginning to dictate.

For their 2014 spring/summer show, streetwear brand Hood By Air embraced this new idea, which Paul Wagenblast at Dazed Digital describes as not “embracing both genders but denying them.” And this was especially groundbreaking given the nature of the clothes: Hood By Air is a streetwear brand, and is thus meant to represent “the cultural climate..[something] adopted traditionally by high fashion brands opting to diffuse their ethos into a format fit for the general public.”

It’s a fresh, new way of looking at gender and gender roles in society, and one which Piers Morgan could not wrap his head around when he was interviewing transgender woman Janet Mock. Morgan could not let go of the details of Janet’s life that are not only inconsequential to her and peripheral to the cause she’s trying to fight, but even detrimental to the transgender cause too. He couldn’t move his focus away from the idea that Janet was born male — specifically Charles — underwent surgery, and became Janet. And it’s this obtuse way of thinking that needs to be excised from our lexicon entirely. In all of his ignorance, Piers Morgan told Janet that it took “guts” to do what she did. Her response? “I don’t marvel at it that much because for me there was no other choice but for me to be myself.” Like Hood By Air, Janet argues that it’s not about embracing both genders, but denying them. “I think we need to have a discussion about what gender is,” she said, “I was born a baby who was assigned male at birth. As soon as I had enough agency in my life to grow up, I became who I am.” TC mark

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