Friday, June 15, 2007

Our Egos and Other Things Have Just Been Deflated. We Aren't the Fashion Queens We Think We Are.

The following is from the current issue of Details magazine.

Who Says All Gay Men Are Stylish?

The idea that all gay men are fashionable is bull—just look at all the friends of Dorothy who dress like they're still in Kansas. Tell us what you think about the myth of gay style below.
-By Katherine Wheelock-

The following article puts us down a peg or two. However to me, it's not the clothes that make the man, but how he wears what little he can get away with. WOOF.

According to a perception that clings to popular culture like a sparkly barnacle, a visit to a predominantly gay neighborhood should yield style enlightenment. Going to the West Side enclave of Chelsea in New York should be like strolling the via Montenapoleone, in Milan. Fashion-challenged men and women should flock to these places and take notes.

Tracing the roots of this myth is easy. The Stylish Gay Man is at least as old as the Magical Negro, and older than the Nerdy Asian. Since time began, homosexuality has been associated with aesthetic acumen. It's a reasonable generalization—one that Edward II, Quentin Crisp, Liberace, and others did little to weaken, and one that understandably sashayed into the late 20th century and the early 21st; most of the openly gay men American society first accepted as public figures were clothing designers.

"This idea comes from how awareness of gay men grew over the last 40 or 50 years," says designer Isaac Mizrahi. "To someone who only knew of three gay people, it looked like all gay men were stylish."

In movies and on TV in the eighties and nineties, gay sidekicks gave sartorial and grooming advice to their messy-haired, mannish girlfriends. The Verdis and the Cojocarus of the world emerged in their wake, and on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Carson Kressley and company began gussying up men. As long as the tip was offered with a cock of the hip and a Mary Lou Retton grin, it was fabulous.

"The conventional wisdom has always been that effeminate men were concerned with style and appearance," says Simon Doonan, fashion pundit and creative director at Barneys New York. "If a movie script called for a character to be fluffy or superficial, they made him a fashion designer. This gave rise to the erroneous idea that all gay men are fashion-obsessed."

But even now that the confetti from the gay-makeover party has settled, the myth of the Stylish Gay Man persists. William Sledd, a 23-year-old Gap manager from Paducah, Kentucky, just signed a deal with Bravo to do an online, critic-at-large—style show based on his video blog, "Ask a Gay Man." This spring it blew up as the fourth-most-subscribed-to video blog on YouTube. Sledd has a side-swept haircut like Clay Aiken and often wears a tight argyle sweater or a slogan T-shirt. He says things like "What's up with all the black? I don't think there are enough pink ninjas in the world." He's entertaining. But what makes him a style expert—besides the fact that he's gay?

"Schooling and exposure determine your ability to say what looks good and what doesn't look good, not your sexual preference," Mizrahi says. "It's like saying all black people have rhythm."
And as a walk through Chelsea demonstrates—in the spring, it's often a visual smorgasbord of pink polo shirts skimming potbellies, patch-bedecked denim jackets, and silvery sneakers worn with an 11-year-old girl's naive enthusiasm—the idea that homosexual males have more style sense than any other category of human beings is patently untrue. If you were picking teams, kickball-at-recess-style, for a fashion championship, who would you call first dibs on? Lance Bass, George Clooney, Alan Cumming, Jay-Z, Rufus Wainwright, or Brad Pitt?

Take your time.

Gay men, unlike supermodels and rock stars, have no more knack for looking good in pretty much anything than the rest of us. And while there might be (just barely) fewer gay rumors circulating about the painstakingly groomed, French-cuffed Ryan Seacrest than there are about the black-T-shirt-clad Simon Cowell, it's hardly risky for a straight man to demonstrate an appreciation for fashion these days.

The Stylish Gay Man's days may be numbered. And when he dies, the playing field will be leveled. Entertainment-show hosts and best-dressed-list compilers will stop treating straight men who simply combed their hair and put on a well-cut suit as if they were paraplegics who just completed an Ironman. And the average gay man, saddled with unrealistic expectations for his personal presentation, will breathe a sigh of relief.

"There have been so many times when I wished I was a lesbian and didn't have to care about what I wore," says Michael Macko, vice president of men's fashion at Saks Fifth Avenue. "Why can't I put on dirty sweat pants, a pair of Birkenstocks, a flannel shirt, and think, Which baseball cap will I wear today? It must be nice to buy all your clothes at outlet stores."

Thanks, Details.

I'm afraid that there will always be a little of the fashion queen in most gay men. We tend to buy clothes that dictate fashion. Where we go wrong is buying stuff out of the International Male catalog, that may look good on the model, but would look absolutely terrible on mere mortals such as us.

I got this one hard and fast rule about buying clothes. Buy for comfort, but especially, if you are catalog shopping, buy clothing that looks good on a guy model that most resembles you, your features, your build. Doing otherwise leads to mockery and bitter disappointment.
All of you daddies and dads out there, I wish all of you mega hairy muscle hugs in honor of each of you this Sunday, Father's Day. Even if you aren't a Dad in the traditional sense, you are one in my eyes.


Ed said...

The guy in your picture may not be wearing the latest style but I like it. Woof!!!
I think yu are right. I've seen gay men dressed like buffoons but since they were gay everbody thought they were chic. Guess what? The Emperor has no clothes.

Lewis said...

Right on...thanks for the pic and reminders about the wide variety of tastes in our world. It's all good.

JB said...

I just go for something practical and rough-looking, utility-wear type stuff. It suits me and I like it. Boots, shorts with loads of pockets, loose T-shirts, generally stuff that can cope with the abuse my life throws at it.

And I look fabulous, darling!

Greg Fox said...

Great topic, Buff. I've pretty much given up on being on the cutting edge of fashion because, frankly, I don't find it interesting. (Yeah, OK, I did have a period in the 80s where I was working that whole new wave/rock star thing, but that's long gone. LOL). Right now I prefer a guy who does the cowboy style probably the most, or maybe the LL Bean catalog look. Comfortable, classic, and damn sexy, in my opinion! But, ultimately, everyone has their own look; that's what makes things diverse & colorful. And, much as I enjoyed an occasional episode of "Queer Eye", I found their fashion makeovers often scary! (They did nice house makeovers, though!).

psyther said...

Well DUHHH! Maybe only a 1/3 of the gays I hang out with could be considered fashionable. Or even flick through some white party pics with all the obviously homemade costumes and you really get the idea. But of all the gay stereotypes, being fashionalbe isn't one to object. There are much worse things that are assumed about the gay lifestyle :)

JB said...

Funnily enough I bumped into a high-fashion gay couple out of the blue today at a country house!

Lemuel said...

It was a tough lesson to learn when I was a teen. Clothes that looked good on my classmates did not look good on me. And now I know that I do not look ANYTHING like those guys in IM catalogs. [sigh!}

Shaney said...

Fashion - We have 'Lable Queens' If it is from a notable lable it has too look good ...right? Just the other day a lesbian friend of mine happened to get a bit dirty while helping replace a car window - She vested her anguish by pointing out she has just ruined a $120 T-Shirt or otherwsie known as a Polo Shirt. Firstly it didn't come anywhere near looking expensive, secondly - the logo was so small I had no idea of the maker. It simply looked like a K-mart Polo. Of course she threw her arms up in the air and said what would I know about fashion! I found it quite ironic, considering last weekend she told me how good I looked in my new denims & T-Shirt which set me back $55 for both. I dont go out of my way to look good for anyone & certainly could care less what others think of my style...To me it is unique, cost effective, comfortable & suits the one person it matters too most...The expectation that all gay men are stylish is absurd!
Just another example of society stereotyping.

Will said...

Buff, honey, that guy would win any gay man's style competition hands down! That torso, those muscles, that jock-strap wrapped basket--ALWAYS in style.

That said, I'm with the guy who wants to wear the flannel shirt, baggy pants and Birkenstocks. Know what makes them gay-stylish? The ballsy confidence and and absolute sense of ownershop with which he wears them--and makes other guys want to take them off him.

cola boy said...

We may not be fashionable, but I'll take a hottie wearing chaps and a jock like in the picture at the top of this post anytime. ;-)

TOS said...

I definitely did not get the gay-fashion or color-coordination gene. I tried to keep up with the fashion pack when I first came out, I was thinner, fresh-faced and bright-eyed and could wear a tight t-shirt fairly well (even with a real build) but two things wore me down quickly.

1) Price: I am morally opposed to the idea of jeans costing $110, let alone $50. Sorry, I'm from New England and the Yankee thrift overrides the need to look super-chic. The same goes for $42 twinkshirts at Aberzombie and Bitch... I'd rather spend my money on saving for a bigger house, a sling, vacations etc.

2) Comfort and durability: I suppose this goes back to price again but let's face it, all that crap at H & M (all those cheapie makeover shows must be fronted by them) looks good for about 1 wear. Wash it and it is barely good enough to wipe down the car with. Plus it feels cheap and probably itches.

Call me a lesbian if you will but I buy most of my clothes from LL Bean now. I'd rather look like a hunky, handsome woodsmen from Massachusetts, than a sissy wearing Sisley. Plus all their stuff is guaranteed for life. I have actually returned pants that gave out after years of wear (on their advice!) and got brand new ones, without any hassle and even a smile! Now that's a store!

Oh yeah and I used to secretly beat off to their catalog when I was a kid looking at the underwear ads and pictures of the rugged Dads out fishing and such :-)