A massive 75% of the 5,821 suicides in the UK, in 2017, were male. Let that sink in. A large proportion of males in the UK felt the only option they had left was suicide. Of course, there will be many contributing factors to the male suicides as toxic masculinity can take many forms. In this article, I will be looking at the role fashion plays in contributing to toxic masculinity through the likes of body image and boyfriend fashion.
What is toxic masculinity and how is fashion an issue?
Toxic masculinity is where the harmful effects of conforming to the traditional male ideal are brought to the forefront, causing men to feel insecure in themselves.
In recent years, women’s fashion has seen a massive increase in plus-size ranges and models. However, the fashion industry has only just started to address the issue of the plus-size male. Unrealistic body expectations are forced onto men due to the lack of diversity in clothing advertisements. Unfortunately, this is only one factor contributing to the toxic masculinity we witness in today’s society.
I asked my male friends how they feel the fashion industry handles toxic masculinity and what effect it has on them as young, male consumers. One friend pointed out the lack of variety men have compared to women. “It’s nice to peacock now and then and guys don’t really get the opportunity with traditionally masculine clothes.”
Men appear to only wear blue and grey because that is what they’re given. Although it may seem like they have a choice and can wear whatever they like, a quick browse through any men’s store will soon show you otherwise. Everywhere you go, there’s wall to wall blues, greys, and blacks in the same few, limited styles. This is all contributing to toxic masculinity.
Why is it that women get more of a choice when it comes to fashion? Why has it always been this way and when will it change?
Nowadays, there is so much more freedom for young people than there has ever been before. There is access to so much information and people are able to freely express themselves through the creative arts. Yet, men still seem to be pressured into looking like a ‘masculine’ stereotype.
Boyfriend fashion for females
Back in the early 2000s, the boyfriend jean came into popularity. This was quickly followed by the boyfriend blazer, the boyfriend t-shirt and the boyfriend coat. Essentially, boyfriend fashion is the idea that you’ve borrowed your outfit from your boyfriend, hence, everything is slightly too big.
But why not just call it oversized? The baseline issue is that the fashion world assumes that most girls go out in an outfit fully comprised of their boyfriend’s clothes. Which seems a tad ridiculous.
Although it may not seem obvious at first, this can contribute to toxic masculinity just as much as no plus-sized males and little choice of styles. Once again, the fashion industry assumes that the man is going to be bigger and more muscular than his girlfriend, which, in turn, assumes that his clothes will be baggy and oversized on her. But this isn’t always the case.
The fashion industry seems to forget that everyone is different and there is no “social norm” when it comes to relationships. You can have a skinny man with a larger girlfriend, or a large man with a skinny girlfriend, or any combination in between. This can make a man feel very body conscious, therefore contributing to toxic masculinity.
A recent trend in men’s fashion is the sprayed on suit. From formal events, to the news on TV, younger men are wearing tight, single-breasted suits that emphasize their physique and muscle. But what if you’re a skinny man with little muscle or a larger man who can’t fit into one of these suits?
Men have unreal expectations as to how they should look. These suits encourage them to believe they should be of a certain size and build. Those who don’t fit the gender stereotype will start to feel alienated, causing them to hate their bodies. This is just another example of toxic masculinity.
What’s the verdict on toxic masculinity within fashion?
It’s 2020 and the fashion industry has only just started to address the issues surrounding toxic masculinity. As I have discussed in this article, men are also affected by body confidence and gender stereotypes. It’s time the fashion world did something about it. Perhaps “boyfriend” fashion has gone a step too far. And the underlying message? Men have feelings too.
Toxic Masculinity is a fashion faux-pas.