Masculine ideals of beauty shift over time and culture, as do those of women. What is seen as effeminate is defined and redefined, shunned and appropriated. And, in some cases, men have more freedom to be openly beautiful. The limitations of the male body are lesser, it is less controlled. As long as the genitals are covered, the rest is fair game.
Take us, then, to the twentieth century. After two world wars, the Western world begins to recover. Pop and rock music and its icons emerge. The hearthrob is born. He is sometimes rugged and hyper-"masculine". But sometimes he is beautiful.
As fashion and generations react, interact and reject each other, this beautiful hearthrob was born (informed and influenced by many other generations and incarnations) in retaliation to the conformist, capitalist expectations of modern society. He was a hippy. Then he was a rock star. Mick Jagger with his shimmying hips, tight clothes, sheer fabrics, frills, long hair and pout. Punks and Goths with painted nails, lined eyes, lace, skirts. Glam rock with its idols that turned women into frenzied creatures while being more made up than the women themselves. Bowie. Emos. Harry Styles.
Much as we will always have our beefcakes as cultural epitomes of masculinity and attractiveness, we will, likewise, probably always have the effeminate ideal. He is the type of man that many others don't get but that women swoon over. He wears necklines that bare collarbones and vast expanses of chest, he squeezes into dandyishly tight trousers, wears jewellery and make-up, refuses to cut his hair. He picks and chooses from male and female performances and constructs an identity that is something in between - one that allows him to be visibly sexual without the shunning a woman would attract, one that verifies virility, one that embraces that which is softer and "frivolous".
I recently discussed my fondness for these men with a friend. I voiced my opinion that there is something powerfully sexy about a man who dresses and behaves in these ways because it boasts confidence in who they are (always an attractive trait) and their own self-defined identities (an increasingly attractive trait today) and suggests an inclination to be more open-minded about issues to do with equality and society. And then there's just that raw sexuality. The sensuality of fabric and texture choices so outside the realm of most men's colourless and tired wardrobes. The visual hide-and-seek of flesh in more nuanced ways than those who relieve themselves of shirts the moment it's vaguely warm, no matter the time, place or situation. The balance between ruggedness and refinement. Think of Mr Darcy stepping out of the water in his soaked white frill-collared shirt and fitted breeches. Doki, doki, no?
I'm all for this type of dressing. For these attitudes. So, check out my styling below. Consider these things and let me know what you think!