Even More Androgyny in Menswear (Fall 2014)

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Roberto Cavalli

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John Galliano

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J.W. Anderson

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Astrid Andersen

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Dries Van Noten

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Issey Miyake

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Alexander McQueen

 

 

Botox and Youth Obsession

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People love Botox. According to the company’s official website, health care professionals have performed 11.8 million Botox procedures since 2002, and in a survey of 303 patients, 92% expressed satisfaction with their results (Botoxcosmetic.com).

Health care professionals administer Botox to reduce patients’ wrinkles and migraines and to treat other minor health concerns like uncontrollable eye-blinking and severe underarm sweating. Through injections, Botox blocks pathways to particular nerves, which is why you might sometimes hear that people who have used Botox have less expressive faces.

But what exactly is Botox? “Botox” is a portmanteau of the words “botulinum” and “toxin.” “Botox is a drug made from the botulinum toxin, which is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum” that causes some foodborne illnesses in fish and poultry (United States National Library of Medicine).

According to this 2012 report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the majority of people who use Botox are women. Health care professionals administered 5,745,052 of 6,134,621 Botox procedures to women in 2012, which was 94% of all Botox procedures. Botox’s marketing reflects these statistics. While the official website does contain sections like “BOTOX Cosmetic for Men,” of the 26 pictures on the home page featuring potential Botox patients, only one—an obscure one, at that—depicts a male.

While most civilizations have correlated youth with beauty, within today’s globalized consumer culture, advertising brings the youth/beauty correlation to the forefront of many people’s minds.

Statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons demonstrate that Botox sales thrive within a youth-obsessed culture, especially among women, who experience more societal pressure to maintain hegemonic beauty ideals, such as the youth=beauty paradigm. However, Botox procedures only last several months, so women who are satisfied with one Botox procedure must make Botox procedures a quarterly beauty routine if they are to maintain the effects.

Without even “Googleing” the statistics, the idea that people can make their skin appear younger than it actually is as long as they have injections 3-4 times a year sounds like a recipe for addiction. Yet even if people can afford the quarterly injections, at some point, no matter how many Botox injections they have, their bodies will noticeably age. What happens when the injections aren’t enough?

While Botox is considered “non-invasive” by the American Society of Plastic surgeons, invasive surgeries would seem to be the next logical step to maintain a façade of youth. Yet the same logic applies—how many procedures can people have before they have to accept that they’re going to continue to age, and at some point surgery won’t stop that?

Being from a culture where Botox procedures and more invasive plastic surgeries are somewhat of a social norm, I’ve found myself wondering if I will succumb to the pressure of maintaining a youthful appearance through procedures similar to Botox. One side of me thinks, “Of course I will.”

Yet I have to wonder: where do we go from here? Despite their success within their targeted demographics, companies like the makers of Botox will want to expand their markets—after all, why should the wealthy be the only people who have access to this lucrative technology with a surprisingly high customer satisfaction rate? As of now, Botox can cost between $450-$850 per procedure, depending on what area of the face a person wants to smooth, but I imagine a future with over-the-counter Botox-like products, do-it-yourself” injection kits, complete with cotton balls and a syringe.

In order to subvert what seems like an out of control obsession with youth in industrialized cultures, I propose that we reexamine our attitudes toward aging and reevaluate if needles and scalpels are worth the payoff—something I’m going to have to think about for myself.

Garters: Sexy, eh?

Contemporary notions of garters normally involve a cheesy French maid outfit. However, garters weren’t originally designed for women. Yet over time, garters became symbols associated with female sexuality. This exposition will explore where garters came from and how they were repurposed from a technology of utility to a technology of aesthetics.

According to Tortora and Eubank, men of the Merovingian Period, around the 5th century, wore garters. (117). Men wore stockings called hose under tunics and used garters to keep their hose from falling down. Hose are the ancestors of contemporary pants. Women did not wear hose, so they did not wear garters.

During the 10th and 11th centuries, in the Medieval Period, hose evolved into braies, which “were loose-fitting linen breeches fastened at the waist with a belt,” but were also “wrapped close to the leg with gartering” (126). Garters continued to be masculine technologies that promoted utility, most likely to keep braies from falling down or becoming unnecessarily dirty, while feminine gender identities would continue to be coded through long dresses.

By the 15th century, garters were no longer needed for male clothing because hose resembled modern tights and were tied directly to jackets and shirts (159). The 15th century may have been the last era that men wore the type of garters associated with women today, although men still wear much shorter versions of garters, predominately concealed under full length pants.

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By the 1920s, Western societies no longer created garments solely found in traditional fabrics, such as cotton, linen, silk, and wool–synthetic materials like rayon become available. Women began to wear stockings, which are similar to the hose men wore in earlier centuries, but women wore garters to fasten their stockings to corsets or garter belts. By the mid 1930s, Westerners had access to acetate and nylon as well, and it is worth mentioning that these fabrics were used “mostly in women’s clothing” (455). During this same period, designers like Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel began designing clothes for Hollywood films, increasing the demand for available fashions.

When comparing these two images of gendered undergarments in the 1930s, which gender is afforded more mobility and comfort is obvious. The female undergarments appear delicate and restrictive, whereas the male undergarments appear dynamic and athletic. Even the postures of the two illustrations convey markedly different attitudes, one coy and the other uninhibited. Clothing is and has been a means to oppress the agency of women. Crinoline cages, bustles, and corsets and just a few obvious examples.

Today, designers and consumers are able to pull inspiration for clothing from all of the styles recorded in history. New technologies like 3-D printing are also making new designs accessible, as designers have experimented with printing their own clothing designs. I imagine two futures for gender construction through clothing: 1) that the genders will continue to be represented in cisgendered extremes, with women’s clothing becoming increasingly restrictive and elaborate, while male clothing continues to promote athleticism and traditional masculine silhouettes; and 2) with the resurgence of a new sexual revolution underway, gender aesthetics move toward blending with one another, as they started to in the 1970s and ‘80s.  Personally, I would like to see more of the second option, as heteronormativity is nothing new or interesting to me.

A (Very) Brief History of Men in Dresses

We’re all familiar with the idea that “In fashion, one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out,” but this catchphrase from Project Runway holds more truth than we might realize.  Cultural aesthetics are situated in time. I want to demonstrate how over the course of several centuries, one well-known technology has had a variety of users. While its form has remained relatively the same, it has been labeled many different names, depending on who was wearing it. I’m talking about “the dress.”

Today, men wearing dresses are often marginalized, but that wasn’t always the case. The form of the garment we identify as a dress today has dressed men for over two millennia. Interestingly, upper class men wore garments with the silhouettes of dresses more than working men. By the end of this exposition, I’m hoping to show my audience that the form of the dress isn’t what makes it a feminine technology; the cultural tastes and time at which the form exists designates it as a technology for men, women, both or other genders. To assist in this exploration of the historical form of the dress, I will be drawing my evidence from Survey of Historic Costume (costume: anything that modifies how the body looks), written by Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Ubank.

My survey of men wearing dresses will begin in ancient Rome, but it could start earlier in Greece, Egypt, or even Mesopotamia. I find Rome an appropriate place to begin, though, because there are startlingly similar tastes in popular culture, political structure, and gender roles between ancient Rome and of the modern United States. Men of ancient Rome wore garments that many Americans would find emasculating today, especially one of particular note. The white toga virilis was a garment reserved for only male citizens and consisted of a single piece of cloth, folded and draped elaborately.

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The knowledge of how to fold this garment was privileged knowledge. Even so, in the case that individuals attempted to stray from their assigned social standing, Roman officials passed laws in the first century that forbade women and non-citizen males from wearing this garment (Eubank, Tortora 83). It’s interesting to think that the toga virilis, which epitomized masculine power through land owning and voting privileges, would be seen as effeminate and whimsical today because of its draping, and yet that could not be further from what the toga meant to ancient Romans.

Jumping forward approximately 1000 years, the silhouette of the modern dress was worn in various forms by medieval men, too. And like ancient Rome (and today), garments and technology continued to define social status and who had the power. In the thirteenth century, hemlines designated social class. Upper class men wore longer hems, while “working men wore them short” (Eubank, Tortora 135). Besides the utilitarian reasons behind the reduced hem lengths for laborers, more fabric in a garment also meant that it cost more money to produce. The more fabric one could afford, the more social prestige they were likely to experience when they were seen out in public. The male garment of the Middle Ages I find especially interesting is the garnache. The garnache was a cloak that almost touched the ground and was often lined with fur. Upper class men wore it as an outer garment, which means when outside their homes it was the only garment visible.  Garnache

The constraints of writing in the blogosphere make it necessary for me to come right to my point. Both men and women have worn garments with the basic form of the dress, and while it may be called a toga or a garnache, the silhouette from a contemporary perspective is much more similar to the modern form of the dress than it is different. My examples also reveal that the men who have worn these forms were recognized within their cultures as men in power and men with money. Men in power today, like the Pope, still wear the basic form of the dress without experiencing any societal undermining of their masculinity. As I’ve suggested in a recent post of mine, I believe that we will see a resurgence of men wearing dresses and perhaps soon, although dresses will most likely be given another new name.