When I started writing my blog, I did not have a clear defined vision for the blog. I was unsure of the direction in which I wanted to take the blog. The only thing I was sure of was that along with my other passions, I wanted to share my concept of non-conformity with my readers, if and when I was privileged to have some readers.
Now some of you loyalists (whom I appreciate with all my heart) have bestowed upon me your precious time by reading my blog and commenting upon the entries. Your comments are so thought provoking that I want to make a mini-blog of all the comments. I am absolutely floored by your lacerating intellects, breakdowns and dissections. Oh how I wish to sit down with all of you over a cup of cappuccino and enter into a discussion on a myriad of subjects ranging from fashion to philosophy; architecture to inspiration and conformity to non-conformity. (Such a discussion, if held in a café on the Italian Riviera will be preferable haha!)
I am an advocate of non-conformity and will continue to write on it. I admire it because it shows strength, bravery and risk taking. It can be in any walk of life-be it fashion, art, music, literature, architecture or even a profession. If Mark Zuckerberg had continued to conform by following the tried and traditional path of diligently attending classes at Harvard, taking exams and upon graduating sending out resumes to be a computer programmer, would we be enjoying the fruits of the revolutionary powerhouse phenomenon called Facebook!
We all interpret non-conformity based on our personal life experiences and sensibilities. My sweet friend Anika just wrote a beautiful piece on her interpretation of non-conformity, that I enjoyed reading immensely.
There is no set archetype. One of my interpretations of non-conformity is to explore, to veer away my comfort zone and forego established gauges and measures. I am not necessarily being rebellious or radical just to make a point of being a non-conformist, but merely pivoting towards the edge in order to find my edge, my extreme, my limit. I am testing my strength. I am taking a risk.
Androgyny in fashion is a way to step out of the comfort zone for both men and women. I have written earlier blogs on androgyny as applied to both men and women. I find androgyny extremely intriguing and captivating. What makes us want to digress and explore the sexuality of the opposite sex? What is so alluring about role reversal? Is it empowering or simply a way of testing our limit, our edge and our extreme.
Androgyny in fashion is a perfect example of non-conformism. Both men and women who dress androgynously take a risk. The risk of being ridiculed, judged and possibly be even rejected. Yet, they test their limits by using their strength and stepping outside the comfort zone.
James Franco photographed the embodiment of androgyny, Agyness Deyn for Elle magazine. The shot is inspired by James Dean. Agyness is a brave girl and so comfortable with her overt androgynous sexuality. She is unique and hence one of the most sought after models. Yes, non-conformity pays and can bring huge dividends!
Marc Jacobs is wearing pearls and a skirt while supporting a day old stubble from Prada’s fall 2011 collection. It is an ode to being an ardent Miuccia Prada fan. He look simply scrumptious! Marc took a risk to don a skirt and wear a strand of pearls on that perfectly chiseled Greek God body of his.
I too explored my androgyny by dressing in a man’s suit, albeit a somewhat shrunken one inspired more by Thom Brown than Brooks Brothers! It was a step towards finding my strength, even if the pivot towards the edge was only slight. I think I still have it in me to risk a steeper incline to find my edge. As for the day old stubble, I will have to stand on the precipice of my edge for that!
Some may argue that even though interpretation may be individual, certain universal basics, a foundation, an order needs to be there for the inception of art. Beyond that the artist can take creative license to express his or her views.
Non-conformist that I am, I am willing to go as far as to even dispense with the above theory of foundational art. After all, if there are universal parameters, dictums and precedence then where is the originality, the expression and the true tour de force art.
My most cherished designer Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel directed the latest film, The Tale of a Fairy for the 2011-12 cruise collection. As is the signature of the master couturier the movie is dripping, oozing and drenched in luxury almost bordering on hedonism. Whether it is the colonial Parisian mansion with the silent-footed bevy of maids and butlers or the “actors” walking in the house with a cascade of Chanel pearls around their long necks wearing signature white and black Chanel pumps making their 6 feet lanky frames reach towering and withering heights. Whether it is the impromptu trip to Monte Carlo or an almost on-the-verge of an orgy on the French Riviera. It is all there.
There are beautiful girls kissing each other, a waif who looks like an angel and an element of surrealism. In fact, all the elements of a good Hollywood blockbuster are blended into the film.
So then what is so wrong, so very wrong with the film? Well, the simple answer is the lack of a story, a script and a backbone to the film. The story centers around three women, one who is hysterical through the whole movie, the other solely there to provide the international element with her well-modulated British accent and the third for the hot and steamy girl kiss. The story borders on being cheesy and entering into the realm of being ridiculous.
What redeems the movie is the physicality of the cast. Two of the lead actors are in their mid and late 40s. The girls are androgynous without the essential prerequisite Hollywood bust and lip enhancement. It is antithesis to Hollywood casting. It defies all traditional norms of established standards of beauty.
The silver-haired, 40-some year old Kristen McMenaney with her pierced nose and bouffant hair gives any 20 year-old run for her money.
Freja Beha in her underwear is reminiscent of Kate Moss in her very young and best days for the Calvin Klein ads.
In summary, even when Karl Lagerfeld does something less than his trademark perfection, a little oops, a faux pas-somehow it is interpreted as art. In this film, the physical attributes of the cast of “actors” redeems Lagerfeld’s movie from entering the Girls gone Wild genre.
Androgynous-having both female and male characteristics. Being neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine, as in dress, appearance, or behavior. (Thefreedictionary.com)
Usually the term androgynous is loosely used to describe a woman-most of the times to describe a sexy woman wearing masculine clothing or with short hair. At times used in the wrong context to describe a lesbian.
I have never heard a man being described as androgynous. If a male possesses certain female characteristics, people jump to the conclusion that he is gay, which is wrong!!
We all are familiar with the term yin and yang. In Chinese philosophy it is used to describe polar or contrary forces that are interconnected and interdependent. In fact, in Hinduism Ardhanarishvara is an androgynous deity composing of a synthesis of male and female energies.
All of us whether male or female have the yin and yang characteristics in us. That is where women get their strength and men their gentleness. Can you imagine a female sans the male traits…gosh she would be so whiny. In the same vein, can you imagine a man who is an epitome of muscle and masculinity ALL the time….gosh that would be so primitive!!
Earlier, I had written a blog on female androgyny as related to fashion. So to fairly balance the yin and yang, today is the turn of the males.
Androgyny in men is nothing new. For centuries men have been wearing jewelry, had their ears and noses pierced and put kohl in their eyes. In fact Ancient Egyptian kings have been buried in the mummies with kilos of jewelry to adorn them in multiple after lives.
Indian Maharajas wore statement pieces starting from the embellishments in their turbans to earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, toe rings and anklets. Roman emperors have been known to wear jewelry.
What about the rappers and hip hop artists of modern day? A rapper whose songs are littered with profanities and innuendos of violence (masculine traits for the most part) will not forego a chance to wear “bling” anywhere and everywhere!! The MO’ THE BETTA!! Don’t you think it is a way of exploring his female side?
The Chanel 2011 runway fashion show is an example of male androgyny. You can see a male model sashaying down the runway wearing a beautiful statement necklace strategically placed against his smooth hairless chest. A piece bold and dramatic enough that a fashion-timid woman would think twice before wearing!
Fashion truly blurs the lines between men and women. The ad campaign of Marc Jacobs had a man wearing a dress and mind you, it is quite an eye-catching ad! In fact, Marc Jacobs has admitted to wearing dresses and has worn a skirt with his hairy legs.
Bloggers like BryanBoy walk around in heels, toting a woman’s purse and wears the latest MiuMiu dresses. He aspires to acquire the crab-claws six inch Alexander McQueen heels.
Now even though nature has bestowed upon us humans both the male and female characteristics, I am not saying that all males will be overtly comfortable with such fashion. The run of the mill male will stick to his faded jeans/shorts and t-shirt or khaki pants and checkered shirt.
As stylish, fashion forward thinking audience such as the ones I have, don’t you guys think it is worth getting in touch with your female side? Who doesn’t want to look good, irrespective of the gender? How about taking baby steps you Alfa Males and starting with a colorful fitted shirt paired with some cool velvet loafers. If you are daring don a hat!! Wear a cool, musky cologne. Trust me it will make a great difference in your style, sex and confidence quotient.
Androgynous: having the characteristics or nature of both male and female. (Merriam-Webster dictionary.)
A woman wearing a tailored Savile Row suit, vest, slim tie, crisp white collared shirt, cufflinks, Oxfords, black rimmed eyeglasses and a hat. Hot or not?? If you say NOT, please STOP reading any further and return to your generic, white-bread life.
There is nothing cooler, hotter, more seductive and captivating than a woman wearing an androgynous look. Women probably are attracted to the look as it stems from the deep seated desire to usurp the century old power vested in men; it is role reversal; it is gender bending; it is rule breaking; it has shock value. On the other hand men find women sensual in the look (or should) as it is fantasy; it is kinky; it is confusing; it is intriguing.
Women dressed as men have been historically seen in performance arts and mythology. The Greeks and Hindus are examples of such.
In modern times, fashion designers and Avant-garde celebrities have utilized the look to shatter the traditional fashion norms and invade new fashion territories. From the YSL suit, to the Church’s Oxford; from the boyfriend shirt by the Olsen twins to the boyfriend blazer by Stella McCartney; from the latest collection of Dries Van Noten inspired by the “handsome woman” to the Chloe loafers.
From the past who can forget Lauren Bacall, Marlene Dietrich, and the oh so lovely Isabella Rossellini who has given a whole new meaning to wearing a suit. From the modern times the poster girl and representative of androgyny is Agyness Deyn. She is the epitome of style and glamour in men’s wear while still retaining her femininity and sexuality.
My advice to the rule breakers and the fashion-forward dressers is that if you are bold enough to take the risk of dabbling with the androgynous look, dare to go ALL the way! Do it with style so that it does not look “costumey.” Don the flat Oxfords, wear the vest, tie the tie, (I am not a smoker, so will not promote a cigarette dangling from your lips.) I WILL recommend wearing make-up as we do not want to go for the grunge-man look. Keep femininity and sexiness alive. And most importantly, if you have long hair please pull it back. The cascading hair is not befitting for this look. It makes it to be a “Stripper ready to Spin on the Pole” look. We are not going for such an effect….maybe another day, another time, but not now.
So, do it with confidence and panache and I assure you, never before will you have received as much attention as you will now. So, ladies empower yourselves and reverse the roles!