Women have been integrating menswear pieces into their wardrobe for eons. Borrowing from the boys, everything from Yves Saint Laurent’s classic 'Le Smoking' to the oversized white shirt and the ubiquitous boyfriend jeans has become the norm in women's fashion.
On the other hand, men wearing women's clothes has yet to reach the mainstream in the same way women wearing pants has. But thanks to the current rise in gender-neutral fashion, the lines between conventional men and women apparel have been steadily blurring in the past year.
The fashion world is infatuated with the gender-fluidity trend and progressive designers are responding to the shift in mood by serving up ensembles that can be worn by both men and women.
The Gucci SS2016 show was chockful of feminine references with male models walking down the runway in lace, pussy bows collars, and flats. Acne Studios featured a preteen boy in their Fall 2015 women’s campaign and Louis Vuitton famously featured Jaden Smith in a skirt in their campaign.
Designer Henry Bae is out to lend his contribution to the redefining of men’s fashion as well with his line of high-heeled shoes for men called Syro.
Bae wants to inspire men to get in touch with their femininity through his collection of platform-heeled ankle boots and medium-heeled Chelsea boots. For him, the oppression of "male femininity" is an attack on self-expression that shames and forces those yearning to flaunt their femme identity underground.
Henry Bae tells Konbini:
"Syro's mission is to liberate male femininity and celebrate the queer community. The Syro man is brave, bold and pays no attention to hate. His self-worth is self-determined."
Despite the progress made in the fight for gay rights, making feminine sartorial choices as a man, outside of the eccentric fashion or entertainment worlds, is still looked down upon. In short, flaunting your male femininity is still not encouraged or accepted.
According to Bae, "Western homosexuality has greatly succeeded in its mission to blend into society, to seem 'normal'." The artist believes everyone from famous actors to politicians, musicians, athletes, journalists, Apple executives and more have strived and accomplished the image of normalization.
"Gays – they're just like us! It's a beautiful and necessary landmark to achieve. But by painting an entire community with one palatable, socially-accepted stroke, we force those who don't 'blend' in to exile.
Heteronormativity divides our community. Femininity is, in many ways, still in the closet."
"By painting an entire community with one palatable, socially-accepted stroke, we force those who don't 'blend' in to exile."
Male femininity shouldn’t simply be relegated to late-night club-hopping. As far as Henry Bae is concerned, his shoes weren't intended to be worn as a costume. Syro is for men who like wearing heels in their everyday life.
"Drag queens are an incredible people, and their contributions to our community are the reason a brand like Syro can even exist. If the drag community embraces Syro, then that's nothing short of an honor."
But, as Bae points out, Syro specifically aims to be a brand that can be worn on the streets just as any other outfit.
"For those who want to buy groceries in jeans, an old T-shirt, messy hair and a pair of heels – that's where I'm hoping Syro will come in. Fashion's embrace of gender fluidity is nice. Visionary artists and thinkers are questioning society's status quo — and that is nice too.
But whether or not it is acceptable for men to wear high-heels on high-fashion runways, my greater concern is what happens on the streets. For many of us, male femininity isn't a trend: it's our lives."
"For those who want to buy groceries in jeans, an old T-shirt, messy hair and a pair of heels – that's where I'm hoping Syro will come in."
Although it may be some time before we see skirts and heels marketed to men at the Gap, there is a thriving demographic of young men who are eschewing the gender style rules of the past and crafting a non-gender-specific blueprint to dressing in the midst of the national conversation on gender identity taking place in the country.
Syro and Henry Bae are a direct reflection of our times. A time in which, for some, masculinity is no longer this rigid construct.
Now the question is will we ever get to a point when Jaden Smith in a skirt won’t incite controversy or have men feeling as if their masculinity is threatened?