Evidently, the new hotness next spring in men’s fashion is brightly coloured, and by brightly coloured I mean brightly coloured, pants, which have apparently been dubbed ‘party pants’ or ‘crazy pants[1. Yes really. And ew.].’ Aggressive, bold, striking patterns, a variety of cuts and fits, the key feature here is the brightness and vibrancy, the intensity. I am reminded, looking at shots from the runways, of the 1980s; these are less baggy than the lurid pants popular then, but the same general spirit is there. These are pants that will get you noticed.
Needless to say, not everyone is on board with this trend and the commentary about these pants reveals some fascinating and deep-seated attitudes about men’s fashion. These designs, some critics (including designers like Giorgio Armani) are simply too gay. Now, few people will actively come out and say this in, say, newspaper interviews; they dance around it with terms like ‘ridiculous.’ The Wall Street Journal article I linked to asks readers if they are ‘man enough’ to wear these pants, a reminder that, you know, people might think you’re gay if you wear them unless you have the ‘confidence’ to pull them off.
Radical fashions for men in general are often considered evidence of homosexuality, just as an interest in fashion of any kind among men is believed to be proof positive that they’re gay. The language around men’s fashion tends to suggest that anyone who wears bright colours, pink and purple tones, striking garments, is suspiciously effeminate. ‘Masculinity’ is toned down, subdued colours; dark mauve might be acceptable, pale lavender is not, a restrained tie is fine, but a bold ascot is not. It sometimes appears to be a thin line, and a difficult one for men to walk.
Any evidence of femininity in men’s fashion, in particular, subjects it to vicious attack; men who look feminine are suspect and wrong, and probably gay, which, as we know, is bad. There’s a complex relationship here with misogyny, where looking like a woman is wrong, and with hatred of the gay community. The ‘I don’t care if you’re gay, as long as you don’t shove it in my face’ meme is alive and well, and it really manifests in responses to men’s fashion. It’s all right for men to be gay, you see, as long as they don’t advertise it by wearing girlie clothing—all men who wear feminine styles, moreover, are gay.
The bold pant trend is nothing new; it appeared in the 1970s, and again in the 1980s, and, as with any fashion trend, it’s definitely not to everyone’s tastes. The framing of conversations around these pants adds another, also not new, layer to the discussion, one already fraught with bigoted undertones because of the way people think about men and fashion. It’s not enough to ask simply if men want to wear bright, bold colours and vivid designs; men have to be asked if they’re willing to look ‘gay,’ because, of course, this is a bad thing. No one would want to look gay! Certainly, men wouldn’t want to wear party pants in an environment where they might be meeting professional connections or other important people, because they might get the wrong impression!
These pants are a ‘spectacle,’ we’re informed. Subtext: Men shouldn’t want to be spectacles. ‘Fuck you pants,’ as some fans like to call them, draw attention to their wearers, and as critics are quick to remind us, that attention is not always positive. There’s a deep unease when it comes to men who wear flamboyant garments, whether as part of their gender presentation, an expression of their sexuality, or just because, shocker, they like flamboyant garments and are willing to deal with the endless judgement and commentary they’ll receive for daring to wear what they want to wear.
Men’s fashion tends to be very limited for many reasons, but one of them clearly is the deep-seated fear of appearing ‘too feminine,’ ‘too flamboyant,’ and any number of other codephrases that all boil down to the same thing: your pants (your shirt, your shoes, your scarf) make you look gay. There’s a predictable string of comments where people express their contempt for party pants and their wearers, and most of those are laced with highly bigoted overtones:
Now boyz, don’t forget your murse and your lipstick, to go with your sparkly pants!…Any guy that’s so obsessed with his appearance that he has to go to those lengths to prove his masculinity really needs help…wearing female clothing fit for a clown or certain members of the Los Angeles community. This clothing, though, should go well with the ear rings worn by similar “men” these days…Moreover, wearing “fairy” pants makes the boys just one of the girls…Most of us just don’t care to act like women. It’s that simple…Might be acceptable on fratboys or cute teenage girls or, if you stretch it, HOT women who are somehow living in arrested development, anybody else, you’re either mental or gay…I’ll leave this brand of “style” to the metrosexuals…The question from this writer should be…”Are you gay enough to wear them?”
The scorn heaped upon this particular fashion trend comes with an especially sharp and nasty undertone, and it’s notable that this is the case with most criticisms of men’s fashion. If people want to condemn a particular fashion for men, they say it looks ‘too gay,’ and that’s the end of the matter. It’s all you need to say. Because that’s the only thing that matters, when evaluating men’s fashion.