A SOFTER MASCULINITY
According to the dictionary: masculinity is the set of behaviours considered characteristic of a male individual but also designates a privilege by virtue of which in succession, the males are preferred to the woman in Western culture; masculinity is synonymous with virility. The term masculinity is literally the reflection of patriarchy based on gender symmetry, leaning toward the male gender as being most beneficial. This is a gender distribution of roles which results in an imbalance of power. Changes surround the male’s ideal image and his place in society is considered anthropological because of the impact of this phenomenon on millennial traditions and uses.
In the current-day global context, masculinity is changing rapidly, being shown in new angles and lights. Under the effect of this awareness emerges a different, softer, more experimental and playful masculinity that is no where near monolithic and suffocating, but rather exploratory and playful. It must be taken into account that the very notion of masculinity fluctuates, changing throughout and with history. In ancient Greece, the virile natural attributes of the male body were placed on a pedestal until the Renaissance, when wigs, makeup, and heels appeared on the scene and were the prime of masculinity. Now, the last century has marked a turning point in the evolution of virility, in particular through the two world wars which will put the figure of the heroic man on a pedestal, but also allows in parallel, the emancipation of women.
According to a recent study done by the Amaury Media Institute, the concept of virility amongst men is indeed evolving. Virility, as a characteristic, is still important in the eyes of 68% of the men and 75% of women.
For most men, masculinity is best represented by different values: being trustworthy, brave, ambitious. However, for 17% of the male individual, virility and masculinity remain linked simply to the physique, with characteristics such as muscular build, seduction tactics, and hairiness… Within this same study, 52% of women consider the man to be virile if he corresponds to the intelligent and psychologically strong characteristics. 10% of the women based their concept around virility simply in terms of the physical particularities.
In terms of value, the study shows that men are trying to free themselves from a number of old patterns that have kept them fairly boxed in. Four significant developments can be seen:
-Men are expressing their emotions more easily. 93% of them find it more normalised to allow themselves to cry.
-For 63% of men, they feel they are less authoritarian than their previous generations.
-Men are enjoying life without complexities, breaking away from certain stiffness and disciplinary values.
-The values of power and domination that have governed male behaviours for centuries have been transformed into values of assertiveness, which they see can be shared amongst women.
The first issue in the fight against toxic masculinity is that men don’t talk about it, in fact we often forget that the main victims of toxic masculinity are the guys themselves. It is an explicit male ideal, implicit and transmitted from generation to generation which dictates that a man -a real one- must dominate and submit people in all aspects of his social, professional, sentimental or emotional life.
These profound changes in a man’s day-to-day lifestyle implies a new way of dressing and an evolution of the wardrobe modelled for too long by a stiff vision of what men should be wearing, how they should be walking, and what their interests should be. Today’s men seem to accept their plural masculinity intertwined with femininity. They do not hesitate to integrate several elements of the feminine wardrobe (be it a practical handbag or a dab of make up), through various consumer trends such as the Soft Masculinity or Flower Boys movements.
The new man’s wardrobe is tinged with romanticism, volume, fluidity, lightness and transparency. This vocabulary, most often reserved for female clothing, is now easily associated within the wardrobe of a man living in his time. Many brands and designers have been precursors of this societal movement, notably Jean-Paul Gaultier in the 80s, Gucci by Alessendro Michele, Loewe by JW, and for more institutional brands, we can also note several emerging designers such as Ludovic de Saint-Sernin, Arthur Avellano, Charles Jeffrey or Palomo Spain. In this new New Man wardrobe, we find silhouettes reminiscent of David Bowie, Oscar Wilde and the dandy movement, as well as Prince and Kurt Cobain for a grungier, androgynous look. This aesthetic, mostly inspired by gay culture, is now being reinterpreted and diversified in a number of different communities around the world, from alternative music bands and skater boys-next-door, to academic individuals and typical jocks.
This cultural and stylistic phenomenon is qualified by analysts as a macro-trend. It’s a questioning, born and fanned through movements such as the #MeToo rallies and protests. This phenomenon questions the place of men today, in social responsibilities and familial duties, through more expressive wardrobes, with more openness and expression of their feelings, including a reflection of society by reusing metrosexual or queer aesthetics. This wardrobe is described by some as an idealised version of a feminine feminist man: a message carrier and an ally. For others, it is simply a natural continuation of the evolution of the male archetype.
Whatever you think of the trend, it may be worth gifting your best guy friend a bottle of nail polish. Even if you choose the color based on his favorite football team.