Dressing Gaily: 5 Ethical Brands Redefining Fashion With Feminine Menswear
Fashion Is Democratizing
Gay was a green carnation—like the one famously worn by gay icon Oscar Wilde—in the 1890s. It went macho in the 1970s when when a slew of doppelgangers a la The Village People popped up in cities across the globe. It subverted JFK’s “Nantucket Dad” uniform in the ‘90s and instead opted for shorter shorts and blonder hair.
Gay has always been a sexuality and, for decades, it’s been a style. But now the same men who wear capris one day wear jerseys the next. Homo, Metero, or Hetero—everyone is rotating through the same 100 pieces. As fashion democratizes and society learns to fully accept the LGBTQ community, will “looking gay” be a thing of the past?
Boys left closets in the ‘00s but filled them up with Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, and Hot Topic. Wearing labels, ripped jeans, skinny tees, and flip-flops was part self-expression and part confirmative-pride. Green carnations, the hanky code, and red neckties once signaled to and brought together members of the LGBTQ community. Queer forefathers created a society—one that only accepted members who were impeccably dressed and light-in-their-loafers. Maybe they felt it was better to choose the stereotype than to leave it to others’ imaginations. It was safest to hide in plain sight.
Fast forward to 2019. The proverbial closet is now a walk-in with no door and plenty of mirrors. Men parade their love for each other across the Internet. Apps explain orientations more directly than outfits can. Dressing gaily daily doesn’t showcase anything but limbs. Today’s hommes de mode care more about ‘likes’ than labels. Neither naïveté nor bigotry will keep them from a ‘grammable Stella McCartney jumper.
The future: overtly feminine menswear. It will be worn by personalities, not sexualities. Broadway’s Jeremy O Harris, American Horror Story’s Cody Fern, and Pose’s Billie Porter bring significant attention to the trend. Here are the ethical fashion brands behind it:
$ | Typically under $100
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Product Range | Men’s jackets, shirts, pants
Price Range | $$–$$$$
Two years is all the time that Emily Bode needed to become menswear’s buzziest name. Her eponymous label, Bode, is based out of Manhattan’s Lower East Side and has reinvigorated the streetwear-saturated men’s market. After sourcing vintage quilts, linens, and tablecloths from artisans and collectors, Bode upcycles them into delicate shirts, patchwork jackets, and high-waist trousers. It’s grandeur with a story.
Product Range | Men’s outerwear, shirts, pants, sportswear
Price Range | ££ (Pounds)
Five-year-old label Hecho owes a great deal of itself to Mexico. Based in the country’s capital, Hecho is inspired by and created locally around Mexico City. Unisexuality is a large part of the aesthetic, currently led by former Editor-in-Chief of Harper Bazaar Mexico and Latin America, Brenda Díaz de la Vega. Their short shorts, wrap tops, and comfortable caftans are hygge for the heat.
3. All At Sea
Product Range | Unisex loungewear, shirts, pants, tracksuits, accessories
Price Range | $$ (Danish krones – DKK)
A relatively young line, All At Sea takes its raw materials seriously. Everything is silk. The vibrant loungewear-maker handcrafts robes, sets, jackets, and more from the earth’s daintiest natural fiber. For Angelenos and fellow warm-climate dwellers, All At Sea is all we need.
4. Wales Bonner
Product Range | Men’s and women’s outerwear, shirts, pants, accessories
Price Range | $$–$$$
Grace Wales Bonner is a name we will remember. Her first collection was lauded, and her success has skyrocketed since. Her line, Wales Bonner, is an ethically-made brand that utilizes local artisans and fair trade production standards. It features bright colors and casual looks. Bonner, whose exhibition at London’s Serpentine galleries wrapped recently, is an intellect. It’s a trait at the center of her line, be it production or design.
Product Range | Outerwear, sportswear, shirts, shorts, pants, accessories
Price Range | €€-€€€ (Euros)
Femininity doesn’t immediately come to mind when looking at Phipps. It is upon closer inspection of Spencer Phipps’ label that the femme can be found hiding in plain sight. Sleeveless jerseys are branded with “Sparklemuffin” on their backs. Modest booty shorts are available for anyone daring to show some skin. Wide-legged trousers are available for those looking to cover up. Phipps prioritizes the environment and educates the masses about conscious fashion. It’s one to watch, covet, and collect.
Header image: Bode
James Francis Kelley is a writer and stylist based in Los Angeles. While he has many interests, he’s most passionate about creating an eco-conscience culture and preparing for a globalized future. If he’s not working, he can be found on Duolingo, biking to electronica music, or browsing Mr. Porter. Find his work on his website, and his musings on Instagram.