Aesthetics Are For Everyone
I wasn’t going to write for theme week this month; I’m a guy what do I know about aesthetics? I don’t do makeup or my hair. I don’t have style; I’m just a dude that likes comic books, movies, video games, and sports—what could I offer to the conversation? Then Prince died, and I read a few things about his style, about how he broke down gender barriers, and remembered that I used to have style and then something happened: I was told that my style was less than manly.
I am sorely lacking in pictures of myself, but I always enjoyed being sharply dressed. I skipped the grunge style in the ‘90s; I prefered bold colors, polos and button down shirts, even ties from time to time. I would style my hair, too. I took time to look good because it made me feel good. Then I joined the army and my personal style disappeared. I was lost in a sea of olive drab. But when it came time for leave I went back to being sharply dressed, I just didn’t have any hair to style. It was then that my sexuality got questioned for the first time, and that was the end of my personal style.
Dressing up wasn’t something that straight men did. My masculinity was under attack because the culture I was in was so rigid and toxic in its definition. I was shamed from dressing like I wanted be on the cover of GQ into wearing T-shirts and jeans. The most personal expression I was allowed would be wearing my favorite sports team or something nerdy on my jerseys, T-shirts, and hats. I went from wearing the uniform of my country to a uniform for being a man. I was young and in a community where conformity was the rule, and there were no exceptions; combined with a hyper masculine culture,my entire style was buried.
Why is it that when a man cares about his appearance or has a style that doesn’t fall into what is considered masculine, their sexuality is questioned? Why should that matter, and why is not being straight a problem to so many straight men? The simple answer is: It shouldn’t be. Prince and David Bowie certainly didn’t conform to traditional masculine styles, and what exactly is that? Why is it a problem to want to dress up? Why should that somehow lessen how manly someone is? It didn’t for Bowie or Prince, and it shouldn’t for anyone else.
What is manly? I don’t think it matters to me any more. Sexuality and gender norms are being challenged more now than they have been before. There is no need to conform to a gender standard anymore. While I still haven’t changed my style back to being sharply dressed, I am comfortable in my current style. Once it becomes more affordable, I’ll be updating my wardrobe to mix it up more. I love my nerdy style, and I do love my sports teams, but I don’t have to be restricted to that anymore. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone and I am finally comfortable with that, I’ve come to understand that my style is about me, not my sexuality, and not anyone else’s opinion.