The concept of gender has grown increasingly ambiguous in recent seasons, but the most unlikely twist in the androgyny movement is the move away from traditional masculinity. As economic woes drag on, the urge for flash has been parlayed into an acceptance of practical provocativeness, which, for men, means wearing fur and skirts.
Humanitarianism continues to make fur inherently controversial, but the look maintains the functional method of many designers’ collections this season, resurrecting the material from its fashionably criminal past. “Some special coats have a craftsmanship that can last forever,” In Style‘s fashion director Cindy Weber Cleary stated in an Associated Press interview. “I bought a beautiful coat a few years ago that I will wear forever.”
While “forever” is a long time, this notion of consistency is what people need from a garment right now. In spite of its faults, fur offers longevity. Men can don jackets that are subtly theatrical—but still more useful than costume-like—while getting good use out of their eye-catching caveman aesthetic. “I like the duality of it,” says René Garza, a stylist for Christina Ricci and Alicia Keys. “You can have a piece of clothing that you think is one thing, but it morphs into something ambiguous, depending on how it is worn.”
The look’s sense of androgyny comes from the jackets’ non-feminine appearance, often worn with torn up jeans (usually acid washed) and oversized t-shirts. This traditionally flashy garment still grabs attention, but does so by taking a historically feminine look and incorporating it into a male silhouette.
“I create everything for myself,” designer Rad Hourani explained after his stunningly asexual runway show during the recent New York Fashion Week. “It is important to me for both men and women to be able to wear my clothing, because that is how I dress.” The collection’s intricate details and unisex gendering of the collection, which featured skirts on men among other gender-benging looks, was a tensely wrought presentation.
As with fur, skirts need not be masculine or feminine. Instead, they display a frustrated aggression, an antithetical assault on gender, class and the status quo. In terms of look and function, both the men in skirts and men in fur trends are admittedly ridiculous, but as an aesthetic statement of inflammability, they are innovative updates of classic—albeit controversial—ideas.