Fashion reflects the times we live in, said Coco Chanel, and the Exeter schoolboys and the French bus drivers prove her right. We are more relaxed about gender rules, these days. A century after women started wearing trousers and 19 years after David Beckham was ridiculed for wearing a sarong, the last taboo of fashion – men in skirts – is being swept away.
Zara has capitalised on the market for clothes that can be worn by men or women, offering a gender-neutral fashion range. And the further up the fashion food chain you go, the more the boundaries between menswear and womenswear evaporate.
At the menswear catwalk shows in London less than a fortnight ago, skirts appeared almost everywhere. Men wore silk dresses at Vivienne Westwood’s show, puff-sleeved gowns at Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, and hooped floor-length skirts at Edward Crutchley’s.
Among the more commercial brands, too, the rules are increasingly fluid. Louis Vuitton, the world’s biggest luxury brand, last year photographed Jaden Smith, the rapper-slash-model son of actor Will, in a leather kilt for a womenswear advertising campaign. Smith, who wore a floral T-shirt dress to the Coachella festival, captioned an Instagram post of himself in a skirt with the words “Went to TopShop To Buy Some Girl Clothes, I Mean ‘Clothes’.”
Co-ed catwalk shows are becoming a badge of honour for brands with agenda-setting ambitions. Calvin Klein in New York, Burberry in London, Paul Smith in Paris, and Gucci in Milan all combined clothing for men and women on their catwalks during the last fashion show season.
The Gucci designer Alessandro Michele has said that blending the two collections “seems only natural … it’s the way I see the world”. The impact on menswear is clear. On the Gucci catwalk men wear pussy-bow silk blouses, on the Burberry catwalk they wear pastel-coloured lace shorts.
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