Wednesday 18 January 2017

Middle sex: Who's that boy

Published 24/04/2011 | 05:00

Alan wears, left:
Shirt, €120, Indigo & Cloth.
Trousers, €20; belt, €10,
both FanciSchmancy Vintage.
Alan wears, right:
Jacket, €25, FanciSchmancy Vintage.
Blouse with ribbon, €59, Pins & Needles,
Urban Outfitters.
Trousers, €20; shoes (not in shot), €25, both FanciSchmancy Vintage
Alan wears, left: Shirt, €120, Indigo & Cloth. Trousers, €20; belt, €10, both FanciSchmancy Vintage. Alan wears, right: Jacket, €25, FanciSchmancy Vintage. Blouse with ribbon, €59, Pins & Needles, Urban Outfitters. Trousers, €20; shoes (not in shot), €25, both FanciSchmancy Vintage
Dress, €20, FanciSchmancy Vintage
Shirt, €53, Cooperative; crop top, €21, Sparkle and Fade; skirt, €85, Vaudeville & Burlesque; shoes, €111, Deena & Ozzy, all Urban Outfitters
Alan wears, left: Jacket, €30, FanciSchmancy Vintage. Polo shirt, €85, Farah; jeans, €59, Cheap Monday; chains, €16 each, all Urban Outfitters. Alan wears, right: Cardigan, €25, Fancischmancy Vintage. Jeans, €59, Cheap Monday, Urban Outfitters

The exploration of the physical appearance of the opposite sex has long been a fascination. It isn't about being a girl and wanting to be a boy, and vice versa, but exploring the aspect within one's self.

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Fashion goes through cycles of gender exploration every couple of decades. In the Twenties, when the world was short of men after the Great War, women cut their tresses into bobs and crops, donned men's suits and played at the masculine.

In the late Fifties and Sixties, whether as a reaction to the stereotypical role-playing of the ultra-conventional early Fifties, men dressing up as women emerged in films such as Some Like It Hot, St Trinian's and the Carry On series. The Seventies saw women wear men's suits -- think Diane Keaton in Annie Hall and Bianca Jagger at Studio 54. The late Seventies to early Eighties birthed the New Romantics: young men started to wear eyeliner, long hair and lace shirts. Marc Bolan, Boy George and Adam Ant were the poster boys. At the same time, fashion had women looking grotesque in huge shoulder-padded power suits.

Since then, the exploration of gender, androgyny and all that has been virtually non-existent in fashion. But times of recession and restraint often provoke fashion to look at the opposite sex aspect for inspiration. So it is no surprise to me that androgyny is fast becoming the new source of inspiration for young designers and creatives.

Be it artistic photographers such as Peter Fingleton, whose work we are featuring on our pages today, the work of emerging designers such as JW Anderson and Simone Rocha, or the hip young things who work in Tower Records, look for the signs and you will see that 'gender mashing' is an emerging trend. Girls wearing ties, grandad cardigans and baggy trews, to boys wearing skirts and making their faces as porcelain smooth as a make-up-campaign ad.

"The recession has led me to re-evaluate," Fingleton explained to me. "When I was a teenager only a few years ago, there wasn't so much creativity. But in the past two years things have really changed. The party scene has become more interesting, with interesting things happening."

Apart from the fun of it -- well, come on, being the son of the house and walking in the door in a plunging blouse and full make-up is going to get a reaction from your folks -- this kind of fashion is dead cheap as the best looks are in vintage stores and charity shops. Thus, as is important to all young adults but especially fashion mavens; by virtue of the clothes not being from a catwalk collection or high street, one's look is always unique.

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