Coming Into The Closet.

The following are all things that have been said to me at, or regarding my presence at, fashion events:

  • ‘Oh yeah, you and room full of women, bet I know why you like that so much!’
  • ‘Doesn’t your girlfriend ever get jealous of you hanging around with all these fashion girls? If she does, give me a call.’
  • ‘I hope the boys who are coming know this is about blogging, not picking up chicks.’
  • ‘Here you go mate, have a few extra free drinks tokens if you’re going to be stuck up there all night.’ (Ok, admittedly this was actually pretty nice of this guy to offer, even if it was misguided)
  • ‘Sorry, tonight’s girls only!’
  • ‘So what’s actually your story? We all know there are no straight men in fashion.’

It’s an ongoing joke that there are ‘no straight men in fashion’, one that isn’t completely unfounded – aside from a few biggies like Oscar de la Renta, Christian Lacroix, Paul Smith and Tommy Hilfiger, I struggle to think of many straight male fashion designers. However, I’m not here to talk about straight fashion creators, rather straight male fashion enthusiasts and the discrimination they face.

I’ve been interested in fashion for as long as I can remember. Even as a boy (once I outgrew my penchant for oversized American sports jerseys and Big Dog t-shirts), fashion fascinated me because of the extent to which it pervades popular culture. In my teenage years, I devoured magazines like Vogue, Cosmo and InStyle, always making sure that I had an alibi for doing so – I would read them in the hairdresser’s because there was ‘nothing else to read’, or because I was ‘THAT bored’ in the sixth form common room. By the time I went to University, I had given up on quipping to cashiers that I was buying fashion magazines ‘for the girlfriend’ and gathered them with impunity. The common thread in all of this is that I knew (or at least, felt) that fashion wasn’t something I was supposed to be interested in. When male interest in fashion went mainstream, the term metrosexual was born. Of course, it’s worth noting that this term is still shrouded with a sense of ‘otherness’ – the implication is that men who like fashion, even if they aren’t gay, are still somehow different from their hetero brethren.

Since I started blogging more regularly about fashion, I’ve made some incredible friends who have welcomed me into the scene with open arms. However, they have been the exception, not the rule. The sad fact is that I feel alienated from much of the fashion community on a daily basis. I see new bloggers quickly becoming chummy with fashion PRs, being invited to events that I haven’t even heard about and being sent freebies, despite the fact that they’ve been on the scene for a matter of days. I’ve been pretty down about it recently and have found myself wondering if I’m just a really unlikeable person – I can be pretty self-centred and come across as fairly obnoxious, so before I made any generalisations I decided to see if this is just my problem. Thankfully, I quickly found out that it isn’t.

I spoke to a lot of male fashion bloggers, some straight and some gay, and most of them told me that they’ve all had similar experiences. Arash Mazinani told me that he believes that ‘in my limited experience, I’ve found that gay men are welcomed more warmly by bloggers’ and that despite having previously worked at a big high fashion department store ‘I’ve never been invited to their local fashion events when other female bloggers in my city have, which I was a bit disappointed by.’ Joseph Kent, of Unlimited by JK (which I love, by the way), told me that he’s “found it difficult as a male fashion blogger in gaining followers and being noticed by brands/PR companies etc.” He describes it as “rather a blow, because more than just having fun at these events, I’m trying to further my career into fashion journalism by networking and building relationships.” Even after a year of knowing Joseph, a lot of people on his journalism course thought he was gay (he isn’t), with one remarking that “I know you’re straight, but I find it hard to believe, because you have such a good fashion blog.”

Speaking with one gay male fashion blogger, who asked not to be identified, was a particularly interesting experience. He told me that women, particularly fashion bloggers, almost immediately start cooing when they meet him because they’re desperate for a gay best friend. However, he told me that “they soon lose interest, as I act quite differently depending on the people I’m mingling with. It’s like as soon as we’re not at an event, I’m not gay enough for them anymore.” He poignantly described this experience as being similar to his coming out – “Sure, it was tough at school when everyone found out I was gay. Everyone seemed to forget about it after a while, then when I didn’t expect it someone would make a joke or generalisation and it would come right back to the surface. It’s the same with some of these girls – we might not have talked in ages, but when they need the token homo opinion on something that’s when they pick up the phone.” He also told me about the way in which he feels he has become a parody of himself – “I do sometimes think about whether the things I’m saying are ‘gay enough’. It gets to me sometimes, and I end up questioning my whole identity.”

In recent years the mainstream media has done little to help break stereotypes of gay and straight men – while shows like Sex and the City and Will and Grace romanticise the idea of the GBF, as if they’re a chihuahua in a handbag or some other bang on trend accessory, columns that ‘ask the straight bloke’s opinion’ feature footnotes by an (almost exclusively female) industry expert who rips their ideas to shreds and laughs at how wrong they are. Men are placed on a two point scale, with the lager swilling, football loving, boob honking caveman at one end and the immaculately groomed, purple suit wearing, flaming homosexual at the other. There seems to be a need to round off anyone who falls somewhere in the middle to one side or the other, which might explain why people seem shocked when they discover that, while I might use three different kinds of moisturiser and like to watch ballet, I’d give my left pinkie for a night with Kate Middleton. The fact that I don’t ‘fit’ with the traditional idea of the gay male fashion enthusiast immediately calls my motives into question, and tends to make girls think that I’m only there to get into their trousers. Whereas, actually, I’m probably just interested in looking at their trousers.

So, my point? Well, people say there are no straight men in fashion. Maybe they need to work a little bit harder at letting them in.

37 comments

  1. Kate

    Stu, totes agree. My boyfriend has had a lovely blog for a long time, but gets little interest despite attending the same events as me. There is never stalls, activities or samples for the men at the events. I reckon men’s sites just don’t know that much about social media in most circumstances. I love male bloggers and when I see any cropping up on twitter I always follow them as I love to hear what you guys have to say! Its a nice change from skater dresses, peplums and glossy box reviews!

    • Stu Bradley

      It’s a case of ‘chicken or the egg’ though, isn’t it? Is there not much stuff for me to do because there are no there or are there not many men there because there’s not much for them to do? I’m a weird one ’cause I mostly blog about women’s fashion, but it’s interesting that your boyfriend has experienced it too!

  2. Belle du Brighton/Lauren

    I think its disgusting how you’ve been treated/spoken to, whether people mean it or not its not a particularly nice way thing to have to go through, feeling like an outcast. It shouldn’t matter whether you are straight or gay or male or purple or an alien, You write well, you communicate your opinions in a clear way and best of all you have a sense of humour. people who aren’t giving you the time of day are missing out, and that’s their loss, not yours.

    • Stu Bradley

      N’aww, thank you. It’s just one of those things, I guess – can’t change it, so you just have to get on with it! Or write a whingy blog post like this…

  3. missy_ellie_uk

    Really interesting post. I’m not a fashion blogger and never will be, so this is purely based on my observations from Twitter and reading others’ blogs from the sidelines, but it does seem this is a difficult world to break into / feel accepted in if you are non-white, non-skinny or, apparently, non-female.

      • Stu Bradley

        Age isn’t even something I’d thought about when writing this! Or ethnicity, for that matter. Which I guess makes you realise how easy it is not to consider people who may not match up with the stereotypical image you have of something…

        • astimegoesbuy

          Exactly!
          As a “mature aged” woman, I often feel ignored by the fashion magazines and many blogs. Which is funny because I have far more income than in my 20s and a larger percentage being spent on clothing. And it absolutely gives me the sh*ts to have someone in their 20s giving me style advice! :)

          • Stu Bradley

            Haha, I’m currently in my twenties and I’d estimate I spend maybe…5% of my income on fashion? Maybe less! So you make a very good point…I smell a magazine feature about non-traditional fashionistas!

  4. hemsforher

    It’s similar in the US with plus-size fashion bloggers believe it or not. I get a lot of flack because I am “in between” regular size and plus size. Too big for PR companies with traditional models, and frankly, there’s very little PR for plus-size but even then I don’t fit in. It is annoying to feel like you’ve got a fresh angle, but you are being ignored.

    This is my first time commenting as I am a fairly recent follower/reader, but I love your voice and humor!

    Katie- Hems For Her

    • Stu Bradley

      I can believe that – something that I was a huge fan of that come out of the USA was when a transsexual was allowed to compete in America’s Next Top Model. It really neatly contrasted with Miss Jay’s flamboyant parody of femininity!

      I believe (though I may be wrong…) that there was also a plus size model on the show? I see people starting to accept plus size models as being normal now, but I can appreciate that it must be frustrating for you to be stuck in the middle ground.

      Thanks for the compliments on my writing, much appreciated! :)

  5. Wednesday's Child

    You would think straight women would be desperate to know a straight man’s opinions on fashion, unless it’s that admitting to such a desire to know your thoughts would destroy the self-created illusion that “we’re dressing only for ourselves, and never ever to attract men.”

  6. Laura

    Really interesting post, thanks for highlighting the “other side” of the fashion world. Whilst i’m not surprised that attitudes towards male fashion bloggers are difficult to say the least, I must say I don’t really understand it. Surely the majority of women are looking for approval from the men in their life (or the men who are not yet in their life!) OK, of cause women take pride in their appearance to make themselves feel good as well, but ultimately for most of us it is the endorsement from men that we are seeking (whether we admit it or not.) Ultimately straight men are the target audience that women are looking to. I find it particularly refreshing to hear mens views on fashion issues. Guys are often more objective and (brutally) honest than girls (hence looking for the “gay best friends” opinion).

    • Stu Bradley

      Interesting point, and very convincingly put! I do wonder why trends that the ‘average man’ dislikes (like playsuits and creepers, for example) continue to thrive if fashion is really something done primarily to gain approval from men?

      I think that’s a debate for another day; not sure I can do it justice in a comment reply! ;)

      • Laura

        Those trends seem to appeal more to a niche market in my (walking down the high street) experience, not so much to the mainstream shopper. Creepers in particular seem popular among certain subcultures, who may not be so swayed by the opinion of Mr Average. Where playsuits are concerned you may have a pretty good point, though I don’t see many worn by Miss Average.

        I’d be very interested to read a blog post about the fashion trends disliked by Mr Average :-)

  7. Joseph Kent

    Thank you for writing this feature. There was a point when I wanted to write about this particular topic myself, but I wasn’t sure how to put it into words. It really does frustrate me that my status as a male fashion blogger affects how I am judged and treated by my peers. I have managed to convince them that I am a heterosexual man, yet I still remain much like a “gay best friend” in their eyes. I am not saying that fashion blogging is the only reason for their initial presumptions, but it was clearly the main reason for some. As for the lack of opportunities, brands and PR companies ought to fully recognise the male fashion blogging community, even if it is a minority.

    P.S. Thanks for the kind mention!

  8. Manon

    This is a very good post! And it felt like ‘I know this’: a lot of people ask me if I’m sure my boyfriend isn’t secretly gay. He’s into fashion, magazines, beautyproducts, hairstyling, everything. And I have to admit when I met him I did think he was gay as well, but that’s another story (really funny btw, but lets get back to the point you make). Because he’s a man, people seem to judge him far more on what he is wearing/saying about fashion than me, I can walk around in super high heels and people won’t say a thing (well, they will ask how I can walk in them, but not why I wear them), whereas if my boyfriend wears something ‘extravagant’ people will look at him in a disapproving way (oke, not all of them, but most). And it’s even clearer when we talk about fashion with people we’ve just met, if I say something they will accept it but if he mentions he’s friends with Coco Rocha for example, well, you should see the look on peoples faces, they just don’t believe it… So not only are people less inclined to accept you as a man in fashion, but they also don’t believe you, just because you’re a man.
    Fashion is discriminatory, on sex, age, color, type, size and so on. Once I read an article about plus size fashion bloggers, but it would be very interesting to read more about male fashion bloggers or older fashion bloggers, both have a different way to look at it, and a new perspective is always to be valued!

    http://manonheine.wordpress.com

    • Stu Bradley

      Thanks for the comment, Manon, all of this ring true with my experience! I think the next generation will probably have it a lot easier than the current one – boys are being much more experimental with fashion from a young age, and I hope that this is a problem that may not be around for much longer!

      Tell your boyfriend not to worry – I get people wondering if I’m gay too, haha.

  9. arashmazinani

    Thanks for the mention Stu, I take my hat off to you for writing this post. Your thoughts are ones that I certainly know that I have battled with during my time as a fashion blogger. So it’s great that you’re bringing it to the attention of the whole blogging community.

  10. Annest Gwyned

    Interesting post, I’ve always thought It was a shame the the view of the ‘straight man’ is largely ignored by the fashion fashion world and always seen as having an ulterior motive for wanting to be there. But at least your something different about you which is something a lot of girl bloggers struggle with!

    • Stu Bradley

      Thanks Annest! And yup, I fully appreciate that being a guy sets me apart from female bloggers; I don’t imagine that any of them would have been able to pull of ‘How to pose like a fashion blogger’ without it seeming like a genuine instructional…!

  11. ohbygolly

    Well said. I began following your blog because I felt like it was a breath of fresh air–a change of pace in what is expected in the fashion world. Honestly, I think people are becoming exhausted with the “gay man fashion”…possibly, even gay men. No matter your gender, style or personality, I think authenticity is contagious and brings more consistent respect from fans and friends –it just takes longer to be seen, maybe? —I see the fashion world as rather accepting in all kinds, but I often forget of the struggle for the straight male.

    • Stu Bradley

      It’s taken me SO long to reply to this. Whether or not what we face can truly be classified as ‘a struggle’ is a tough one – like I have done with most things in my career, I’ve come to fashion via a strange path. Maybe if I’d followed a more conventional one it’d have gone more smoothly. Who knows! I hope I’m still a breath of fresh air, and haven’t become fetid or cloying…

  12. Georgina Elsmere (@caramelattekiss)

    I’d never really thought much about men in fashion, I must admit. I suppose because it’s traditionally been a female dominated world (at least, fashion interest is) we assume we must all be girls if we’re blogging. But then, taking sexuality out of the equation, despite fashion being seen as ‘for women’, the majority of the big fashion houses are fronted by men. How strange that we still see it as a woman’s world.

    • Stu Bradley

      You’re right in that a lot of fashion houses are fronted by men, but very few of them are straight. There are maybe…five or six in the mainstream, the others are gay men or women. This probably shouldn’t matter, but it’s an interesting precedent!

  13. aislingfashling

    Great post (once again) Stu! It just shows what a close-minded and sad world we live. Why can’t men like fashion? Why can’t women like cars and mechanics? I think as a world we get caught up in the gender stereotypes that are forced upon us from a young age. Even the fact that as babies boys are put in blue and girls in pink, what’s wrong with reversing the roles? I mean the fact that there is still a huge pay gap between men and women just shows how far we still have to go. It really is unfortunate and I applaud you for accepting who you are and trying to break down the conventions that society has placed on you. xx

  14. britishbeautyblogger

    The thing about being an individual in blogging is exactly that – being individual – and sexuality has nothing to do with it at all. If other people are making assumptions then it’s their issue and not yours, but you do have to work it in fashion – if you want to be on the list and feel you have a contribution, make the contact, several times if you have to, but persistence and proof that you are genuinely a fashion lover are at the core here.. nothing to do with whether you are gay or not. The weirdest thing for me is to read that gay male bloggers are only temporarily adored by female bloggers – how strange to covet a gay best friend.. why not just covet a fashionable friend? Fashion targets women because it is seen as an easier market, but not exclusively. There are male brands out there who would embrace you with (non-sexuality-specific) open arms, but you probably have to find them, and not the other way round. If you have the audience, the stats and the motivation then they’ll take you seriously.

    • Stu Bradley

      Thanks for the encouraging message! You make some very good points, maybe I just have to work a little harder at putting my name out there…

  15. ilexica

    I came to your blog from Lauren’s (Belle du Brighton) and found myself avidly reading this post. Really interesting. Although I’m not involved in this scene it definitely made me question my own behaviour towards my gay friends (and my straight friends!) and whether I am unconsciously reinforcing stereotypes in the way in which I relate to them. It also made me think about my boyfriend, who writes a blog on a more traditionally male pastime (in fact, the sexism there runs entirely the other way – women tend to get ridiculed or sidelined) and he’s had very little trouble wedging himself into that network. I definitely think social and internet networks work to reinforce expectations and stereotypes – it’s as though those who meet expectations find it very easy to integrate but those who don’t get marginalised such that even if they are not in *that* much of a minority the lack of presence of those non-mainstream people mean they get treated as though they are.

    • Stu Bradley

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post! I suppose it’s inevitable that people will fit into certain niches more easily than others, but it doesn’t do much for promoting diversity…Hmm.

  16. Pingback: Fashion: Not Just For Girls | Not So Lonely Londoners
  17. Pingback: Three Fashion Blogs You Really Should Be Reading | emmagem.com