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Fashion, Hypermasculinity, and Self-Expression

Why are people following fashion? Human nature has a side called imitative instinct. It is natural that humans as a gregarious living being feel better as a part of a community. People follow or copy each other because it is a natural biological protective instinct. People have a need to belong somewhere. At the same time human nature also has a need of detachment, personal prominence. This comes from the fact that every human is different and wants to find him or herself, develop an own personality, while still belonging to the society. Following fashion, being an individual character and being a part of a community is possible by not copying fashion, but choosing items and making them personal. People are a community of different individuals trying to be unique, and fashion is a tool with which this is possible.

Fashion, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary is a “popular trend, especially in styles of dress and ornament.” The dictionary defines it as to its superficiality, stating that Fashion is something you wear to keep up with trends, but Fashion is something more complex than that. Fashion is a form of self-expression and is influenced by multifaceted factors. It is the way of dressing by showing one’s personality and character.

“Fashions fade, style is eternal!” The famous Yves Saint Laurent once said that fashion, depicted as mere clothes wane after a period but fashion as style remains forever. Every person has his or her own personal fashion style. A person’s fashion style is not just given automatically but rather it is earned from whimsical inspirations of all sorts. An individual’s interests play a part in cultivating their style. Interest being defined is not narrowed down solely to one’s hobbies. A person’s preference in music, books, and films are also included. Somehow, people tend to incorporate these to how they dress because it is a part of their lifestyle.

Every person has a different body type and is also a factor in fostering one’s personal style. For women, these body types can be classified into pear, rectangle, apple, and hourglass. A pear-shaped person is described to have wider hips than the rest of her body while a person with an apple shape has more bulk on her upper body. The rectangle shape is described to have proportional measurements of the shoulders, hips, and waist. On the contrary, the hourglass shape also has proportional measurements of the shoulders and hips, but the waist is remarkably smaller and curvier unlike the rectangle’s. Each body type requires a certain way of styling to be able to flatter one’s body which is why considering a person’s body type is also a part of the development of one’s style.

Fashion is a hobby for some but can be someone else’s passion. Many would think that Fashion is only for women and the feminine but what they do not know is that it is part of every person’s life. Fashion as a form of self-expression allows everyone to showcase his or her self to the world. It celebrates conformity and the acknowledgment of one’s individuality. Through fashion, one’s creativity is also exerted through the constant application of aesthetics in clothing and styling. Fashion challenges people to be creative and imaginative in expressing themselves. It is also a way of self-evolution because as one ages, his/her character also does, thus style will also evolve. It also promotes confidence by being comfortable enough in one’s own personality that he/she articulates it through fashion. Through fashion, many are able to share their interests and skills where others can draw inspiration.

People are liable to judge others by their look as the book by its cover. This human habit makes others afraid of expressing themselves through fashion and clothes. The fact that people judge often by appearance developed a self-protective side of humans. As fashion can be used for self-expression it can be also used as a shield or protection. People use fashion to present the image they want. It’s easy to wear generally popular pieces of clothes and making sets with the total lack of originality not to differ from the normal and merge in the community, which stops people of judging. Fashion however can be used as expressing thoughts and personality it can also be used as a protection to hide from opinions, with simply looking generally.

If you feel comfortable in the look you’ve created for yourself, you can free your mind and focus on other things art, work, the world. There’s often one thing a coat, sweater, pair of jeans or ring that can make you feel at ease. Sometimes it’s the stories and memories associated with it, other times it’s the inexplicable way that it shapes us when we have it on. Certain pieces can endure the test of time and remain a staple in your wardrobe regardless of passing trends.

Hip-hop music and fashion have always been synonymous: the visual and stylistic interpretations of hip-hop allowed everyone, not only those who could master turntables, rock a mic, handle a spray can or pop and lock, to be part of the culture. Just as the music has evolved over the decades so has hip-hop fashion. The younger present-day MCs don't seem too bothered by those turning their noses up at their sense of style. In fact, they continue to push the envelope and defy the orthodox male image of a rapper. But even as modern hip-hop continues to make room for eclectic and ambiguous looking rappers, we are often reminded of the genre's stifling and dated interpretation of black masculinity. Black men, especially in hip-hop, are expected to flaunt their masculinity like a badge of honor and stepping out of this box leaves them open to scorn leading many to take on this distorted view of black manhood for fear of being ostracized. Where does that leave young black males who choose to express themselves in ways that don't conform to the genre's conservative fashion sensibilities?

Lil' Uzi Vert is a chart-topping rapper who doesn't have to worry that his choice of shirt, jewelry or bag will make him the victim of an assault by bullies. Although his look may incite some raised eyebrows, Lil' Uzi is a performer in show business where flashiness and experimentation are ultimately rewarded. It's easy for him to give haters the middle finger when his style makes him money. Sadly, nameless young black men in the real world don't have that luxury.

Hypermasculinity has long been a way for some black men to deal with the stature and privilege they've historically been denied in this country. It's a reaction to the institutionalized de-masculation that was a crucial part of slavery, in which grown men were reduced to terms like "boy" and "nigger," subjected to castration, and often forced to watch their wives and daughters get ravaged and raped without recourse or retaliation. Hypermasculinity has long been a way for some black men to deal with the stature and privilege they've historically been denied in this country. It's a reaction to the institutionalized de-masculation that was a crucial part of slavery, in which grown men were reduced to terms like "boy" and "nigger," subjected to castration, and often forced to watch their wives and daughters get ravaged and raped without recourse or retaliation.

Young Thug proudly wears women’s clothing, and has stated in the past that he prefers the way women’s clothing fits on him. Whenever asked why he “dresses like a girl”, he just simply states that dresses like a prince. This level of confidence and indulgence in the way he chooses to express himself is exactly what society has been starved of since the dawn of time. Young Thug may not be the first man to express his fluidity, however this sort of self-expression is not too common in the rap scene. In black culture specifically, gender-roles are enforced rather heavily, especially for black men.

Gay black men and transgender black women are without a doubt part of the most oppressed minorities in this country. These black men who accept themselves are already faced with overcoming internalized racism and homophobia, then they have to bear the burden of being unacceptable by societal standards. Young Thug is indirectly proving that despite all cries to the contrary, hip hop, much like the society it only serves as a mirror towards, is maturing. Many of the criticisms about homophobia and misogyny in hip hop remind me of similar critics within the Black community itself.

We hold black men to a dangerous standard of being overly masculine to the point that they can’t even live life, express themselves, or do normal things without being challenged socially about their appearance, sexuality, or validity as a man, while men of other races can freely express themselves and be seen as liberal and artistic. Hypermasculinity has been criticized globally by numerous social activist movements as contributing to rape culture, low self-esteem and body dysmorphia in men, violence against women and the gay community, and the murders of trans women. We see hypermasculinity every day in the media, advertisements, and TV commercials.

Hypermasculinity in black men dates all the way back to slavery. Slave auctioneers didn’t want the male slaves they were selling to appear soft by any means because that would mean buyers wouldn’t have a hard worker on their hands and it would be more difficult to sell a weak looking male slave or they would have to lower prices to come to a deal for him to be a house slave or something of lesser or equal value.

It’s a problem when a man can’t even wear certain colors or eat certain foods without being called gay. It’s a problem when men seriously think showing a woman affection is feminine and gay and a huge reason why the culture of black men disrespecting black women is so normalized. It’s a problem when Michael B. Jordan can’t even pose for a picture with Ryan Coogler without all of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram wondering “Is he gay now?” and questioning his manhood.

Young Thug is far from the first male musician to wear a dress—the legacy of cross-dressing rock stars stretches back decades, from David Bowie to Prince. He isn’t even the first rapper to play with gender expectations in his style. But examining the reaction to Thug's apparel choices underscores a specific fact: that a man who transgresses the arbitrary rules of what "masculine clothing" can be still spurs controversy in 2017. A man veering too far in the wrong direction on this binary is pejoratively deemed "gay," for example, not conforming to the relatively strict visual codes associated with "real men," a conclusion that seems to spring from the same fallacy that says gay men exhibit feminine characteristics, and that any man demonstrating effeminate qualities must be gay.

Due to the stereotyping of people through their fashion, many are baffled between individuality and conformity. To express themselves truly through fashion without constraints on how they are objectified by stereotypes is to revel one’s individuality. Meanwhile, to conform to the norms of fashion trends and fads that conceal their identity in order to belong are diminishing the true essence of fashion, which is to express one’s self. Many are facing the dilemma of choosing where to stand. This depicts how society dictates a certain ideal in fashion. The influence of society in fashion is big for it manipulates the evolving trends and fads to keep up with that are common misconceptions on what fashion is all about.


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