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What comes out of your closet? November 2, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life, MetroSexual.

There is a widely held opinion that gay men have a better sense of style than their straight counterparts, but is there any truth to it?

In an old episode of Will and Grace, Will and Jack have to look after Karen’s cousin who was from “out of town” and who was also gay. Anyway, he was dressed mostly in fleece (I think Jack’s line was: “oh my God, did lesbians steal all your clothes and dress you like that?”) and they both thought he was ugly and clearly not a potential partner. But then they took him shopping and, of course, once they had dressed him nicely and got him a good haircut, they both fell in love with him. He had been “made-over”.

Now, the “makeover” concept is very popular on TV. We are all familiar with fashion TV shows, telling us what we should wear, when we should wear it and how; they feature on numerous channels in numerous formats. They are entertaining because they are often cruel and bitchy and not unlike a modern take on the freak show; and they allow us to change someone, just as Will and Jack did, to suit our own needs.

Do gay men do this better than our straight counterparts? During a conversation with another gay man, the subject came up of “dressing like a straight man” versus “dressing like a gay man” and how gay men should be dressing and what is expected of us. I had no real idea of this concept. I have always felt that style and fashion are truly personal things. We dress in a manner that is comfortable to us. As teenagers we dress like our mates, so we all look the same at the bus stop and shopping mall. As twenty- and thirtysomething professionals, I expect we still follow fashion but tend to dress for ourselves and not our peer group. My friend could not explain what he meant. As a gay man am I more likely to wear designer label jeans and run up debt to ensure I look and smell good, while my straight male friend shops at River Island and uses Lynx body wash and deodorant?

I know this isn’t a serious topic, but it does show there is an information gap between the gay and straight world and different expectations on how we should look. I am me, I dress the way I feel comfortable, and it varies day to day; I wear a suit to work, jeans and a T-shirt for the local bar, jeans and a decent shirt for dinner or a date. Does it sound like I dress any different from most other men?

Some of my gay friends seriously think there is a difference (as do some of my female friends), even in 21st century, metrosexual London. Is there? Is it right in today’s politically correct times to label ourselves as “gay dressing” or “straight dressing” – do gay women do the same thing?

It’s also the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy syndrome and our self-image. Do straight men simply dress to look the same as their best mate and workmates without putting a great deal of individuality into their wardrobe? Many gay men (I guess I count myself as one) try to use the clothes they wear to say something about themselves, which isn’t necessarily “look, I’m gay”. But does society expect gay men to have a better perception of what they look good in? Is there really a style difference between straight and gay men, or do some people simply like to reinforce stereotypes and raise barriers to acceptance?

And one final note: do some people wear the poppy as a fashion statement rather than the symbol it truly represents?

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