Yes, Men Wear Dresses Too

On November 13, musician Harry Styles was found on the front cover of Vogue wearing a white dress and jacket from Gucci. The photos in the magazine include other feminine styles as well. A lot of fans loved the cover, but unfortunately, because of people wanting to ruin things, the positivity dwindled. Conservative thinker and author, Candace Owens, took to Twitter to insult Styles, stating that he is not manly and that Marxism is bringing harmful ideas to end the notion of “strong men.”

Another artist was called out by another conservative. Rapper and musician Lil Nas X was criticized by the Republican Candidate for Georgia’s Congressional District, Angela Stanton-King. She alluded that black culture was being depraved because of a photo of Lil Nas X kissing himself for his new single “Holiday.” Stanton-King is known for her homophobia and transphobia back in March, when she equated gayness to pedophilia. She also misgendered Dwayne Wade’s daughter, who is trans.

However, what defines a strong man? What lens are we looking through to determine what a man is?  When we look at different cultures, we aren’t just seeing photos of soldiers and men in tuxedos or suits. There are cultures where men wear dresses, skirts or robes — not only in the past, but in the present as well — such as with Indian men wearing veshti or mundu or Sri Lankan men wearing a sarong. Just because the mainstream side of the Western world does not adhere to these standards doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Even within Western society itself, we see men in cultures where they wear feminine clothing. Men during the disco era of the 1970s wore feminine clothing as well.

For instance, the first drag queen, William Dorsey Swann, was a former slave. He threw parties for other Black queer people to celebrate and not conform to the gender norms that were forced. We also see in Ancient Greece that men were wearing dresses, and men during the Medieval Ages wore skirts with tights. The Founding Fathers and many kings wore wigs and had heels. During the early 20th century and dating back to the Medieval Ages, boys would wear dresses and have their hair grown out. They would also have pink clothing.

It’s important for men to have other men who challenge the norms of what men can do, wear, and act like. Queer men — especially queer Black men — lead the way to help break down these barriers. Before, women were not allowed to wear pants because they were seen as manly. Pants came with qualities that meant power, freedom, liberty and equality.

Bible verses were used as excuses to not allow women to wear masculine attire. But as feminists fought for this right and as the years have gone by, it's not uncommon or seen as unholy for women to wear pants or suits. This same phenomenon has to happen with men. Men like Harry Styles, Lil Nas X and Billy Porter are essential to this.

But even without these examples that exist in history, what a man decides to wear or how he presents himself does not remove that he is a man or manly. A man can be intelligent. A man can be funny. A man can have physical strength. A man can lead. A man can be a follower. A man can be badass. A man can be tall. A man can be skinny. A man can be fat. A man can be average. A man can be compassionate. A man can be understanding. A man can be good. A man can be bad.

These are qualities that can exist in men. These qualities don’t fade once they wear something that is feminine or is recognized as “women’s attire.” They also don’t grow into more positive or negative traits by wearing masculine clothing. A lot of people who have a more traditional view fail to notice the forced attitudes of these comments.

Putting men into boxes leads to a harmful cycle. That’s why toxic masculinity is mentioned, such as in my previous article similar to this, "Why Men Don’t Cry." Boys playing roughly, or loving sports, fishing, shooting and racing is not a bad thing. But it’s bad when things are taught and instilled in boys at a young age — things such as disrespecting and assaulting women and LGBTQ+ members, or telling them that they cannot have emotions other than cockiness or anger.

November 19 was International Men’s Day. There’s always the fight that men cannot be feminine because if so, they are not men. It continues a cycle that harms not only men but non-men who are around them too. If we want to be a society that values men, we need to allow them to live authentically as themselves, even when it doesn’t fit what society prescribes as a man.

So yes, men can wear dresses and still be manly, and being mad about it won’t stop them from doing so.