If you’ve been paying attention to menswear for the past few decades then you’ve probably noticed that not much has changed. Put aside the more avant garde spectacles of high-end fashion houses and consider the accessible and practical fashions that are readily available to the everyday man. Compared to trends in womenswear — a field that is constantly shifting, often breathtaking, and occasionally outlandish — menswear has remained on a steady path of sharp corners, drab colors, and very little flair. Jeans have gotten tighter and buttons have gotten higher, but that’s about it.
Why? Julian Woodhouse — a superlative fashion designer with a distinguished military background who’s trying to end drab menswear — has an answer:
“The desire to maintain yourself, to look your best, to make sure your hair and your skin looks good, all of those things, those vain things, are associated with women,” he explained over the phone. “When guys do it, it’s looked at as a negative…Which is definitely a huge turn off for straight men.”
Woodhouse isn’t wrong. Whether or not you identify with these behaviors, they are pervasive in men’s fashion. Maybe it’s because American masculinity is rooted in perception, which means men are often focused on what their attire will communicate to the outside world. But, as a man struggling to discover and redefine his own sense of fashion, I’ve come to believe that outside perception shouldn’t really matter. Who cares if I wear something today that gets me teased tomorrow? Tomorrow is overrated.
That’s why I was so excited to talk with Woodhouse, because he’s not only a prime example of what it means to follow your passions, but he is also an advocate for revolutionizing menswear. A big part of that advocacy is focused on pushing through doubt and destigmatizing what it means to be a fashion-forward male.
“So the gay guys look amazing — thank you — but it doesn’t really go well for the mainstream heterosexual male,” he said. “He doesn’t want to put on amazing clothes that he is excited about and then go outside and it…means something negative. There’s a negative stigma associated with guys who try.”
As Woodhouse mentioned, and as you probably have already guessed, a man who pays extra attention to his personal aesthetic is often viewed as non-masculine. “When I was in the closet…I was wearing what I needed to fit in and not seem ‘gay,’” he explained.
Even as a straight man, I’ve often had the same concern. I remember in middle school, buying a pair of black and white checkered Vans slip on shoes, but never wearing them because a close friend told me they were “so gay.” If I could reach back in time and slap my younger self, I’d tell him not to care, to wear what he wants, and, most importantly, I’d tell him that something “looking gay” should never be seen as a negative. Sadly, however, it’s this exact negative sentiment that has held back menswear for decades (save a few bold mavericks).
Fear, it seems, is the enemy of style. That’s why Woodhouse’s fearless, carpe diem approach seems to important.
When I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror I see a work in progress. I've seen a loser and I've seen a winner. Today I see an army officer, a model, and a husband. The thing I've never seen until recently is a designer, a creative director, and a CEO. I challenge myself to be the best I can be and I challenge myself to win every day. I chastise myself when I fail and I praise myself when I meet my goals. Now I challenge you to do the same. Be your own biggest fan and be your own worst critic. Experiment with yourself, stay focused and your way will find you. WOOD HOUSE is not a one man show. It is a combined effort spanning roughly 100 talented and motivated people that are all directed by myself and the backbone of the brand, it's General Manger, @kyrylo_k. Without this effort WOOD HOUSE would be loose scraps of fabric scattered across the floor. I thank God each day for putting you all in my life. Our craft is our pride and our pride is our craft. Join us @ woodhouseofficial.com