Posted on January 13 2016
A Non-binary Series By Fiamma Sanò
In Bruce Weber’s campaign images for Louis Vuitton Series 4, taken in front of a brick wall in Tampa, Florida, one immediately notices, along side models Sarah Brannon, Jean Campbell and Rianne Van Rompaey, the presence of a famous young man, Jaden Smith. However, only after observing the photos attentively will one realize that Will and Jada Pinkett’s very fashionable 17-year-old son is actually wearing a skirt. More specifically, a skirt from the women’s spring/summer 2016 collection, just like the rest of his outfit.
And so? What’s so strange about that? From traditional Scottish kilts to those by Vivienne Westwood, from sarongs to cassocks, from Comme des Garçons and Jean Paul Gaultier to Jared Leto’s tunic and Kanye West’s black leather Givenchy skirt; it’s not like fashion hasn’t witnessed men wearing skirts before. If anything, we could say that until today, the male skirt has failed to assert itself beyond the walls of the celebrity system, folk culture, religion and the catwalk. Meanwhile, the one worn by Jaden could be considered – actually is – something very different. Right? Since he already wears skirts quite often. He wears them to school; he wore one to his prom alongside his date, peer and actress Amandla Stenberg; and he takes Instagram selfies of himself in them. Have a look at the post where he’s wearing a striped mini-dress and provides the caption: “Went to Topshop to buy some girl clothes. I Mean “clothes.” Neither masculine nor feminine. Because Jaden is a millennial, and in the new millennium gender differences are so surpassed, from clothing to self-perception.
Let’s start from the beginning: sex. For quite some time now, psychologists have been saying that nobody can be entirely defined as being either 100% heterosexual or homosexual. We are all “latitudes,” at varying distances from both poles. To sum it up, highly nuanced. Indeed, psychologists have been saying this since the ‘50s and ‘60s, but it’s taken up to at least 2010, for this concept to be accepted. The idea of “fluidity” between heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual behavior has been claimed by youth, especially celebrities who display their relationships with both men and women indistinctly. Most fluidity supporters are female: from Cara Delevigne to Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus and Lily Rose Depp.
Today, they define themselves as “flexy” or non-binary: between 1 and 0 in digital language, between X and Y in genetic terminology, they choose to take advantage of the other numbers and letters at their own discretion. That is, the quintessential period in which the search for one’s self follows the path of homogenization, including that of the sexes. As far as aesthetics go, it’s been this way since jeans were invented. However, take heed: even among youth, everything has always been accepted with the exception of the skirt. That item was confined to the catwalk or the stage, never to be worn in everyday life. And yet, today that last ultimate barrier, the skirt=woman binomial seems to have finally been disintegrated by the newer generations. “I mean, clothes”: neither masculine nor feminine. And in any case, not used as a means for declaring one’s sexuality. In this past year, besides Ghesquière and Jaden Smith in Series 4, Alessandro Michele also embraced the concept, interpreting it with his own signature. In his debut for Gucci, he immediately clarified his idea of aesthetics by having both his male and female models walk down the catwalk in lace shirts, and flowered outfits, so as to impede any sort of distinction according to sex.
Nothing new if we think of David Bowie (impossible not to think of him these days, RIP) or the entire ‘70s, really. The White Duke lead the movement, a precursor of “gender ambiguity,” or blurring, which has never again been as glamorous as it was during that time. In all of its aesthetic and conceptual variations: from the Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo worn by refined, international, high society women, to Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd’s high-heeled ankle boots and jabot shirts. Gender stereotypes fell one by one, crushed by modernity in music and art. The same lurex jumpsuit could be worn by both Jaggers, Mick and Bianca, for example.
But if in the ‘70s, blurring was used in fashion to purposely confuse others in terms of their own sexual preferences, today it’s no longer about that. It’s not an “en travesti” or gender subversion, because it’s not about men dressing as women or viceversa: nobody is trying to belong by assuming a different gender from his or her own. We are not talking about genderless beings denying they are either X or Y. It’s not about being unisex, that is, a style that’s suitable for both men and women, like jeans, all the while maintaining distinguishing features of both. It’s not even about Marc Jacobs who included trans filmmaker Lana Wachowski photographed by David Sims in his inspiring SS16 people campaign. Today, she is a woman in women’s clothing.
If anything, it is pure freedom of expression, regardless of sex, in which femininity is never questioned, even if one is wearing men’s clothes, and masculinity, when one dresses in female clothing. Actually, the notion of ambiguity or feeling threatened does not exist. It’s a matter of style. To make things clearer, let’s go back to Jaden: he’s never issued any exact statements regarding his sexual preferences, and until now, he’s always been photographed with girls, like his ex girlfriend Kylie Jenner. Whatever his sexual orientation may be is irrelevant. Yet we know exactly how he likes to dress. Nicolas Ghesquière describes the young Smith’s presence in Louis Vuitton’s campaign as follows: «Jaden represents a generation that is free from declarations and questions on gender issues and conveys a very interesting message concerning the integration of a global wardrobe». Furthermore, it’s obvious he’s more comfortable in a skirt. And you know what? It looks really good on him.