When I was 19 years old, I used to shoot for a popular womenswear boutique in Hawthorn, Melbourne. Every week I would saunter in and photograph the garments for each stocked label.
It was also the time I bought my first pair of floral denims. They were “girl jeans,” worrisomely thin, and had a waistline so small it could only be fit into after a three-day food-free bender. But when I saw that vibrant print on the racks of the womenswear boutique, I simply had to have them. Gender be damned.
Pictured above are the actual pants on my actual legs. As Rachel Zoe so famously says: I die.
Cue what has become a love affair with floral prints of all kinds. Not just florals: Anything wild and unabashed. And fortunately for decorative menswear lovers such as myself, there are a variety of Australian labels out there stocking some seriously kewl threads.
Jayson Brunsdon’s Spring/Summer ’15 collection showcases intricate attire; glossy suit jackets with delicate detailing, defying the notion that elegant menswear must be ‘simple’ in design. Jack London’s Summer ’15 collection is awash with exquisite and flowery shirts (Mother took me Boxing Day shopping there and casually let the staff know, “he’s obsessed.” Cheers, Mum). And I can’t go past a pair of colourful summer shorts by Franks Australia.
Those floral denims I purchased at 19 years old garnered me much praise the following weekend, as I sashayed them through the city streets.
Yet at the same time, they earned me some remarks I could have lived without – a slew of slurs by strangers walking past. Many by men. Many homophobic in nature.
Let’s be real. As a gay man, I’m no stranger to homophobic slurs. I’ve worked enough nights to know that dickheads are gonna dickhead, and sometimes it’s best to Just Keep Walking when someone shouts abuse.
But those floral denims made me something of a walking target. People seemed much more willing to depart with hatred while I had flowers on my pants than if I were holding hands with a boy. I stopped wearing my florals out after that, in spite of how much I loved them.
It really begs the question: What’s the deal with gender roles in fashion? Are there clothes a man mustn’t wear? Where do these judgments about what we put on our bodies come from?
There’s an unspoken gender script in society about how each gender must behave and how they must present to the world. It’s part of a larger unwritten how-to guide on being a ‘real man’ or a ‘real woman.’
Flowers are soft and feminine – ergo, only girls can wear floral-print denims.
To be a man is to be masculine, and nothing is more threatening to the social dynamic than a man in a pretty floral shirt. Stick with plain jeans and a tee – or heaven forbid, camo khakis.
Although we get a hall pass if our shirt is very obviously Hawaiian. Because it’s summer, bro, sweet threads, let’s go to the beach.
Anyone who diverts from the preconceived social script is asking to be shamed, or – gasp – labelled a homosexual. My attempts to express individual style were met with aversion and disgust. Hell, it’s even considered alternative for men to take a mere interest in fashion. Them’s the rules, kids. No messing with tradition.
I’d like to be the first – and hopefully not the last – to say, fuck that.
If I’ve got the pins to rock a pair of floral jeans, then my God, I’m gonna show them off. I’m gonna wrap myself in Jack London shirts and rose-printed short-shorts until I look like a damn Christmas tree.
I’m thankful for the fashion icons of Instagram, for donning eclectic styles that make it easier for the rest of us to don our floral denims. You kids keep me young (and pretty), I love you so much.
Every man should wear florals – or whatever makes them feel good. Defy the social script and throw on what you love.
And all of the slurring shouters, the poorly dressed macho bros yelling comments from their cars can go screw themselves. Screw themselves in their tacky camo khakis.