What does it mean to dress up like a man anyway?
Of the digital covers Wonder has had, three were headlined by men—Unique Salonga for April, Jason Dhakal for July and IV of Spades for August. The men we’ve featured and continue to feature are without a doubt, a nonconforming lot.
And while knowing they have little to zero fucks to give when it comes to the clothes they wear, we respect their comfort zones. Subjects are asked to push boundaries and challenge gender norms if applicable and more importantly, if they are willing. The goal has never been to please or shock when it comes to Wonder’s styling direction; it’s to enhance (maybe even exaggerate) what already exists. Pinstriped women’s mules with a flash of gold buckle at the toe? Unique was down for that. Chrome-ish olive green eyeshadow and plum painted lips? Only a man blessed with Jason’s (confidence and) features could rock that look. Braids with strands of glitter on hair to match? IV of Spades didn’t mind. To these men, masculinity is not about playing one tune all the time. There are options for male self-expression outside of being athletic or downright aggressive. Traditional menswear may seem trivial in changing the dialogue but in fact, it is one of the many sources of consistent messages little boys and grown men get about who they are not supposed to be.
Reactions to Wonder's covers featuring personalities in gender-bending style
Almost instantly, when a man is seen wearing something non-masculine or shows interest in self-care, he is assumed to be feminine or gay. Why, because men aren’t supposed to be varied creatures with differing tastes? They’re not allowed to pay attention to their personal non-sexual needs, like health or hygiene because it’s not the manly thing to do? Also, what is wrong with being feminine or gay; is it supposed to be insulting when you are described as one?
It must be tiring for a man to live up to dominant gender codes, to always have to reinforce their masculinity in the way they dress or behave, to suppress their soft and nurturing side in fear of being targets of awful remarks, and upsetting family and peers. All in the name of masculinity, which we uphold as the paragon of strength and power. But it seems that it is always at risk of being broken, hence the conversation you and I are having.
Gender, like it or not, is neither strictly binary nor black or white. We all have various levels of masculinity and femininity, which we express in different ways at different life stages or even circumstances. So the true test of power—of natural power—lies not in how well a man conforms to gender codes but in how comfortable he is in his own skin and in the way he expresses himself.
Allowing the new breed of men dress as they please and style their bodies outside norms changes the conversation they have with themselves and the dialogue they have with others. It introduces new forms of male identities into the world; identities that are no longer threatened by what it means to dress up like a man.
Art Alexandra Lara