Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gay Fashion is the New Straight Fashion

By Anthony Waters

Listen to this commentary!

What’s the New What? Mark Anthony Waters says, gay fashion is the new straight fashion, in the ‘hood that is, and that’s what makes it new.

Anthony says he’s always had a distinctive sense of fashion…until recently that is. Now, the very same boys who teased him as a kid are jacking his style, shedding their plain blue denim and white T’s for ornamented skinny jeans and patterned shirts in every shade. In this story, Anthony explores the intersection of fashion, youth culture, and identity, reframing what it means to look tough, and reminding us that the best fashion is always dangerous.

What’s the new what? I say, gay fashion is the new straight fashion… in the hood, that is. And that’s what makes it new.

In ghetto neighborhoods in my generation, male fashion has always been about blending in. I know you’ve seen the look before: white T’s, blue jeans, and Nikes. The rapper, Keak Da Sneak, even recorded an anthem dedicated to the boring uniform of the street.

I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing the white T look. I’m all about big shiny sunglasses, sparkling necklaces, tight legged jeans…and this cute shirt I spotted at one of my favorite stories: DD’s Discounts.

Look at this! Oh my gosh, I’ve been looking for this shirt forever… (more ambi)

The straight boys who used to whisper about me on the bus haven’t discovered DD’s yet, but they are jacking my style. It all started when artists like Kanye West, Pherrell, and Cam’ron showed up on the TV screen, suited and booted in outfits I would have picked out in middle school. Now my uber-macho nephew, AR, is raiding my closet.

AR (on tape)
Tell you the truth, unc, you got swag.

AR loves that word swag.

AR (on tape)
Swag is how you dress, it’s how you make people compliment you on everything you do, even how you walk, that’s swag.

I’m so proud AR doesn’t look like every other fashion reject in a white t-shirt. But standing outside my closet at home, I ask AR if he thinks my favorite new shirt is “swagalicious” (his word, not mine). It’s got a rainbow pattern and says, “I will not apologize.”

AR (on tape)
(Sigh). I mean… no disrespect to the homos, but that’s not my swag.

No disrespect taken, cause I’ll always dress better than he does. But then I ask AR if he’d at least compliment a gay boy on a nice pair of jeans.

AR (on tape)
If they do got something nice on, I will respect that, and I will let em know that. I like the jeans.


Hearing that comforts me. But Duke University Professor Mark Anthony Neal, who writes about gender and race, isn’t so optimistic. He says straight boys might push the boundaries in terms of fashion…

PROF NEAL (on tape)
But might not push those boundaries in terms of the cultures and life styles that some of those clothing styles come from. So they can dress gay in their minds, but they might not want to have friendships with gay men.

They don’t have to be friends with me… They just better realize they wanna look like me. And if ghetto fashion has always been about looking tough, there is nothing tougher than being who you are, without apologizing.


Anonymous said...

I think acting like yourself and not following anyone else is the toughest thing you can do. I commend his move and hope more kids, gay or straight, follow his lead, I found the best place to find bargains on designer mens clothes is on ebay, especially the way things are now, I just bought some diesel jeans and sneaks at an ebay store called Uptown Icon , its the coolest collection of clothes I've seen so far.

Anonymous said...

It's not how cool anyone thinks you are... it's how cool you KNOW you are that makes all the difference.

Jocelyn Testes-Harder said...

That reminds me of my ex, Re'quan. I'm pretty sure he was on the down low.

Anonymous said...

just what we need, more people wearing ridiculous flamboyant 'fashion'

Matt said...

If you love fashion, you'll love the new Valentino documentary... check it out!!