What I Learned From Dressing Like A Man

30 April 2013 by

Last week, I spent a full two days dressed like a man for a piece in this week's issue of Grazia. It wasn't actual menswear, because I have hips and boobs and nothing that requires excessive space between my legs, but it was as close to an appropriation of menswear as it gets. Like, full-suit-and-hat menswear. I even wore a tie.

Me in a suit from the Kooples

I went to work in one suit, and rode the Silverlink across London in another. On day two, I sat through lunch with a friend in a cafe and accidentally dragged my tie through her hummous. I learned many, many things about myself and about others. But most of all I learned that being consistently stared at is, to all extents, a character building experience.

So why was I doing it? My reasons were twofold. Firstly 'Fashion', and secondly because I was told to. I've just grown my hair to a reasonable length and as someone who once Bic'd one side of their head into an undercut, I now finally feel girl-y, if not yet woman-ly. So who better to send out into the world of looking like a crap Jamie Hince than me? 

Dressing like a man is also defiantly, terrfiyingly a 'thing'. It colonised the catwalks – start with Stella McCartney for the last decade through current Vanessa Bruno, and see how you get on - and now, it's trickling down onto the high street. But this isn't androgyny. It’s a sort of fudging of menswear and womenswear, something Topshop collaborator and fan of all things nautical, J.W. Anderson, calls: “a shared wardrobe”.

How did it feel actually doing it, though? Well. On a base, physical level it felt good. Maison Martin Margiela, who lent me the grey one below, make their suits with that expensive lightweight wool that you can wear cross-season, whether you're pootling through Shoreditch or circling Lake Como in your yacht, and which makes you not want to wear underwear. The Kooples suit, the black slightly more affordable one, also felt good, if a little tighter ergo more feminine.

Me doing Wall Street - via Maison Martin Margiela - on a commuter train in Zone 4

But that doesn't explain how it feels, emotionally. Being called 'sir' by a woman, regardless of whether she is fit and your hair is tied up, is always galling. Not having your bags carried up the stairs is sort of empowering, but then it only makes you realise just how much people judge you on what you're wearing.

A week on and it's made me think long and hard about what I wear on a daily basis, lest I be mistaken for an ACTUAL BLOKE again. Do I really look that much like a man? Apparently so. No one opened the door for me - which is fine, I guess. At least men know where they are on that rule. The real test came when I came across other men, though. I was on their patch, sartorially speaking. They didn't like that much. We women have an extensive choice of clothing, so why trample on the one thing men have?

Personally, I like a suit on me/a man/whoever. I also like the cut of The Kooples and the feel of Margiela, but then I'm only flesh and blood. But the main reason I like it is because I like David Bowie and I like to think in some warped, off-kilter way, my two-day experiment was an homage to him. The truth is, I failed him and I failed myself because no one looks better in a suit than Bowie. Not even Jamie Hince.

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Comments

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Laura Munday (Fri May 03 10:43:10 BST 2013): My first thought when I saw the lead photo was that I loved the outfit - the black suit and camel coat look very feminine and I would never mistake her for a man, I think she looks very beautiful and that her hair colour really sets off the look.
Michael Forbes (Sat May 18 18:07:24 BST 2013): That's not dressing like a man, stick a boiler suit on and spend a week covered in oil and grease. You are dressed as a gay fop, a camp city boy.
Millie Humphries (Wed Jun 26 11:02:22 BST 2013): And you're posting on a page for Grazia Magazine...