#1974 Straight Guilt – it’s the curse of menswear

Clement Chabernaud – yes, a male model. via ModelHomme

I met up with a fellow menswear writer last night and as inevitably happens in that situation, we geeked out like only two guys can do when they have a shared passion for a subject. For most men, that subject would be sport or cars or women, for us it was fashion. We waxed lyrical about writers, publications, designers and models for a good few hours, with some speculation, gossip and battle stories thrown in along the way. At one point in the conversation he dropped the term “Straight Guilt”. Fascinated, I asked him to explain. Here’s what he said (and I’m paraphrasing): “It’s when you’ve got a straight menswear writer who feels guilty that he writes about fashion so he has to apologise, over-compensate or prove his manhood at every given opportunity. It’s why you see so many boob shots all over men’s style blogs or sites run by straight guys, and so many sport or hip hop or hyper-masculine references all over everything. Because if you don’t make it clear at all times that you’re straight – and, more importantly, if you’re trying to appeal to the straight market and they don’t understand that liking what you like is acceptable and straight too – then the whole system will fall over.”

I mulled this over for a few moments before deciding it was the most brilliant concept I’ve heard in a long time. Over on my Tumblr, I have an ask me anything section where people can literally ask me anything they choose. Probably 60% of the questions go something like this: “Are you gay?” “I can never figure this out… Do you like boys or girls?” “What’s your deal? Are you a homo or what?” “lol do u do boyz?” 99% of the time, I don’t answer those questions – does my being straight or gay relate to the job I do? I don’t think so. But some people can’t seem to get their heads around the idea of a potentially straight guy who writes about men’s fashion or – God forbid – male models.

The blame can’t be placed on the chest-beating menswear bloggers/editors or those redneck members of the audience, or even the fact that the writers are catering to the rednecks. It’s a collective consciousness type deal. There’s big talk of societal progression but the evidence speaks for itself. Is there a solution? Who knows. No doubt it’ll change with time. But come on. It’s 2011. Who’d’ve thought it would still be considered gay to like fashion?

And for the record, I ain’t apologising for nothin’.


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  1. anon says

    I like this concept a lot, and find much truth in it. I’ve actually been utterly shocked at how many straight guys in fashion still use the words gay or fag to denote passivity, whackness, or simply gay people. The times that I’ve brought it up with people they just blame the generation that they were brought up in where those words weren’t meant to inflict any hate or pain on homosexuals. But I learned a long time ago that this is a pretty flimsy excuse.There is definitely the notion of having to keep one’s manliness intact, especially I think if they’re moving away from “manlier” workwear and over to more contemporary or formal menswear. I was lucky, in my mind at least, to go to a college where hypermasculinity and proving oneself was considered silly and pointless, and this was the period when an interest in fashion developed. In fact maybe the hypermasculine in fashion are up for a good mocking! Hm…

  2. says

    Isaac you are a raging hetrosexual if ever I knew one, you needn’t explain or feel the need to prove your manhood.  Now if  Bryanboy was straight then I would be a little concerned…

  3. Nomis says

    Haha, this brings back memories of being the only guy in 7th form textiles at school…  Have you seen that Kanye interview where he talks about working in the fashion industry and discovering how pretty much all the designers of his favourite things are gay? He’s like “I don’t understand why you say to someone ‘those jeans are gay’ in a negative way, it should be ‘those jeans are gay’ as a complement about their design” lol…..

  4. Charlotte says

    Yeah, I agree with this concept. I think it’s especially rife in NZ, where every boy is basically wired to LOVE rugby and the All Black as soon as they’re outta the freaking womb. And if  a kiwi male daren’t like rugby people generally think there’s something wrong with him, especially with this DAMN world cup coming up, there is literally no escape. 

  5. Ramesh says

    In English, there’s an interesting ambiguity in terms of whether the gender refers to the subject or the object. Hence ‘male fashion writer’ could refer to the topic of ‘male fashion’ or the sex of the writer. Hence Isaac and others use the term ‘menswear writer’ to clarify this. However, this also devalues a potential continuum between menswear and male fashion.
    In terms of the literary quality of menswear writing, nobody can exceed Marcel Proust in ‘A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu.’ That Proust was homosexual is probably beside the point. His exquisite, and fanatically prolonged descriptions of contemporary men and women are so psychologically acute and subtle yet concrete that the reader can imagine what his characters wear, and more importantly, with what aplomb. And this is because Proust wasn’t a fashion writer, but a menswear and womenswear  writer par excellence. The character comes first, which is the armature of the soul [ flowery but true ], on which the suiting is layered. 
    And the fashion writers I’ve come across don’t seem to understand this. There’s plenty of puff about clothing ‘expressing personality,’ but it’s a series of descriptions about commodities rather than actually about complementing an individual.

  6. Amy says

    I’ve been reading your blog for years now, and never for a second thought you were gay.  Not that it would be bad if you were gay, but you just didn’t seem so. 
    It might feel like at 2011 the majority of our population still doesn’t accept the concept of straight guys liking fashion, but opinions change and each person is entitled to their own.  I definately think straight guys can like fashion (okay love fashion) – and you’re the perfect example!  

    I say ditch the concept/overall opinion, and let things be just what they are.  If you’re straight and you like fashion, well, you’re straight and you like fashion. 

  7. George says

    Word. Those going like you’re participating in the Oppression Olympics are just being silly – there are still too many simple stereotypes floating around, and you’re merely pointing this out. And pointing at what people do to stay outside them.

  8. Jimmy says

     “What’s your deal? Are you a homo or what?”  Hahahaha….. i pissed myself laughing, ouh man thanks for that.

  9. NeverConcernedMe says

    Well, a high percentage of the men involved in the industry are gay; there’s no
     escaping that fact. Therefore, wrongly or not, the general public is going to assume that just about every man intensely interested in fashion is gay. 

  10. Rick says

    This is the best blog post you’ve ever done. Props Isaac, it’s a subject that can be very sensitive to blokes out there who get shit for dressing fashionably and having an interest in fashion. But you covered it beautifully. Haters gon’ hate..

  11. Christopher says

    The ‘straight guilt’ effect was clearly seen in a guy who wrote gardening columns for the Sunday Star Times for a number of years; every column he made sure to mention his wife or his family in some way, or to mention how he liked women, etc. It was a real turn off frankly. All readers are interested in is good gardening articles, and the sexuality of the writer isn’t an issue.

    If someone engages in ‘straight guilt’ then they aren’t a very good writer.

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