The recently concluded Grammy 2020 was all almost entirely about eighteen-year-old Billy Eilish (who raked in five Grammy awards). And it was about the men in the room, rocking their gender-fluid fashion wear.
Special appearance that night included Steve Lacy, nominated in the Best Urban Contemporary Album. He showed up in a Comme des Garçons and Rick Owens suit worn over what Vogue called an "androgynous tailored look". Billy Porter, the statement dresser, showed up in a glitter-encrusted teal custom-Baja-East fitting suit with jacket and a motorised fringe curtain lining his wide-brimmed hat. James Blake rocked his oversized Yohji Yamamoto blazer with a blue pattern in the front and long tunic covered in a cream design. And Lill Nas, who took home two Grammys, stole the show in his bubble-gum pink cowboy suit.
Suffice to say these men embraced both their masculine and feminine sides with poise and panache.
The androgynous Indian man
However, dressing gender fluid isn’t new to India. Remember the quirkiest of our Bollywood heroes, Ranveer Singh, in his ‘scandalising’ attires, painting the town red (or green, as applicable)? From donning a Sabyasachi Mukherjee ensemble of a polka-dot shirt teamed with a multi-hued stripe pants to slaying suits with pleated skirts, he has managed to open a whole new dimension in Indian’s men’s fashion.
However, are Indian men besides Ranveer ready to thus embrace their feminine side? Isha Bhansali, stylist for Ayushmann Khurrana, weighs in. "It’s a great way to blend two styles and Indian men are already accepting this trend. I don’t particularly think its gender-crossing. It’s within the lines yet creative!" she says.
From the Grammy’s 2020, Isha took to John Legend’s asymmetric blazer, which was a cross between a traditional lapel blazer and a tailcoat. "We find a lot of asymmetry here in India thanks to ace Indian wear designers. I’ve styled even Ayushmann in many such asymmetric designs," she adds.
The land of fluid dressing
For sustainable fashion designer Chanchal Badsiwal, this trend is yet another page from the rich Indian culture. "As a country, we are so diverse. In India, wearing colours is a part of the culture. Men in Rajasthan and Gujarat have always worn colourful pagdis, kurtas and dhotis. In many places, men have their ears pierced, wearing small gemstones as earrings. The colourful lungi is a very normal aspect in many Indian regions. The veshti in the South is one such a fluid dressing, too. North Eastern states has some very different colours. In fact, if we look back in history, India had a very fluid and diverse system of dressing, which include colours-from florescent greens to variety of shades of yellows and reds-textiles and textures, all of which sadly changed post Industrialization," says Chanchal, sharing the mind-blowing insight.
Clothing for men, adds Chanchal, became more rigid in cities, where corporate dressing has a huge say. "Hence, the standards for colours or textures are different, adapted as they are from the western culture. White, black, greys and blues are the standard colours for men in the corporate. But we are slowly seeing a shift in colours again. Fashion trends change much faster. However, this kind of change is much more than just fashion. and reflects a lot about how we see our clothing from a lens of gender," she adds.
Nikhil Dudani, considered one of the most progressive stylists in the country, shares his thoughts, "I’ve always liked unisex clothing not only for myself but with my work as well. Young people are now more open-minded to embracing their masculine and feminine energies. I think it is that time when being fluid with your style talks about your mind and their approach to life."
Nikhil does admit, however, that some male models aren’t too comfortable wearing styles that don’t match their idea of masculinity. "But that is changing, with a whole new wave of androgynous models in India, who are in touch with their feminine sides in their personal life."