Rising trend of 'Cockette' style
Rising trend of 'Cockette' style

Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls who do boys like they’re girls who do girls like they’re boys...The chorus of Blur’s ‘Girls And Boys’ tapped into a certain moment in the ’90s when gender-bending and androgyny were the height of fashion, with teenagers smelling of the unisex cKone, club kids taking an ‘anything goes’ policy towards dressing, and a whole raft of floppyhaired, sensitive indie bands coming across a bit fey. The preceding decades had also seen their ‘trans fashion’ moments, with New Romantics and Blitz Kids in the ’80s and glam rockers and Bowie boys in the ’70s.

The current face of androgyny is male model Andrej Pejic, whose long blond tresses, fragile facial features and pale, slight frame caused a double take when he made his catwalk debut during the Paris menswear shows, walking for designers as diverse as Paul Smith, Raf Simons and John Galliano. He has since taken to the catwalk in womenswear shows, appeared in editorials for magazines including French Vogue and i-D, and is currently fronting the Marc by Marc Jacobs ad campaign.

The current trend is not just about androgyny, but also gender extremes, recalling the glam days and dressing-up of the ’70s and ’80s. The launch of Luis Venegas’ Candy magazine has been instrumental in both popularizing and reflecting the phenomenon. The cover of the current issue of this glossy annual publication features actor James Franco sporting a full face of drag make-up. The fact that it’s acceptable for an A-list Hollywood heartthrob to present himself in such a way would seem to say something about the tolerance of our times. Venegas also recently collaborated on a ‘transvestite, transgender and cross-dressing’ collection with Acne, the Swedish fashion brand, featuring a range of Western-style shirts adorned with ruffles and bows inspired by the fierce female leads from ’80s TV series Dynasty. Rather than being unisex, Venegas wanted the shirts to “create a bit of gender confusion”, or “tranny shirts for everybody”, as he put it.

Last winter also saw designer Marc Jacobs grace the cover of Industrie magazine dressed as ‘Mrs. Jacobs’. It was his friend and frequent collaborator, editor and stylist Katie Grand, who put him up to it, dressing him in her own archive of his designs. “I had the idea in the summer and just thought it would be nice for them,” Grand explains. She also explores the gender-bending theme further in the new issue of her magazine LOVE. “After the shoot with Marc I’d been interested in ‘camp’ and ‘androgyny’. It started out as a small part of the issue and then took over. It was important for me to keep it very glamorous though, and keep it unpolitical. The broadsheet newspapers have reported in great depth about transsexuals. I wanted to celebrate glamour and decadence.”

Girls are getting their share of the action too, with Lady Gaga adopting ‘man drag’ to portray adopted male persona Jo Calderone for last winter’s issue of Vogue Hommes Japan. Female to male transsexuals also have their own fanzine in the form of Original Plumbing, whose photo spreads show just how diverse the transgender spectrum is.

The current message seems to be one of fun and flexibility when it comes to gender and fashion. There is a serious political side, but as with many issues cultural forces, fashion and music can start to infiltrate society’s acceptance in a more subtle way. So whether you follow Jessie J’s advice and ‘Do It Like A Dude’ or choose to slap on some guyliner before your next night out, remember its what’s inside that counts but what’s on the outside is up to you.

Words by Steve Morriss


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