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How gender-fluid fashion elevated men’s looks at the Golden Globes

Men’s red carpet looks are notoriously boring, but this year’s Golden Globes offered a glimmer of the unexpected.

Actor Cody Fern
Actor Cody Fern of American Horror Story: Apocalypse and the Assassination of Gianni Versace wears a semi-sheer shirt, eye makeup, and curled hair at the 2019 Golden Globes.
David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

At the 2019 Golden Globes on Sunday, gender fluidity surfaced as a major theme on the red carpet, with celebrities like Billy Porter, Judy Greer, and Cody Fern challenging traditional fashion gender norms with their looks.

Golden Globe nominee Porter, star of the groundbreaking FX series Pose, which chronicles the drag ball scene of the 1980s, arrived at the show in a floral embroidered suit and matching cape with a hot pink lining he held open for dramatic effect.

Fern, who starred with Porter on the FX series American Horror Story: Apocalypse, wore black trousers, curled hair, eye shadow, and a partly see-through shirt. (He was styled by Nicola Formichetti, with clothing by Maison Margiela, makeup by Zaheer Sukhnandan and Sussy Campos, and hair by Campos alone.) Fern’s look was far more subtle than Porter’s but earned him praise from the likes of Vanity Fair, Vogue, and New York Times critic Vanessa Friedman, who commended the actor for elevating the tuxedo with his awards show ensemble.

But Porter and Fern weren’t the only men who stood out on the carpet. There was Timothée Chalamet in a sequined black harness and Golden Globe winner Darren Criss (The Assassination of Gianni Versace) in a floral tuxedo jacket. These looks are part of a growing trend, with figure skater Adam Rippon making headlines for wearing a harness to the Oscars last year. While the red carpet has long featured the occasional man willing to wear a ruffly shirt or powder blue tux to an awards show — Daniel Day-Lewis looked like a goth Colonel Sanders when he accepted his Academy Award for My Left Foot in 1990 — the past few years have seen an uptick in male entertainers willing to experiment with fashion.

In particular, the rise of gender-neutral fashion appears to be elevating men’s formalwear, long dismissed as boring since one standard penguin suit is pretty much indistinguishable from the next. But with capes, sheer cutouts, sequins, and embroidery, some men on the red carpet are wearing awards show attire as striking as their women colleagues’ ensembles. And actresses, such as Judy Greer, are challenging gender norms on the red carpet. Greer showed up to the Globes in a wide-legged tux by Alberta Ferretti.

A long line of women, including Angelina Jolie, Diane Keaton, Janelle Monae, Evan Rachel Wood (and Marlene Dietrich during Hollywood’s Golden Age) have worn suits and tuxes on the red carpet. But Greer’s loose tux was truly gender-neutral, unlike the fitted numbers other actresses drawn to tuxedos have worn.

At Elle’s Women in Hollywood event in October, Lady Gaga also made headlines for wearing an oversized, rather than a fitted, suit. Wearing a suit can not only give women a sense of power but can also spare them the experience of wearing the uncomfortable gowns, undergarments, and shoes they traditionally wear to formal events.

That the Hollywood elite are more willing than ever to push the boundaries of masculinity and femininity on the red carpet stems, in part, from the growing popularity of gender-neutral fashion, an outpouring of the fact that Americans are increasingly challenging gender constructs and have been for years.

Transgender people specifically continue to face serious threats to their civil rights, but an increasing number of Americans, especially Gen Zers and millennials, identify as gender non-conforming. According to GLAAD, 12 percent of millennials identify this way, twice the percentage of Gen Xers. A national study about teens and gender identity conducted by UCLA in 2017 found that just under 1 percent of teens identify as transgender, roughly the same as the general US population.

For Gen Xer Billy Porter, gender fluidity in clothing choice has long been part of his identity, but he has only openly embraced this part of himself more recently, he told the New York Times.

“One of the things I’ve realized is that I’ve always had a gender-fluid sensibility with clothes, and it was so squashed by homophobia,” Porter said.

Today, the actor still faces bias, he told the Times. For the Golden Globes, he requested that fashion houses send him both men’s and women’s clothing, but he said that some designers hesitated to do so. That didn’t stop him from wearing his floral cape on the awards show carpet and a marigold gown at the American Film Institute luncheon, on Friday.

Actor Billy Porter
Billy Porter in a marigold gown at the AFI luncheon.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

His decision to wear a floor-length dress in a bold hue didn’t come out of nowhere. More than six years have passed since Kanye West wore a leather Givenchy skirt. Three years ago, Jaden Smith wore a skirt for a Louis Vuitton campaign. And this past November, actor Ezra Miller was widely praised for modeling high heels, lingerie, and the iconic bunny ears for Playboy. Not only was Miller widely praised on Twitter for the shoot, but his photo shoot inspired several pieces of fan art.

Whether fashion’s approach to gender is changing or the public is pushing fashion to broaden its constructs of gender, it’s clear that celebrities feel more free than ever to embrace various aspects of their gender identities or to reject gender norms related to presentation.

Discussing the potential criticism he might get for wearing dresses, Porter told the Times that he had no plans to stop wearing dresses.

“I represent a challenge to the status quo,” he said.

It’s a declaration that many people, regardless of gender or sexual identity, are now making on and off the red carpet.

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