Photo: Y/Project

“Sex sells”. Sounds familiar? This evergreen quote has stood the test of time in the media, beauty and fashion industries for decades, perhaps even centuries. However, just like most things in life, the saying has evolved and presented itself in new ways. 

In the past, women’s clothing was heavily decorated in prints and colour, the silhouettes were form-fitting and used way less fabric than that of the average male. It is no secret that women are often pressured to present themselves in an alluring way to meet the male gaze, but thank goodness, the switch has been flipping in the last couple of years. 

Related article: New Names In Menswear

Take the recent Menswear Fashion Week, for example, where Y/Project and Jean Paul Gaultier presented a collection that took social media by storm. Male models fitted in trompe l’oeil body printed mesh garments and female models decked out in oversized co-ord suits stomped the runway. 

Talk about a sight to behold, the gender-bending and technicolour showcase speaks of the slow – but moving – transition of design. Men can be sexy, reveal some skin if they want to, and their wardrobes can reflect that too. Gone are days when tuxedos were the uniform for men on special occasions. Not to forget, baggy clothing that can only be described as sloppy. 

Who or what do we have to thank for this? Pop culture. 

When it comes to fictional characters on our screens, everyone loves a well-developed himbo – usually, a troubled man with a heart of gold. Bonus points, if they dress well and aren’t afraid of embracing their emotions.

In real life, the luxuriousness and decadence of fashion have risen steadily and celebrities want a piece of the action. Be it a concert tour, a premiere or the MET Gala, A-listers are hitting speed-dial to get designers to dress them in headline-worthy couture. 

One of the first few celebrities to deviate from the black and white suits would be Jared Leto in 2019. Who can forget the blood-red gown flowing gorgeously on steps of the MET as he carried a replica of his severed head as part of the gala’s theme centred around “camp”.

Related article: These Hunky Male Celebrities Prove That Age Is Just A Number

Adventurous and chic dresser Timothée Chalamet turned heads on at the 2019 Golden Globes with a bedazzled Louis Vuitton harness atop a simple tailored shirt and trousers by the late-great Virgil Abloh. Harnesses were often considered just a kink attire or prop before this red carpet moment.

The iconic Billy Porter wow-ed everyone at the 2019 Oscars with a tuxedo-ball gown that shone a light on androgynous fashion. Also, his entrance to the 2020 Met Gala was a showstopper – not everyone can say they were carried into a massive event by six shirtless men.

Heartthrob singer-songwriter Harry Styles was always a fan of androgynous styles – pussybow shirts, lace, frills and more. But his most controversial moment would be the periwinkle Gucci dress that was worn on the cover of Vogue in 2020, which ignited a conversation about gender-defying fashion. 

Was it revolutionary? Was it a PR stunt? Was it a privilege? The answer: none of the above. This ensemble was symbolic of the shifting narrative of fashion boundaries. A couple of months before Harry’s cover, his ex-bandmate Zayn and Gigi Hadid shot a joint cover where the pair were in suits. 

Also in the music biz, Troye Sivan and Lil Nas X brought “sexy back” in 2021 through their provocative music videos. They were not afraid of showing skin with sheer garments, leather trousers and shoes, and a ton of body glitter. 

TikTok’s boom in popularity was also a fearsome force – the eboy and femboy culture surged during the height of the pandemic, giving pearl accessories, chains and corsets a new lease of life among a younger demographic.

The fashion industry is like a sentient being – it listens to what consumers like to see, feel, and wear 24/7. It’s a wheel that never stops turning and nothing can hide from it for long. Likewise, sexy men’s clothing has inseminated itself into the fashion scene and we think it is here to stay.

Aside from Y/Project, Virgil Abloh’s last collection with Louis Vuitton before his untimely departure featured tulle, lace and fishnet skirts. Mesh vests, catsuits and leotards flooded Loewe’s Fall/Winter 2022 runway in a brilliant showcase.

Related article: Watch The Loewe Men’s Fall/Winter 2022 Collection Here

Multiple designers leaned into crop tops – one of JW Anderson’s best Fall/Winter 2022 pieces is a fully sequined crop top that sparkles from every angle. Both Prada and Fendi also presented crop tops—the latter even had belly chains—as part of their Spring/Summer 2022 collections. 

There are also a couple of luxury labels that specialise in genderless fashion. Palomo Spain has designed poufy tulle blouses and risqué pants over the years, while GmbH’s off-shoulder neckline coats and tops were a viral sensation. 

When it comes to gender-neutral corsets and garments with cut outs, Australian designer Dion Lee comes to mind. He also dressed Pose actor Jeremy Pope for the 2021 MET Gala in an off-shoulder, corset pantsuit with an impressive train. 

Although it will probably take some time before sexy apparel is embraced by the everyday man, it’s heartening to witness how gender is loosening up and levelling out in the world of fashion. With that though, also comes a new set of societal expectations on how we dress that will replace the current – and sexist – ones in due time.