Refashioning Masculinity unleashes the power of fashion to re-imagine men’s gender identities and foster their diversity

By challenging stereotypes about men and masculinity, we investigate how men construct their identities through appearance and how fashion can be a vital tool to advance social change. This feminist-driven project creates a new approach to understand and transform how men see themselves, interact with each other, and engage with women.

The first stage of the project consists of interviews with 50 men of diverse ages, body types, sexual orientations, ethnicities and (dis)abilities. During this stage, participants provide a tour of their wardrobes and describe the feelings and memories that they attach to their clothes.

The second stage of the project is a transmedia fashion event that will that empower audiences to explore and expand masculinity through fashion. The event will include photography, video and fashion exhibits, panel discussions and will culminate with a fashion presentation where research participants will model their own clothing in an unconventional setting. Through interactive elements, the audience is invited to participate in a dialogue about dismantling gender norms and celebrating diversity.

The Refashioning Masculinity project is grateful to the support of our partners: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Faculty of Communication and Design, School of Fashion and Ryerson Athletics.

Exploring Masculinity Is About Gender Equality

Masculinity is part of a cultural system of gender relations that affects everyone.

The most understood and valued idea of masculinity is based on the dominance of men and subordination of women (and all they represent). Feeling pressured to meet narrow masculine ideals restrict how many men engage with each other and with women. Not all men benefit from masculinity in the same way. A man’s race, body shape, and other identities influence his connection to masculinity and experiences of feeling safe, authoritative and respected.

Despite the fact men are restricted by masculinity as well as excluded from it, all men complicity benefit from their masculine privilege at the expense of women. Disrupting masculinity transforms the hierarchal system of gender relations by changing how men see themselves, how women see men, and how they engage with each other. Through this project, we aim to create a
society where we’re all free to be ourselves and can equally value each other in all our diversity.

Our feminist project helps both men and women by dismantling the patriarchal gender system and fostering diverse gender equality.

Why Fashion to Disrupt Masculinity

Fashion has been deemed feminine and considered the activity of women (and gay men), and in turn dismissed as unserious and inferior. Yet both femininity and masculinity are defined and valued through appearance. To be seen as masculine, men must dress in restrained, functional and gender appropriate clothing styles that uphold traditional male values (think authoritative suits, sports-loving athletic gear and gender sanctioned pants).

Clothing also allows men to highlight how their bodies adhere (or come as close as possible) to masculine ideas of power and strength: trim, toned, tall and perfectly able physiques. Men often self-regulate their own clothing choices to uphold masculine norms or regulate those of other men through name-calling, harassment and violence. Many men also engage in unhealthy and obsessive exercise, eating and surgical practices to endeavour to meet the ideal male body and showcase it through their clothes.

But devaluing the feminine in their appearance means that men devalue part of themselves and in those they love. Since fashion is the most visible tool to validate the masculine/feminine binary, we believe it is also the perfect tool to disrupt and transform it. Once we see gender as a spectrum rather than a set of boxes, we can begin to accept and celebrate that all people are multifaceted, diverse and equal.