Dress Codes Versus the Freedom to Choose

| Jul 7, 2014
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My last article, By The Numbers … (12th May) discussed a real-life scenario in which 150 men were all wearing exactly the same outfit at their school’s annual dinner in accordance with the stipulated dress code.

Mens-TuxedosDress codes are a curious contradiction. In the animal world, male pack members vie to become the “alpha” by being stronger, more aggressive, or more flamboyant than their peers … yet the human male’s “formal event” is the perfect equaliser — everyone looks the same, behaves the same, and is treated the same. It’s almost as if there’s a tacit understanding that no-one will try to outdo anyone else … indeed, if one man decides to wear Homer Simpson socks, for example, he’s often viewed with suspicion by the rest of the “pack” for demonstrating individuality.

There’s an element of safety in such conformity. Sartorial skills barely feature in boys’ upbringing, so as men, the best way to avoid making a fool of oneself amongst one’s peers — and especially amongst the female members of the “pack” — is to all dress alike … then if you think you’re committing a fashion faux pas, you can rest assured that everyone else is too. And, of course, conformity has the added advantage of allowing men to be lazy — someone else tells you what to wear so that you don’t have to think for yourself.

But therein lies the sinister and, I suggest, the true purpose of dress codes: men have sleepwalked into the situation where someone else can now dictate where they’re allowed to go and what they’re allowed to do based on whether or not they agree to wear certain clothes. Make no mistake — dress codes are about control: the 150 penguin-suited clones discussed in my last article are subservient to the real alpha male, namely the “owner” of the dress code. In other words, “I will only let you attend this prestigious event if you wear a dinner jacket.” Merely being one of the school’s Old Boys isn’t good enough.

Women, by contrast, are the exact opposite: they take great delight — and are extremely competitive — in their individuality. A woman seems to know instinctively what outfit is appropriate for a particular event, and will usually agonise over the details rather than simply reaching for the first item in her wardrobe. And have you ever encountered a dress code directed at women? I’ve seen an attempt to enforce what I guess is a universal style code, and while the men complied without so much as a whimper, the women ignored it en masse, and there wasn’t a damned thing that anyone could do about it. It was brilliant.

I’ve experienced both sides of this dichotomy. Until the age of 41, I was a conformist … an increasingly unwilling one certainly, but a conformist nevertheless. I wore a man’s suit to my graduation. I wore a man’s suit to my job interviews. I wore a man’s suit when I met professional clients, and when I presented papers at conferences. I was obliged to wear a man’s collared shirt, long trousers, and enclosed shoes to dinner in hot and humid Caribbean restaurants, otherwise I wasn’t allowed to eat. And I was expected to wear a dinner jacket for several formal music concerts in the UK. In fact, it was one such concert in January 2000 that finally tipped the balance … that was the last time I wore men’s clothes.

However, 41 is a late age to enter the dangerous, turbulent, and unpredictable world of female fashion, and although I’ve been a keen observer for the 14 years since, I rapidly abandoned any hope of becoming an expert on the subject. Consequently, although I’ve been known to deliberately clash colours at informal events purely for the hell of it, I prefer to play safe in terms of colour co-ordination; indeed, having loved bright Hawaiian shirts during my years in “man mode,” I now relish the opportunity to go out in a little black dress. My summer style is equivalent to a woman some years younger than my biological age, but the recent availability of knitted tunic-tops has allowed me to indulge a winter passion which I’ve had since the days of the mini-dress in the early 1970s. Tunic-tops are outrageously short to be worn as dresses, but they look great with semi-opaque tights (which also help to preserve one’s modesty), and they usually contain a small amount of Lycra so that they fit well even on someone with no hips or bust. Nevertheless, there are very few women of even half my age who’d dare to be seen in many of the clothes I wear for fear of being labelled a tart; I get away with it because I’ve created my own rules. I often wonder how far I can push the boundary — even observing the laws on public decency, etc. — before things turn nasty. It’s not something I intend to try, because a single transgression could result in a loss of respect, and be counterproductive to the valuable work I’m doing simply by being “out there.”

TGF1407Curiously, despite obviously being a man wearing women’s clothes, I’ve never been refused entry to a venue because I’m not conforming to the male dress code. It’s created some heated situations in which other men have been turned away, then threatened to come back in dresses, as it seemed to work for me! Good luck with that — if you have the balls to do it, you deserve to be allowed in. As a result, I value women’s freedom to pick their own clothes, unconstrained by pompous and stupid one-upmanship rules. However, this can lead to a scenario that some women claim is one of their worst nightmares: arriving at an event to find their chosen outfit being worn by another woman … or worse still, by a man! I went to a party earlier this year wearing a short hipster kilt, only to find an identical item being worn by a female guest one-third my age. I thought it was hilarious, and would have loved to get a photograph of the two of us together; however, she wouldn’t even acknowledge me, and spent the whole evening trying to keep as much distance between us as possible. So, based on a sample size of one, the anecdotes might be true.

So imagine how embarrassing it must be to go to a clothes shop, and hear a little girl innocently tell her mother that “that person’s wearing a skirt just like all of them…” and point to a rack full of items of exactly the same design and colour. I attach a photograph of what such a disaster may look like.

Of course, this particular scenario was deliberately staged at my local supermarket, with permission from the store’s security team. On this occasion, there was no little girl either — which is sad, because they can be the source of some priceless comments. In fact, I’d bought my skirt from this very store two weeks earlier, and wondered at the time whether this supposed tale of woe would resonate with any of my readers …

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul, Transgender Fun & Entertainment, Transgender Opinion


About the Author ()

Graham is an Englishman who proudly wears women's clothing with no attempt to pass as a female. His hobbies include winemaking, music and leading on telephone scammers making them think they can get his personal information, then telling them to sod off.

Comments (2)

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  1. Ralph Ralph says:

    Hello Graham,

    How wonderful to find you and your insightful articles! Every once in a while I go hunting in search of blogs and forums for people like me, and come away empty-handed. Search terms like “crossdresser” invariably take me to forums that are all about transforming into a woman and/or sexual encounters. That’s perfectly fine if that’s who you are, but it’s just not my cup of taffeta. I am a man inside and out, all the time… I just happen to prefer being a man in a pretty dress. Is that so odd?

    You certainly have more courage than I. In my rural, extremely conservative part of the country poking my head out of doors whilst in my favorite frock would likely bring a resurgence in the old sport of lynching. Tar and feathers would simply NOT match my ensemble. I rarely even have the courage to buy locally, as this is a small town and tongues will wag. So I content myself with online shopping, and only my wife has to endure my extremely nonstandard fashion sense.

    I once went to work failing to notice that in the laundry a pair of tights had erroneously been mixed inside the trousers, and as I was standing with some colleagues in a meeting one of the feet from the tights fell loose inside and started working its way down to the floor. Almost as soon as it appeared, a (female) colleague noticed it and shouted “You’re wearing pantyhose!”

    Her uproar ended the meeting and, twenty years later, I still hear the laughter and subsequent mocking in my memories. Maybe I’m not so much a man after all, if I lack the balls to face those fights.

  2. says:

    Beautiful piece of writing. I loved it……only because it is so true. Males ain’t the peacocks in this species. Why should women have all the fashion fun. I’m with you…………..women’s clothes for everybody.
    I salute you.
    Gendre (Rita) Amore