Sometimes it’s subtle. It does not appear in every photograph, and does not change how the models are posed – yet someone felt that it would add something special to the image. A thin mustache, drawn with makeup appears on a female model in Chanel’s cruise 2014 campaign. It does not appear as though the fashion house is attempting to make any grand statements with this gesture, instead it conveys fun. But on the other end of the extreme, if you’re a straight female, you’re probably going to seriously question your sexuality.
Image-makers in fashion have long been fascinated with gender bending. Perhaps one of the most iconic images in fashion photography is Helmut Newton’s picture of a model wearing YSL’s “Le Smoking” tuxedo, hair gelled back and striking a confidant pose. Since then, photoshoots of this nature have appeared frequently in magazines around the world, and androgynous models (such as Jenny Shimizu, Eve Salvail, Kristen Mcmenamy, and Saskia de Brauw) have also become a staple in runways shows and editorials since the early 90’s.
In recent years the boundaries of gender have been pushed even more, with Andrej Pajic and Erika Linder modeling both men’s and women’s clothing, and with Andrej even walking both men’s and women’s shows at fashion week. Making unique waves, Casey Legler became the first women to sign to Ford’s men’s division (though working as both men and women, Pejic and Linder are signed solely to the men’s and women’s divisions of their respective agencies), and has quickly been followed by Elliot Sailors (seen below). Models making the gender-fashion leap are opportunists. Female models make good money, but if they can also work as male models, they’ll make even better money. It’s all about the benjamins. And in the case of Elliott Sailors, who is married to a man, her decision was based more on the fact that she was getting older, and not the fresh faced preteen clients are so eager to book. “I’m starting over to have a longer career,” Sailors told The New York Post. “Men don’t need to look as young as possible, so I have a lot of time.”
Is the fashion industry fascinated with gender? Or are fashion magazines – both a reflection and a foreshadowing of how we move as a society – simply seeing a future beyond our current gender norms? Perhaps it stems from the alluring high of confidence that shines off people who represents themselves for who they are – a sentiment summed up nicely by Leger when interviewed for Time magazine:
“I understand signifiers. We’re social creatures and we have a physical language of communicating with each other… But it would be a really beautiful thing if we could all just wear what we wanted, without it meaning something.”