Man Designed As A Non-Object Of Desire
During the Tudor era and the time of Henri the VIII (1485 and 1603), geometric shapes were in style.
Man and Woman’s presence and allure, already then, were defined differently through the artifice of clothing.
A dressed woman’s shape was designed along the lines of two mirror-image triangles, both meeting in tapered points at the waist, while Man’s was created broad and square, infusing every male with the reassuring, sturdy stability.
Sadly, though, layers of taffeta, velvet and fur failed to help Man tap into the rightful core energy attached, more than assigned to him - that of the designated Protector of All.
Be that as it may, already then, Fashionable Man was assured modesty once he stepped out of his chamber.
His body was veiled by a stiff collared-linen shirt, topped by a snug-fitting, buttoned-up jacket that gave fashionable padding to the body, itself often protected by a sleeveless jerkin made of leather sporting a padded waistline trimmed in a shoulder enhancing V-shape that was equally buttoned up.
Oft-times, a thick leather belt diagonally girded his chest padded by so many layers of cloth. Squaring off the silhouette further, a coat or cloak with puffy shoulders and sleeves.
Of men and legs
Interestingly, in those days, a noble man’s legs were in stockings and from the shape of his legs, onlookers were able to ‘guestimate’ the manliness of the rest of his body, such as it might be, under layers of clothes and frills.
It was not a small compliment when, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the Nurse said to a rather excited Juliet that her Romeo’s legs did excel those of all men.
Male fashion dictators have seldom considered Woman as a beholder of note when, era after era, they have collaborated to keep Man under wraps - from neck to toe. Man’s body was not to become an object of titillation - no ‘peek-a-boo’ display of any of Man’s fleshy parts for women to giggle at, lust over or grab.
Interestingly, it could be said that from ancient hoses, stockings, tight leggings, pantaloons, the pants of different lengths and snugness of the Regency era to the long shorts and tight pants of our era, though always covered, Man’s lower legs have often been on display.
But, why is it that Woman is still not clamouring for more manly parts to be revealed, if only for the sake of equality?
Regarding the fashion styles for western Woman, a seminal shift occurred in the ‘20s, spear-headed by Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel.
Her hemline rose suddenly, and Woman loved the sexy freedom afforded by the shift dress that hung from shoulder to just below the knee.
Finally, thanks to the drop-waist style for the first time, Woman's waist and hips were no longer the focus of her attire.
However, this vestimentary reprieve, too, was short-lived.
Of vintage Chanel, only pants for women, freedom from corsets and perfume remain.
Thank goodness for that!
Lack of parity or lack of voice?
Despite all the talk and high profile emerging labels, gender parity remains as elusive a goal for the fashion industry as for most others with women holding less than 25 percent of leadership positions in top fashion houses but, when has ever been heard the protest voice of Woman-the-Wearer and Woman-the-Beholder?
Man shall appear Manly
The all-encroaching changes in work occupations over the past decades means that a lot more men have been spending their working hours keyboarding instead of gripping, holding, shovelling, twisting or hammering.
This, in turns, means that their hand strength, as in a handshake, is now considerably weaker than that of men of the previous generations.
Ironically, the average case diameter of men’s fashion sports watches has been increased to a hefty 4 cm wide x 1 cm thick – the sort of timepiece bulk appropriate for the wrist of someone like Dwayne Douglas Johnson, aptly nicknamed The Rock, the 1.96m tall actor and professional wrestler.
The watch face of women’s sports watches has also been increased proportionally.
Size might not matter. Indeed, it seems clear that neither the size of watches nor that of fashion muscles produce no more evidence of Protection and Nurturing than was palpable in the ’70 and era where fashion styles had many men appear as androgynous and pacifists.
In spite of some enduring encounters with facial paints, the thick eyeliner of the King Tut era or the red lipstick and white powder also favoured by the men of the French aristocracy of the 18th century, Man’s interest in make-up and face paint has remained marginalised and sporadic.
Perhaps in further attempts to present his natural face to the world, Man’s search for the ideal, ever-new ‘cultural’ masculine identity – not in any way linked to Man’s true core energy - has often focused on his hair.
Regarding manly hairstyles, fashion brought along the seesawing of the dishevelled manes of one era, the long period of convoluted, white powdered wigs, and the groomed hair of other eras.
There was the shaved cranium with or without the beard, which has been revived not that long ago.
There was the Japanese or Islander flavoured man-bun and there was the top knot, also revived from a distant past.
Currently, the most recent suave yet radical look combines touches of Nazi haircuts with a head of hair stylishly combed back atop a provocative undercut - a stylised hybrid of Ned Kelly’s 1800’s style and Elvis’ Pompadour of the 1950’s – which incidentally requires quite a strong hairspray to keep in place.
Of course, this hair arrangement is too fussy for most men and the military-inspired shadow or high fade styles, ruggedly masculine, have become the latest default style.
Visible, overlapping tattoos and a thick beard are also common add-ons that define modern manliness.
How might such grooming choices influence Man’s day-to-day behaviour?
We can also ponder why, throughout the millennia, Woman has not found her voice to decry Man’s blandness, as did Maccius Plautus, Roman philosopher and poet, circa 254-184 BC when he quipped that ‘A woman without paint is like food without salt.’
This man is probably in 7th heaven today as he gazes down on the endless parade of every-day women so ‘painted’ with foundation cream, blush, eyeliner, eyeshadow, 'celebrity' eyebrows, red lipstick and the dark-dyed hair that they resemble dolls led along the same assembly lines.
Tunic or belly peek-a-boo?
These days, as in the ‘70s, though clothing options such as loose tunics and bohemian-styled longer skirts are once again on the fashion list, they appear unrepresented in our streets – particularly in warm-weather regions and in the southern hemisphere where the sun often shines and where winters are gentle.
So many women appear in the grip of a mental autoimmune disorder which induces an inappropriate response to self-care but leads them to wonder why they are objectified, both as individual women and as the so-called ‘modern’ community of women worldwide.
In this era when Woman wants to be taken more seriously than ever before, has Woman developed the self-confidence needed to nurture herself authentically, let alone others in her care, as per her karmic responsibility, as already discussed in previous mind-meandering articles?
Across the millennia, from robes to breeches and jeans, Man’s wardrobe has not been through any changes as drastic as Woman’s – certainly not in regards to formal attire, the equivalent of the nobleman’s dress etiquette of old.
Male fashion dictators do not seem to have ever considered Woman as the beholder of choice when, era after era, they have kept Man under wraps - from neck to toe.
They must have thought that Man’s body should not become an object of titillation. Nothing for women to giggle at or lust over. No ‘peek-a-boo’ displays of any of Man’s fleshy parts!
On the topic of female homosexuality, Queen Victoria went on record saying, ‘Women do not do such things’.
Perhaps, in those long gone eras, it was another ongoing, puritanic assumption that women did not ‘really’ ogle men. That they did not think of Man as a possible ‘object’ of … desire. No, of course not.
Quite understandably, back then, the understanding of the female psyche was limited to thinking that women were only interested in finding a match for the perfect mate in their brain, the one with whom they would procreate and forever be the good wife and mother.
And what has changed since?
Button your man up inside a white shirt – all the way up to the top button.
Pull up a pair of black drop crotch pants over his hips.
Tuck the shirt inside the pants.
Fasten a wide leather belt around his hips.
Flip up the collar of his shirt.
Instead of knotting his tie, wrap a length of white linen twice around his neck.
Tie this cravat with a full knot or a bow over his throat.
Fuff out that knot around the neck and over his Adam’s apple, but keep it tight.
Slip a black waistcoat over the shirt.
Arrange the cravat’s knot carefully over his throat and button up the vest.
Slip his shoulders inside his favourite black suit jacket and button it up over the vest.
Put his feet inside a pair of riding boots and – done!
With the extra detail of a couple of seams loosened here and there for greater flexibility and essential ease of movement needed in an era that pre-dated stretch fabric for manly suits – thus attired, your man is ready to time-travel back to the 1800’s.
Ah, don’t forget his black wide-brimmed hat. Even if it is not exactly a tricorne, it will do - Sweet!
Bonus: If your man is handsome, dark and brooding, he might pass for Ross Poldark, the lead character in the series Poldark, set in the 19th century.
But, what from your wardrobe, beside your favourite underwire bra, can you throw together to accompany your man on this time travel adventure?
© 2017 Carole Claude Saint-Clair