Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Problem with Denim and Leather

Several years ago, I got into a discussion about women's clothes with my girlfriend at the time and her friend. The friend mentioned that she had "kind of started to hate polo shirts on girls." I was a bit surprised, so I asked what was motivating her hatred. She replied that they were "just too masculine."

I found that interesting. I'd never even noticed polo shirts as being particularly attractive or unattractive, let alone masculine or feminine; but I could see where she was coming from. After all, some clothes (dresses for example) are more feminine, so it made sense that other types could be more masculine. From that point on, I started paying more attention to how sex-appropriate various types of clothes seemed.

Years later I started reading a website called Masculine Style, which does a great job of teaching men how to dress well. The author explains that the history and evolution of certain clothes is what makes them have the visual effect that they do, making them work (or not) for different men in different situations.

He explains, for example, that heavier knit sweaters are far more rugged and masculine-looking than a thin cashmere cardigan because they were designed for and traditionally used by dock workers and fishermen. Similarly, boat shoes were designed with soles that were soft enough to prevent scratching the decks of yachts, and therefore still hint at wealth and luxury in spite of their casualness. Sturdier materials like denim and leather have histories rooted in farming and manual labor, and so they carry connotations of their industrial origins – which brings me to my point…

For a couple years now, I've realized that I don't like when girls wear denim or leather. If the girl is good-looking, I will still be somewhat sexually attracted to her, but both the magnitude and type of attraction is significantly different than it would be if the same girl were dressed in lighter, softer materials. And following the train of thought that was inspired by my ex-girlfriend's friend and what I read on Masculine Style, I've started to wonder if my distaste is due to denim and leather being inherently unfeminine materials.

I mean think about it: denim and leather are rough, sturdy materials made to withstand the abuse of hard labor. They were made to protect rugged men doing rugged work. In the same way that we project onto guys who wear heavy-knit sweaters the masculinity of dock workers, it makes sense that we project onto women the connotations of wearing laborer's clothes – whether we do so consciously or unconsciously. And doing so casts a shadow over a woman's femininity. Asking a woman to look attractive in a biker jacket is kind of like asking a man to look attractive in lace.

Now, I realize that anytime you say (or even suggest) that something might be "objectively" masculine or feminine, people get defensive. If there is a scale along which masculinity or femininity can be quantified, people invariably start worrying about where along it they'll be placed. They are afraid of being judged.* But I am going to assume that my readers have learned to be comfortable with themselves, and throw the idea out there anyway – not so much because I am completely convinced by it as to field your opinions. So here is the concept:
Denim and leather (and perhaps other materials besides) are objectively masculine, at least to the same extent that materials like satin or lace are feminine. The current popularity of leather and denim in female fashion is a trend, piggybacked on the popularity of feminism, and it does not reflect the objective attractiveness of the materials themselves. While women can often look attractive in denim or leather, they do so in spite of the materials, not because of them.

Nope. Really.

I've been testing the idea recently by mentally separating the factors of my attraction each time I see a hot girl wearing one of these materials. Certainly when I think about a woman wearing any piece of clothing in either denim or leather, I can always imagine her being sexier in something less rugged. I've never liked jean or leather skirts on girls; and although it is much harder to look objectively at jean pants (because they are so entrenched in current fashion), I find normal cotton way more attractive.

When I suggest to my male friends that leather and denim are unattractive on women – which I've done several times – I rarely get an enthusiastic chorus of agreement. I get, "Yeah I guess I can sort of see what you mean" or "No, man, I love a girl in a jean skirt." But I am pretty sure that these statements ultimately boil down to "I am not observant enough to figure out what turns me on about a woman's wardrobe" and "I love a girl in a skirt."

Again, this isn't a statement about what women should or shouldn't wear (they're your clothes, do whatever the you want), it is merely a statement intended to spark thought about whether your choice of clothes is an authentic expression of your personal taste or the voice of popular culture.

Oh and just for the record, I am OK with polo shirts on girls.

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*In this sense, modern Western culture (at least when it comes to gender) is like a school system without testing. Everyone is just kind of learning at their own rate without an objective measurement of anyone's performance. You can imagine how outraged people in such a system would be the first time you were to suggest that there will periodically be these things called “exams” by which students' comprehension will be evaluated. There would be huge resistance. But testing in schools isn't the end of the world. Yeah, there is pressure to perform to a certain level, and the students that do poorly have to acknowledge the fact that they aren't as “smart” as the other students. But it introduces a degree of accountability that cannot otherwise be motivated, and the school system is better off for it.


Related Posts
1. "Because of" Versus "In Spite Of"
2. Don't Wear Sneakers
3. Femininity, Authenticity, and Compatibility
4. There Is Nothing Modest About Loose Jeans
5. Be Careful About Wearing Large-Shouldered Tops
6. Where Is Feminism Taking Us?

57 comments:

  1. What about leather accents/boots/purses etc? I mean, I could see that a jet black leather bomber or leather pants (ha), say, might give off a bit too much "edge" for many guys, but I've had a number of men give me a thumbs up on my choice of heeled boots. They could be lying I suppose. Or it could be just because of the heels.

    Additionally, would women be better off avoiding pants/shorts and instead wearing skirts/dresses exclusively by this logic?

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    1. I'm OK with the boots and accessories (some accessories anyway). Footwear needs to be durable.

      Your last question is harder to answer. Dresses are (usually) more attractive than pants, but it depends on other factors like the dress shape or the pants tightness.

      Delete
    2. That makes sense.

      Also, I wanted to ask what you think of girls who wear a lot of black. Not exclusively (not the cheesy goth look), but who generally go with darker/intense tones as a rule. Think Eva Green.

      Delete
  2. Interesting article Andrew!

    Noticed a minor spelling error - should be "For a couple years now, I've realized that I don't like when girls [wear] denim or leather."

    Also, I know that shyness in men is a generally unattractive quality, but does the same thing hold for women?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for catching the typo.

      Shyness...I'm going to make a strong statement here but I think it's true. Shyness is an objectively unattractive quality in any sex, but some men find it endearing in women due to their own need to feel dominant or confident.

      The good news is that shyness can be removed.

      Delete
    2. Complete shyness might be unattractive, by being coy is attractive.

      Delete
    3. (Personal opinions incoming)

      Depends; there's passive shyness and active shyness.

      Quite apart from being coy, for a girl to blush easily or get tongue-tied, well, that's always gratifying to see. It's a strong indicator of attraction that isn't a blatant come-on. Yes, there's a power aspect to it as well.

      But this type of shyness is mostly fictional. Shyness is cute when you don't personally have to deal with it. Just like Dr House is only funny and awesome on TV.

      I personally get very, very exasperated with excessive shyness. It makes me feel like I'm a rabid bear that's threatening to maul the poor woman, that I've been deemed a threat just by existing, and nothing I can do or say will change that. All you get is nod, smile, nod, escape, avoid, and now you're a horror story she tells her friends about that guy who tried to (gasp) flirt with her at a bar.

      Too shy to say yes is often also too shy to say no. which means you can waste time (and cause social friction) because someone was too polite (read: gutless) to say "no."

      What every guy HOPES is that the quiet girl who won't fully engage him (but won't tell him to go away) is actually just really, really shy, and if he does "take the hint" and leave her alone, she'll start banging her head on the table, muttering "stupid, stupid, why couldn't I think of anything cool to say?"

      Just, you know, like he could imagine doing himself.

      Women are the ones turned off by shyness and lack of confidence, not men. Shyness is only a turn-off when its so extreme that it makes a woman downright boring or makes the man feel threatening (and thus threatened).

      Delete
  3. Leather is feminine. Whenever I see leather it's either a women's jacket or a purse.

    Cotton pants are attractive? Like sweatpants?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with this somewhat...I am not overly fond of leather or denim jackets, for example, on women.(I am a woman, btw) I never thought of it as due to their looking masculine, but maybe that's why! Jeans, however, I think are incredibly sexy on a woman, as long as they are stylish and at least relatively tight so as to show off her figure. Also, every guy I've ever dated has LOVED me in them. I can't believe you don't like a good pair of jeans on a woman, Andrew! And yeah, do tell what sort of "cotton pants" you find sexier...chinos, sweatpants ha ha? With the exception of jeans, I feel that many, if not most, other types of pants can look matronly on a woman. Well, not the cotton/spandex leggings that we all seem to be wearing these days, those are sexy - maybe that's what you meant!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Guys like girls in tight jeans because they are tight, not because they are jeans.

      Delete
    2. Just out of curiosity then, could you provide an example of what kind of pants you find sexier on a woman than jeans? Enquiring minds want to know. I've been sharing this post with a few of my friends, both male and female, and we are all flummoxed :-)

      Delete
  5. But leather is strongly associated with BDSM, which is sexually provocative.

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  6. I wore a white lacy summer dress last weekend b/c it was so hot, and got hordes of attention from guys, far more than I get when I wear "sexy" jeans. I think men also prefer soft feminine colors on women, compared to our favorite black.

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    Replies
    1. Not surprised at all about the lace dress thing. I notice that all the time with girls at my office in the springtime. You don't notice that they exist until the temperature hits 75 degrees and they all start wearing dresses.

      I don't agree with the color thing though. What color looks best depends on the girl's complexion. A girl with a Mediterranean complexion, for example, will look horrible in pastels.

      Delete
    2. But women with a Mediterranean complexion look great in white.

      Delete
  7. While we are on the subject of style, Andrew, would you be so kind as to let men know that emulating the Breaking Bad tedium of a bald head with a goatee (ideally worn with sunglasses, at all hours) is revolting. Seriously, you can't tell them apart. One can only wish that they had some vague notion of style, but the truth is that most men really don't give a rat's bass. And I'm sweating out leather pants?

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  8. I believe that the answer to your statement (in the last paragraph) is that most of the times, women tend to choose their clothes due to a popular trend, rather than personal taste. That is why we often see dozens of girls, in the streets, wearing the exact same type of clothes. I love dresses, in fact I wear them a lot. As I want to stand out from the crowd, this is what I do. First of all I avoid stores that have mass production of clothes, cause you end up wearing the same clothes as many others. I have discovered a new fashion designer, who produces her own line of dresses, that match my personal taste, point out my figure, are not largely produced (only 3-4 pieces per design), are made from fine fabrics and are afordable. Also some of my dresses are tailored made, usually when I am looking for a specific pattern, which I cannot seem to find anywhere, or is too expensive for me to buy. I have a big selection of day, evening and night dresses. Each one of them has a unique pattern that suits me. A feminime dress, combined with a nice pair of shoes, makeup and a smile is all I need.

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  9. Funny you should say that since the one item of my wardrobe that is by far most popular with men (mind you, I have and wear dresses, skirts and pants made of softer materials) as evidenced by comments and quality of dates is a leather-like pair of black jeans.

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  10. In fact, leather is an animal skin & was the first textile ever used to make clothing ever since the stone age for men and women. Originally with the fur still on and later with the fur off. Leather is neither masculine nor feminine, however, certain textures and finishes of leather may have connotations of being more masculine or feminine. Imagine a guy wearing a pair of buttery soft curve hugging baby pink leather pants. Not too masculine if you ask me.

    Denim is a different story since it was originally invented to be a durable work fabric, however, I think it is more of an indicator of working class than masculinity or femininity. Denim can also come in many different finishes and colors as well. White denim is considered by many to be more feminine, and it is much more common for women to wear white denim than men.

    Women sometimes have to do hard work too, even if somebody considers it to be less feminine when they do so. Sometimes laborer's clothes are entirely appropriate. Not every woman can or should be dressed in lace and silk at all times. In fact, even actual princesses wear utilitarian clothing when the situation calls for it.

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  11. that man in the photo is doing something to my lady parts. sorry. Who is he?!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He's an actor named Scott Speedman. I recognize him from the T.V. show "Felicity" that aired many years ago.

      Delete
  12. This is very superficial post. Also, you are stating the obvious. It is obvious that feminine clothes (skirts, dresses, blouses) are more attractive than jeans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a superficial world.

      It can be a bit much, but honestly I'm glad Andrew is describing how complicated and nuanced and extensive the male perspective is on all these things. For someone who's always been told men are fundamentally very simple, but whose experience has suggested otherwise, it's illuminating.

      Delete
  13. I agree with what you say, however, don't you think that there are other cultural connotations that have been established since fishermen and railway laborers? For example, denim jeans bring to mind Daisy Duke, short denim skirts suggest a sexy cowgirl, tight jeans depending on the style = high school sweetheart, high heeled leather boots = sexy in pretty much any decade. Things evolve... after all, tights, long hair and high heels used to be a masculine style!

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    1. I agree about it. And high waisted shorts remind me of pin up girls

      Delete
  14. This is entirely your opinion. PLENTY of men find this a sexy look:
    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/2e/fb/de/2efbde5a18639018f2f675037c5bdfb4.jpg

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, but not because she's wearing leather.

      Delete
    2. Lmao. Is this your classic 'in spite of, not because of' argument at play then?
      Also, Anon, a supermodel isn't a reflection of reality so best not use that as an example for the rest of womankind!

      Delete
    3. So you're telling me she would look good in some tight ass LACE pants? Please, that's a joke.

      Delete
  15. What's your opinion on suede leather vs. regular leather?
    As noted above, even if you're a girl who doesn't wear a lot of leather or denim in general, most own leather boots, at least for fall and winter (it's cold where I live).

    I've been a bit partial to suede boots rather than the shiny ones. In my mind they do feel a bit more feminine, though I am not sure why.

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  16. Dear Andrew,

    This summer I went on dates with this 32 year old guy (I'm 21), who's probably a lot like you, so I thought you'd have good feedback to give me. I already read your book, but couldn't find an answer to my problem.

    The guy is pretty much perfect - super confident, handsome, athletic, successful with girls (exes look like supermodels). Following your advice, I improved my personality and appearance a great deal over the summer, so this was the first time I managed to go on more than one date with a guy of that caliber (and age). Not surprisingly, I was overwhelmed by his charm and felt undeserving of him.

    I was a virgin when I met him, but last Friday, the night before I left the city (I was only working there over the summer, and will come back next year after graduating), I decided to hook up with him. He was super good and kind in bed and all, and objectively I knew nothing would work out, but I'm still disappointed that he hasn't even texted me goodbye.

    I would like to see him when I come back next year. I know this is a signal that I should cut him off, but I'm not sure whether to do it (you mention distance issues count as exceptions) nor how to do it (although our dates were always 6+ hours long and hooked up, we only saw each other three times).

    What do you think I should do?

    Thanks,

    Heartbroken girl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Heartbroken Anonymous (3 Sep.),
      I think the answer IS in Andrew's book. You must cut him off. If he didn't text you, he is no longer interested. Also, if you read Andrew's book and online posts attentively, you should have noticed that it is all about self-respect. If you wanted something called 'no strings attached', then it is up to you, but if you wanted a serious relationship, then 'to hook up' after 3 dates was not very wise.
      Besides, if that guy was super confident and charming, it means that majority of women do like him. Realistically, how could you hope that he was going to fall in love with you? You would have to stand out...And you would have stood out by not giving sex to him at all, until getting to know him (and his intentions) better. If he would have stopped dating you after a few months (or earlier) just because you did not give him sex, then he was not going to be with you anyway.
      Also, don't you remember the posts like 'The more confident he behaves around you, the less he likes you', how to filter out the men who just want to have sex with you, etc.
      I can only advise you to learn from your mistakes...Next time you will meet a confident and high-status male, remind yourself that virtually ALL women like him and he can pick and choose who he wants to be with. The only way to get a such type of man is not to be available like everybody else around him+to have your own career, interests and basically, to have your own life. Then you will have a chance.
      Good luck and I am sorry if I was too blunt, but I wanted you to understand these important things.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your answer! It was after the fact that I had the desire to see him again. I knew he wouldn't wait a year for me to come back. He was way older, and I might never see him again. I did it more out of curiosity to experience sex than out of a desire of being a relationship with him.
      I did expect him to at least text me goodbye :(

      Although I don't regret my decision since it was better than the alternative (waiting an additional year or more to have sex for the first time), I like to read that being too available was probably the one thing I did wrong. I do have my own career and my own life (which is why I think he was attracted to me in the first place, since I'm no supermodel). I don't think your feedback's harsh, I think it's honest. I always like to read what other people have to say about my mistakes, and will make sure to do better next time. As you said, I won't contact this guy again (probably not even to cut him off, since I have no idea what I'd say - which is why I was saying the answer's not in Andrew's book).

      Thanks again!

      Delete
    3. You can only cut a guy off if he's still trying to contact you, not if he's already stopped. And if he's willing to date students so much younger than him at his age, he's not looking for anything serious. Serious people date more in their age range, unless they get too old to find women who can still have their kids, then they marry younger.

      Delete
    4. Actually, according to Andrew you can cut him off at any point.

      Anyway, he ended up contacting me a few days later, after which I told him not to contact me again unless he wanted something serious. He took it well.

      Although I don't regret my decision to have this summer fling, hopefully next time, when I come back, I won't be tempted by my curiosity and knowledge things won't work out and will be able to play my cards right. I hope I can meet a guy as attractive as him and date him in the long term :)

      Delete
    5. You can only cut a person off from your live if that person is in your live, if he speaks with you, in your previous comment you said that he didnt contact you never again. So in that case you cannot cut him off.
      Its like to fired someone that was never an employee , dont whant to be a employee and dont have contact with your company, and you still whant to fired that person.
      You understand the nonsense?

      Delete
  17. Totally agree with the assertion that when women look hot in denim it's because (1) the clothes are tight and hug their figure or (2) they're attractive in spite of the fabric. Thought that since I was a mere yoot in the 1970s, when jeans were the de facto school uniform.

    Then there's leather.....gotta say that for just as long a time, I've always been turned on by a woman in a leather skirt. Short, long, doesn't matter. For sure, it's usually form-fitting, too, and there's the primal element of animal skin, even the highly refined sort in the typical leather skirt.

    But women always look better in a dress or skirt. Great way to hide a little excess weight and create a nice waist, too.

    As I've told more than one GF over the years, I like women's clothes.....ON WOMEN.

    Regards, Vaquero357

    ReplyDelete
  18. It's not the materials themselves, it's how a said woman combines them in an outfit, what she wants to convey in others and if the items she chooses to wear fit her. Exactly because jeans are sturdy, they can make a woman look more fit. The sturdy fabric reins in any extra fat, hides celullite and lack of muscles, and therefore creates the illusion that a woman has a thinner and firmer lower half. It holds everything in, even when you sit down, while pants made of soft fabric don't do a thing for your figure and when you sit down you look meh. Check for yourself how Kim Kardashian looks thinner and more toned when she wears jeans.
    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/b4/2b/73/b42b731011c3bf05bc4dfefe6c1085cf.jpg
    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/350084571007815008/
    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/420805158906579350/
    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/473300242064698246/

    Also, what seems imprortant to point out is the style and cut. Would a man normally wear skinny jeans to show his figure or cropped leather jackets to emphasise his waist? Would a man wear embelishments in the jean's back pockets? And what about combining masculine and feminine clothes, like jeans and heels, leather jacket and dress? Showing someone you're feminine and tough at the same time.

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  19. Leather is actually soft like skin and shiny, and wild and intimidating at the same time, plus it's of high quality. Tight jeans act like a corset, flattering your body, while tight pants of soft fabric make any extra fat you have in the belly, thighs or behing, bulge..

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  20. Bottom line is... if a girl is hot enough she can probably wear what she wants and you not really care. Especially if it is flattering to her figure. And dear god, I hope you haven't seen a girl in a jean skirt since 2005 •_• but since we are posting pointless stuff you should post a picture of yourself! We all want to see what you look like

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  21. I couldn't help but notice that Amy Young, whom Andrew posted about a few days ago, decided to wear denim in her most recent vlog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57e-mCHhFxU.

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  22. I agree with Anna Lauren. We all want to see you, Andrew. What are you afraid of?

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  23. I think this is true. However the reason your friends hasn't noticed that leather and denim is masculine is because we live in 2015, and we change with time. When the big bang happened there was no rules that said denim and leather was masculine. Its something men used to wear, but women wears it now, and in some centuries it will be well forgotten and no male will ever question if the clothes are masculine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same way as pink used to be a masculine color.

      Delete
  24. hey, i have an idea, why don't you talk about the things you feel men should do to get a girl/boy to be with them, instead of critizing women in topics you don't know shit about:)

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  25. As a girl I like denim on girls when it is kind of a tease. Just like when you wear your husband shirt and your feminine body makes it look sexy and he enjoys the show. A denim tight pair of jeans has the same effect.

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  26. You're right. Looks bad even on models

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  27. I don't think it's that straight forward... Denim yes I agree but leather can be sexy and supple or cheap and rough. I think there is something dark and enticing about wearing fur and leather at least in NYC culture... Men love my fur coat they always want to touch it

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  28. Andrew - you would still hit on the girl in the pic right? i mean she's a model!!

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  29. Am I going to stop wearing certain materials because of this article? no. Beyond clothes and strict restrictions, what is the most sexy is a lady who doesn't confine herself to such opinions. Thank you for your article but when one gets so precise with commercial materials seemingly becomes petty

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  30. Hey Andrew, I love your work and how you keep it so brief and real. So I'm also working on a book named "How to find a keeper and keep her" for men because I've gone through a couple of male blogs and playbooks and I think they're ridiculously funny and men's myths about what they think they should be doing. I've forever been in love with your blog and the idea of adding value to people's relationships so I'd be thankful for any suggestions you'd give. Good day! :)

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  31. Hi, The website you mentioned in this post, "Masculine Style" is so useful (as a woman who is interested in the science behind styling), do you know any similar blogs for woman's style?? I'm so interested in learning about the science of styling for woman too and can't wait to start dressing better!!

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  32. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for all the tips. I've learned a lot from reading this blog, and it's refreshing to read such a candid male perspective.

    I do have some problems with your writing though, if I may add my two cents. Is there any way you can switch to a more respectful tone? For example, in one article (appearance checklist?) you suggestion girls exercise more frequently than "complain, gossip, or eat icecream."

    While I agree that people should take responsibility for their problems as best as they can, it's discouraging to read this kind of tone projected at women. Personally, I feel it's demeaning and hurtful. Women have enough problems battling shame about their bodies and the supposed problems with their personalities, and for someone who blatantly believes that self worth is by far the sexiest trait, why aren't you contributing to that ethos?

    I'm not sure if you're continuing to write articles, but if you do, PLEASE be more respectful. If not for the countless women reading your articles, than for the sake of your cause. Please - share your thoughts. But don't utilize language that attacks a person's core.

    Thank you,
    Jenny

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    Replies
    1. Corrections, sorry. I can't edit my post

      *you SUGGEST girls exercise...(P2, S2)
      *...articles, THEN for the sake...(P3,S2)

      - Jenny

      Delete

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