‘Boys just want to have fun’: The Subversive Potential of Playfully Performing Hybrid Masculinity Through Dress

James Whittaker, Cardiff Metropolitan University

This research addresses the subversive potential of men dressing in once marginalised aesthetics (i.e. skirts and nail polish) in playful fashions. Scholarship argues playfulness is the act of making virtually any environment more stimulating, enjoyable and entertaining. This research connects wider playfulness-based scholarship to the field of dressed hybrid masculinity, creating the novel perspective of playfully dressed hybrid masculinity. Hybrid masculinity is categorised as the assimilation of once marginalised aesthetics (lifted from gay or feminine identities) into a masculine gender identity project. A playfully dressed hybrid masculinity is a performance of maleness that toys with feminised or gay modes of dress with a distinct lack of intention, for the purposes of looking and feeling good. Instances of ultimately problematic playfully dressed hybrid masculinities are identified in popular culture via the realm of male music performers, supplemented with how playfully dressed hybrid masculinity in everyday, pedestrian spheres may more authentically occur. For men to play with their dress in ways once reserved for women and children, achieving unique personal expression without masculinist ulterior motifs, could represent a seismic shift in hybrid masculinity and men’s dress scholarship. Hybridly masculine men who play with their dressed identity may provide instances in which the well documented pattern of hybrid masculinity being a (re)articulation of the style rather than substance of masculine norms is disrupted.  

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