The author enjoys writing about the intersection of gender and fashion, including gender-neutral attire and cross-dressing.
Women Have Been Cross-Dressing for Years—Are Men Catching Up?
For years now, women have been enjoying wearing male clothes and fashion. As an example, Ellen DeGeneres uses men's fashions, and her arguably masculine appearance doesn't seem to hurt her popularity. Indeed, as some commentators have stated both formally and informally (1), men’s clothes don’t exist; they are unisex. Women are not questioned for wearing them since creatives like George Sand pioneered the trend.
Women wear men’s underwear too (2). I’ve spoken to two women who wear clothing for men out of preference. They both argued that clothing for men was thicker, more practical and felt more sensible as vestments that provided the function of covering the body adequately and comfortably.
One of these ladies preferred wearing men’s pyjamas over women’s nightwear. She argued that men’s PJs fitted her better. Did wearing these clothes make these ladies identify as men? No. One of them stated categorically that she was a woman, and there was no confusion.
What Is Cross-Dressing?
In this article, the term cross-dressing (questioned by some but used for convenience) is only used in a male-to-female (MTF) context and does not mean (as often implied) that a man is altering his appearance and taking on a female persona, as in drag. Indeed, in one quantitative study from Scandinavia, only 2.8% of men were regarded as full cross-dressers (3) or transvestites, to use a traditional term: men who dress up as women with hair and makeup.
Instead, cross-dressing is used here for those men who often wear women’s items of clothing, fully or in part, to constitute their clothing ensemble or for specific roles while functioning or presenting as men. The proportion of male cross-dressers in this context is much higher, though data is limited.
A conservative estimate of men who cross-dress in the same sense as women, so to speak, is about 2–10%, a much larger proportion than full transvestites, though a smaller proportion than women who cross-dress “normally” in a socially acceptable context.
MTF cross-dressing is often inadmissible, even between friends. Maybe it’s better defined as gender non-conformism. Today, online situations are making data and intra-male discussion on cross-dressing issues more available. Finally, cross-dressing in the sense discussed here is shorn of sexual connotations and “fetishism”, though varying degrees of pride or pleasure may be associated with such experimentation.
11 Advantages of Cross-Dressing
There are disadvantages to cross-dressing, such as trying to explain it to your girlfriend or worrying about what someone may think about your interesting shoe collection that you happen to use to exercise out in the park at night (yes, there are a few men who walk in parks wearing heels for short periods of time).
Furthermore, women’s clothing is often complicated and regarded sometimes with disdain by both men and women since they often emphasise style and form over function (too skimpy or revealing, too many strings etc.). But what are the advantages of MTF cross-dressing, and how are things changing? There are many, and here is a list of 11 in no particular order.
1. Wearing Women’s Clothing Can Help Keep Men Fit
Fashion-conscious men who may be interested in using women’s clothes often find that most women’s available don’t fit. They’re tight. This causes such men to be more conscious of their weight and size. They may engage in more exercise and less overeating. This has been mentioned elsewhere (4). Women’s clothing can help a man exercise since it is less bulky to wear when used outdoors but quite as warm (consider hosiery or bodysuits that are tight and warm).
2. Women’s Attire Has More Variety
There’s an infinite variety of women’s clothing to choose from, including a multitude of designs and patterns as well as styles that a man can try. There are more types of women’s clothes than there are men’s, from lingerie to shoes.
3. Used Women’s Clothing Is More Affordable
As there’s a high turnover of women’s clothes (because women are more interested in clothes than men), they are generally available more cheaply or competitively, both new and second-hand.
Women get rid of clothes more readily than men, and you can get a good coat, shirt, trousers or shoes for a fraction of what you’d pay to buy equivalent male clothes. Many items of women’s clothing appear unisex or gender neutral, including shirts/blouses, pants/trousers, socks, T-shirts and even shoes.
4. Used Women’s Clothing Is More Readily Available
Based on a high proportion of women’s clothes being dumped compared to men’s, maybe a hand-me-down culture could be encouraged, incorporating men as well as clothes collections for the poor of the world.
5. Women’s Attire Is Often More Comfortable
They are often more comfortable being softer and lighter. Since women have more sensitive skin and, on average, less muscle mass (15% according to one stat), their clothes are often softer, smoother or silkier, stretchier, lighter and more flexible. There is some debate about this, but on balance, most authors conclude that women’s clothes are more comfortable (5).
6. Women’s Clothing Is Lighter and Less Bulky
Being made of very interesting fabrics not always found in men’s clothes, such as spandex, elastane, modal, rayon, viscose, nylon, silk and satin, women’s clothes are less dense and thinner for the same function. They pack super tight and don’t weigh much but yield similar levels of protection or warmth to men’s clothes.
Consider fleece-lined footless tights as long johns. Given that airlines are reducing their maximum weight limits for luggage, you could save a lot of weight by using women’s clothes, especially if visiting a colder climate. They cost less to transport and are less bulky for travellers.
7. Pantyhouse Can Protect Against Critters and the Elements
The military and male travellers have often used pantyhose for protection against cold, heat, insects, leeches, jellyfish and as tools for fishing etc. (6). There aren’t equivalent male clothes.
8. Women’s Fashion Is More Interesting
More and more men are now wearing women’s clothes because they are so much more available online, and taboos about wearing them are breaking down – also known as gender-neutral or gender-fluid fashion. Certain combinations of women’s clothes, including shoes, may prove both attractive and comfortable on men.
Some of my relations, including my brother, have remarked how fashionable I look in an interesting outfit – if they only knew that I was actually in clothing marketed at women.
9. Women’s Fashion Is More Fun and Creative
We don’t normally think too much about what we wear and often wear the same thing mindlessly. Our clothes feel boring and get neglected. If you become more conscious of your clothes and think about the combinations of items you wear and why, then clothing can be a source of pleasure, even because you may be wearing things that are subversive and unexpected. The other day, I wore some women’s skinny jeans with high-top Nike trainers – I felt more youthful, and no one at work or in public seemed to mind.
10. Cross-Dressing Undermines the Patriarchy and Promotes Cultural Revolution
The world is dominated by men in black who look the same and don’t always represent a wise use of power. Wearing women’s clothing may help undermine the patriarchy in the bad sense of the word and help create an alternative culture or revive traditional modes of dress.
11. More Buyers of Women’s Clothing Would Help Economies
The retail sector is struggling on the high street. Even online businesses have to fend off stiff competition. Many businesses are collapsing. But lingerie and clothing manufacturers, often in poorer countries, generate employment and need customers. Why shouldn’t men also buy women’s clothing in a slowly increasing market segment? Some men prefer women’s clothing and may find them cheaper and more competitive during sales.
Society and the World of Fashion Are Changing
Seismic changes are going on in retail and fashion. Male fashion students are experimenting with women’s clothes like never before (this was told to me by a London female fashion student). In some circles, it is so normal that it doesn’t need explanations or expositions. Many do these experiments in private, and there are more of them than is commonly assumed.
In some places, it’s becoming a new normal. Most men cross-dress in the same sense that women do more openly. The problem is data is limited. There has also been an unfortunate tendency for some of these men to appropriate femininity. We should question these tendencies while allowing for individual self-expression. Many men cross-dress, happy in their male identity, including many full cross-dressers who enjoy passing as women.
Older men who have had repressed desires to try women’s items for most of their lives are finally realising that they may now be allowed to launch a few experiments here and there. Fashion is not necessarily levelling off or becoming symmetrical between the sexes, but there are new trends afoot and reasons for this. It may be a minority trend, but who needs to join the herd?
Young men are definitely doing it a lot more for practical as well as fashionable reasons, and explorations in this area by researchers and writers are just beginning.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.