Jan 10, 2020

Today in modern “masculinity;” so apart from recycling, here’s another thing that men seem to find “gay;” renting clothes.

In August last year, a study found that the reason why some men are unwilling to participate in environmental activities like recycling, using reusable bags, or turning off their airconditioning unit is that they claim these acts are gendered.

“People may avoid certain behaviors because they are managing the gendered impression they anticipate others will have of them. Or they may be avoided if the behaviors they choose do not match their gender,” said As Penn State professor of psychology and lead researcher Janet K. Swim.

That was appalling enough, no wonder we are failing so hard at reducing our carbon footprint. But hear this: In a new the New York Times story on the relationship of renting clothes and gender, the majority of the men interviewed said they are less likely to rent because “being caught in clothes they don’t own could threaten projections of wealth, status, work ethic, and their masculinity.”

Photo by Clark Street Mercantile on Unsplash

First, let’s define what renting clothes is in this context, because it’s more than just borrowing a tux for prom or for a formal event, as is customary here in the Philippines, which men find no problem with generally.

In the US and other western countries, there is a rise in the secondhand and shared economy where people could rent luxury clothing through platforms like Rent the Runway, founded by two Harvard alums a decade ago.

Here in the country, such services are also beginning to take shape. Stylist Pam Quiñones founded a platform called RSVP last year where women can rent preloved designer dresses for special occasions as well as consign their own dresses for rent. This service begins at P4,000.

Almost like cheating

One of Rent the Runway’s strategy for expansion this year is to market to men, but there seems to be a problem, so the New York Times did some sleuthing.

They found that despite men’ growing interest in expressing themselves through fashion and being open about it, men still won’t subscribe to the idea of using something they don’t really own and flashing them to project an image of someone that they are not—at least that’s part of the reasons.

Volker Ketteniss, the director of men’s wear at the trend forecasting firm WGSN offers an insight into this behavior, one rooted in gendered upbringing: Unlike men, women are used to this concept because they have been swapping clothes with their friends since they were teenagers.

For one of the respondents in the interview, Jason Ryan Lee, a 38-year-old editor, renting feels almost like cheating.

Photo by David Lezcano on Unsplash

“I would hate to walk out in a rental and get all kinds of compliments and in my mind be like, ‘This is cool, but this isn’t mine,’” he said. “‘Now I feel like an impostor of some kind. I’m not as cool as people think I am. This $2,000 jacket, I just rented for $35.’”

Double standards

Another reason that men find it easier to just buy instead of rent, is because unlike women, they are not pressured to have an extensive wardrobe. They could just as easily repeat an outfit and not get called out for it. In an ideal, environmentally-conscious world, both sexes should be able to do this without fear of being shamed, but celebrity and red carpet culture coupled with the Instagram mentality have made this almost impossible.

In another article by the New York Times, for example, they talked to three Gen Z females about their shopping habits revealing a behavior much influenced by their peers and their projected selves on social media.

One of the interviewees, an 18-year-old uni student said she doesn’t want to be seen wearing the same thing every day on Instagram.

“If I have a shirt in one of my previous pictures I try not to take a picture again in it,” she said. “I don’t like to repeat.”
Men, on the other hand, (as one would suspect from the boring red carpet appearances and their safe fashion choices. I mean, tuxedos in black, a white shirt, dress shoes?! Okay, save for maybe for Timothée Chalamet and his Haider Ackermann looks.) can just easily get away with wearing things over and over again. Some will even be rewarded for sticking to a uniform. And that’s a good thing because then again they won’t have to buy new clothes for every single occasion. But bad for clothes rental businesses like Rent the Runway.

TAGS: masculinity men men's clothing men's fashion rent the runway renting clothes