Get over it

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30:  Model Andrej...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

There's been a lot of talk lately – and controversy – about someone called Andrej Pejic. Andrej is a local boy from one of the tougher parts of town how has somehow transcended his background to become an international fashion model of some repute (modelling for Jean-Paul Gaultier in Paris no less). What is remarkable – and controversial – about Andrej is that he models as a woman.

As a male he is striking in a pale, androgynous way. As a women he is beautiful. Unsurprisingly the mere existence of a cross-dressing model has caused ructions in certain circles. It's hard for many to separate themselves from the black and white views of conventional culture. Is it a he? A she? What does it mean? For many it's a very unsavoury proof of the degeneration of society.

I take a different view, as do many others more enlightened. It's comforting to label things; once labelled much of the world slides easily into our personal taxonomy. Labels are just words though, loose definitions of what has come before. Male, female, boy, girl, these are the generic terms we've come to describe human life. It's not as simple as that though, as we know, even if many wish it were. A label is a word; people are individuals. It's individuality that is really important.

Society has come a long way in its general acceptance of what was once described as 'queer'. It's not universal and it never will be, but it is much more widespread than it was 20 years ago. Surprisingly the acceptance of someone like Pejic is much more contentious now than it was in the less enlightened days of the eighties when, nonetheless, the androgynous look embodied by the likes of Boy George, Marilyn, and many others were defining looks of the decade.

I grew up through that period and never cottoned on to the look, nor indeed the music – it was not my style. And in truth I probably looked down my nose a little at the likes of Boy George because his appearance and behaviour seemed beyond my comprehension – a sports loving rocker as I might have been described then.

I'm more mature now and live in a more mature, sophisticated and enlightened society. I'm the antithesis of the androgynous look – broad shouldered, muscular and masculine – but that doesn't prevent me from being sympathetic to Pejic and the others following in his wake – and indeed anyone who chooses a different path. You respect the individual, not judge the stereotype.

Pejic for his part appears to be an intelligent, resilient character aware of the controversy he creates, but seemingly above it. In all I have seen and read of him he seems to act with an amused and easy detachment, gracious and dignified. Does dressing up in women's clothes make him gay? Does it matter? Of course not (for all I know he's a raving pantsman). In fact in some small way it highlights the silliness and hypocrisy of much of society. Being gay is no big deal. The same people who watch a gay model parading a mens suit down the catwalk frown when a man parades instead in a dress. Being gay is no big deal if you conform. Being gay and dressing like a girl is for some going too far.

I applaud him. We have to get over these silly prejudices. Andrej Pejic is going his own way and all power to him.

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You are what you wear

I went clothes shopping yesterday with JV. We're off to the Cox Plate next Saturday, and we both decided we could do with a new suit for the event.

We caught up a little after lunch and finished up an hour or so before dinner, and criss-crossed the CBD in search of the perfect racing suit: well made but just a touch funky. Just about everywhere we looked had a sale going, and there were some decent suits amongst it all. JV ended up with a pale grey Saba suit with thin lapels and narrow legged trousers – he looks like a sharpie.

I went more elegant. I found a Ted Baker suit with $300 off and thought was the go. It's navy blue so pretty conventional (though every bloke should have a navy suit), but with a subtle purple and lighter blue stripe through it. It might sound a little lairy but it's not at all – it's a very well made, very comfortable, very stylish piece of menswear. And I'm very happy, notwithstanding the fact it needs to get altered.

I've got a non-conventional body shape – I have broad shoulders but am slimmer in the hips, which generally means I'll mix a 46 jacket with 34 pants if I can get away with it. Unfortunately that was not possible yesterday, so the paints need to be taken in and shortened.

I've actually been wondering lately if I should be updating my wardrobe. I'm older than I used to be, though I don't really feel older. All the same, it's undeniable. I've pretty well been dressing in the same style for the last 20 odd years. I've never really thought about it until a few days ago. Then I caught myself. For once I noticed how some other men of my age are dressing, which is generally more conservative than me. Fuck me dead I thought, am I meant to be like that?

Everyone knows the mutton dressed up as lamb syndrome. You have to admire their optimism and determination, but it's no fun beholding a 70 year old woman dressed like a 20 year old. Now I'm not 70, not even close, and my style is vaguely timeless – jeans mostly, a t-shirt often, or a decent shirt or a jumper depending on the weather, and often paired with a coat or jacket of some description. If I'm going out I combine my best pair of dark jeans with a good pair of shoes, a sharp shirt and a sports jacket.I like clothes and I think I have good taste in general, but at what point do you consider dressing 'older'?

As much as anything this is a philosophical question. My generation in general is more relaxed and casual. Sure there are lots who get around in cords or chinos and won't go out without a sports jacket, even if it's just to do the grocery shopping. I can't see myself in cords, and I'd die rather than wear chinos – they're the fashion equivalent of beige (ok, ok, once or twice I paired up a pair of chinos with a polo shirt when I was consulting in Brisbane – a uniform up there).

Most of my friends have varying styles, but all have pretty well the same mindset as me: we dress for comfort mixed with style, and haven't changed much since we were 22. So, should I be thinking different?

I reckon if my circumstances were different maybe I would, oblivious of it almost. Yet it doesn't sit comfortably with me. I can't help but think the day I start wearing cords is the day I give up trying. It may seem a long bow, but in part it's this very question that had a lot to do with me cancelling that date last night.

Self image. Everyone has one, and I dare say for most people how they see themselves is different to how other people see them. Does that matter? Not really. Sure, many people dress to impress, and I'll be looking to do that in my new suit on Saturday, but ultimately you have limited control over how other people see you. Bottom line, you have to please yourself. If you're not happy in yourself then nothing else is going to happen.

Me, I've got healthy self image, if that wasn't already clear. I see myself a certain way, and it's important to me to hold true to certain principles to maintain that self-image. While pulling on pair of cords* might seem small beer in the fashion stakes, it is indicative to me of another state of mind. Now I'm not and I don't want to be conservative, safe or inoffensive. I don't intend to be wild, but nor do I want to lose my edge, whatever that is.

I'll look to refine my style and perhaps to take it to another level, but whatever I do it has to be in sync with how I feel. And there in those few words is the reason I called it quits last night. I didn't feel comfortable with who I was asked to be and so graciously backed out.

*I don't hate cord – I've worn it before and probably will again, it's just not who I am right now.

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