There are, for whatever reason, stores where men are just not expected to go. Take a certain purveyor of yoga wear, which I will not name, but the description might clue you in to their primary market. Yoga wear, in general, is marketed primarily to women and this particular store has an especially feminine name.
They also happen to sell really good men’s underwear.
Naturally, the last time I was near a location, I went in and decided to pick up a couple pairs, because there is no such thing as too much underwear. And when I met friends after, they were laughing that I was carrying the distinctive bag that is the calling card of this business. I had bought something from the store where Men Do Not Go.
In some ways, it seems a bit weird that they bother selling a men’s line in the first place. Their branding is so aggressively gendered that they can’t possibly expect any man to actually go into the store. I discovered it by accident, in fact, because I was accompanying my fiancee in her shopping and could either awkwardly stand in the corner or make a trip to see if the men’s section had anything worthwhile in it. The men’s section seemed extremely out of place because I am pretty sure I was the only person with a Y-chromosome to enter the building in ages.
A shame, because it’s great underwear. And it doesn’t have an embarrassing name that references anatomy unlike most good men’s underwear.
It made me think about how gender plays a role in the decisions I personally make.
I don’t think I do things because they’re explicitly masculine. I’m happy to wear traditionally feminine colours, because they’re fun and I like them, but the majority of the clothing in my wardrobe is definitely traditionally male – the wide spectrum of plaid is certainly playing into a stereotype.
I know when I was a little kid I definitely bought into the idea of what men and women should and should not do, but as I grew up I realized that they’re not particularly worthwhile restrictions. The kid who couldn’t bear to have the radio on when *NSync’s new single was playing is now the adult who is happy to listen to modern Korean boy bands. Many things associated with gender are arbitrary and probably shouldn’t be, whether it’s the colour of our clothes, the music on our stereo, or the stores we are permitted to enter.
But there remains pressure to rigidly conform to expectations and it comes in subtle forms like people laughing at the bag from the yoga store.
I think that we should probably stop worrying so much about what gender means or doesn’t mean. Like what we like, whether it’s something that conforms to gendered expectations or not. Some things, like comfortable underwear, are universal. I hate to think that we are denying ourselves day-long comfort because we’re hung up on whether it conforms to our identity or not. Don’t block yourself off from happiness because you need people to view you a certain way.