Note: I wrote this a couple weeks ago and then forgot about it. Probably got distracted by Atlanta or the new season of Top Model.
Chokers have been seriously en vogue over the past several months, and everybody from Rihanna to Kylie Jenner has been spotted rocking them all over fashion-related media. As the trend has trickled down to the masses, I’ve found myself increasingly amused by the perception of the choker as a novelty. Chokers have been a thing for a long, long time, and I’ve seen them for ages in queer, punk, and otherwise alternative scenes that I take part in. Plenty of currently famous queer people of color love to rock chokers, like Alok Vaid-Menon, Juliana Huxtable, and Cakes da Killa, and they tend to pull them off best, in my opinion. It’s awesome to see all kinds of people giving them a try on a wider scale, but with that comes the entitlement that folks in fashion feel in dictating which people can and cannot participate in style trends.
I’ve recently noticed particular online pushback against men wearing chokers, such as in this charming article from GQ. The author writes, “So just know this: Men’s choker necklaces will never be a thing. Stop it. Stop it now… while we understand that gender in fashion is more fluid than ever, this is one area that is best left to the ladies. Plus, us guys have had our version of a choker necklace forever, and it’s called a necktie.”
Interesting, GQ! Men’s choker necklaces are already a thing, and plenty of guys wear them, but now that you’ve written this I know it’s definitely not okay for me or any man to wear a choker at any time. It’s so helpful having such nuanced fashion advice spoon-fed to you! While I did think the author’s point about Matt Lauer not pulling off the choker quite as well as others I’ve seen was funny, I hardly think that one Hollywood man’s attempt should speak for all men everywhere. But really, I find that the most troubling aspect of the piece lies in its commentary on gender fluidity.
The author concedes that gender in fashion is more fluid than ever, but contradicts this very idea by doubling down on the gender binary in that same sentence. Yeah, yeah, gender-bending, we get it, but chokers are for chicks! Now let’s shotgun a Natty and watch the game, dude! If gender fluidity in fashion is on the rise, why are you putting effort into impeding that progress? Pushing archaic gender standards is bound to appeal to some of your readership, but with ‘genderqueer’ freshly added to the dictionary, the first male CoverGirl making waves on national television, and National Geographic recently dropping its Gender Revolution spread, maybe it isn’t the best look to frame your fashion writing so rigidly around the gender binary. And besides, does a man wearing a choker really affect anybody else’s well-being?
So, a few important reminders.
- Men can wear whatever they want.
- Women can wear whatever they want.
- Not everyone considers themselves a man or a woman.
- And as a bonus, more specific rule: anybody can wear a choker if they want to. Maybe even three at once if that’s the look for the night!
Our bodies are already constantly policed enough without being told what we can and cannot wear based on our perceived gender, so putting out this kind of content doesn’t actually help anybody other than proponents of femmephobia (derived directly from misogyny) and heteropatriarchy. As someone who feels comfortable exploring both their masculine and feminine sides, maybe I want to wear a necktie one night and a choker the next. That’s my prerogative, and that kind of freedom is continually threatened by discourse that oversimplifies what people are allowed to put on the way this GQ article does. I’d like to see gender fluidity in fashion continue to challenge these prevailing binary narratives in 2017. I want to see butchy femmes in editorials spreads, gender non-conforming beauties stomping down runways, and queer folks of color wearing whatever they feel like just as they always have. Let’s keep problematizing gendered fashion by disrupting norms as much as possible, and let’s make 2017 a year of collective liberation via unapologetic self-expression.