Knitting Knows No Gender
The below was originally posted on the old version of my blog on August 26, 2012. I decided to repost it here, as it serves as a bit of an origin story to the purpose of this website going forward. It's more or less intact from the original post, with some inclusion of events that have happened since it first hit the 'net. Enjoy.
In general, I consider myself a relatively masculine guy. Sure, I have zero interest in sports, but I performed well in them in P.E.* often hitting home runs, scoring goals, and if I do say so myself, before I tore my rotator cuff in my early 20’s, I had a killer tennis serve. I drink beer (and unfortunately am starting to show the associated belly), I tend to prefer dark earth tones and neutrals over bright and showy colors, and while I occasionally wear jeans I really should have gotten rid of 2″ of my waist ago, my overall look tends to be very casual, with a solid tee and worn down jeans, hiking boots or sneakers, and a cap or beanie on my head. I abhor shaving, and generally have anywhere between a week and a month’s worth of growth on my face. Hair growth… growth of hair. Oh you know what I mean, a beard. Regardless, probably the girliest thing I do on a regular basis is knit.
*Though, to be honest, my junior year I did decide to join the Step Aerobics class instead of regular Physical Education. Out of 40 students, I was the only boy in the class, but I kicked ass on our finals, which were to essentially choreograph exercise routines using the step and other accouterments ensuring an even and balanced workout that was also fun. We only did step on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; Tuesdays and Thursdays were reserved for 45 solid minutes of abdominal work. I never was in better shape than that year.
Not that I think knitting, or fiber arts in general, isn’t masculine. I really feel that my generation is embracing crafts like knitting whole-heartedly and for the most part, able to shed away the gender roles and expectations that have historically come with the craft. But we have a long way to go to really make our mark when it comes to knitted garments and accessories for men. Perusing patterns online and in books in my local yarn shop, I see some really cool and original designs geared towards men that are actually flattering and wearable, but they are few and far between. By far, in my opinion, the one book of patterns every male knitter should own is Queensland Collection Book 9 by Jane Ellison. The sweaters and accessories featured inside are clean, masculine, flattering, and not too busy.
The problem I have with men’s fashion in general, though, is that if it’s not generic, it’s not wearable. Men really don’t have the infinite options women do when it comes to everyday knitwear. Unless, of course, you’re doing drag. Now, aside from a few Halloween costumes (i.e. a poorly executed Hedwig when I was 20, a stab in the dark to build a Halloween costume from 6″ Jessica Simpson golden pumps in 2 days, and more thought-out drag outfit with a pink motif) I don’t really do drag. But in some ways… I think I’d like to, but it doesn’t really work with my outward persona. Sure, part of the point is to create a new persona, but I am for the most part, a behind-the-scenes kinda guy. I write words, I don’t say them. I design things, I don’t wear them. I take pictures, not get my picture taken.
So where does that leave me? Generally, I prefer to keep masculine, somewhat rustic but with a glimmer of urban chic. I’d love to go grand, but feel like it would betray my desire to cater to the tiny community of male knitters who don’t want to be gaudy, but want to have something more interesting than grandma’s boxy reindeer sweater.
In the last week, I’ve turned to two places for inspiration: the Gaultier exhibit at the de Young museum and RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix. The exhibit was creepy and beautiful, and really told me that outfits for men, while teetering over the edge into the realm of costume wear, can be toned down for casual wear, while maintaining elements of what makes it daring and unique. And while I would (likely) never go as far out as the girls in the drag races go to create unique and awe-inspiring wear, it’s affirming to see restrictions on gender removed and the creative process taking over.
When I get inspired, however, my brain still defaults to a women’s article of clothing or an accessory, because it’s so easy to glam it up and take risks on a female body. As a man, I constantly battle with my desire to flaunt creativity without, well, flaunting it. Women’s fashion is generally remarkable by how notably different it is, whereas men’s fashion is generally applauded while remaining safe. Right now, in my head, I have about 5-7 designs competing for attention. I have a few sketches done, and a few ideas on yarns and fabric weights and design elements I want to use to shape and texture my creations, but I think I should be pushing myself more to come up with something that fellow men will enjoy knitting, and wearing, knowing the person who conceived it faces the same frustrations they do.