Stereotypes and The “Boyfriend” Style

July 30th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

Todays guest blog is reposted from Natasha Shapiro’s blog Art Therapy and Related Topics. Natasha is an art therapist and occasionally provides The Communicated Stereotype with insights into related topics. This July on TCS she posted about stereotypes and women’s clothing and of men’s clothing. Today’s post deals with stereotypes of The “Boyfriend” Style.

Posted on July 16, 2014

So, here we go venturing into fashion meets psychology/language/sociology. I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this. That’s what I love about blogging. You can reference people who know more about it, and just start up a conversation without having to be an expert!

It is now ubiquitous; just look at Old Navy and Gap and Victoria’s Secret websites and catalogues. There are “boyfriend” jeans which are a certain shape and style, just like “skinny” jeans, which were mentioned in my last post on this topic, as well as “bell bottoms”, “high waisted” jeans and various other kinds. I first saw this term in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue, a few years ago, in reference to a “boyfriend” sweater. I assumed it meant a sweater that is supposed to look like the wearer of it is wearing her presumptive boyfriend’s sweater. A lot of assumptions here, that a slouchy sort of too big sweater is akin to a man’s sweater for a woman, who must have a boyfriend or remember putting on her larger boyfriend’s clothing. Of course many women don’t have boyfriends, some have girlfriends, some have neither, some have non gendered lovers, etc. And of course many women who call their partner or dating casually person their “boyfriend” are the same size or larger than this “boyfriend.” Somehow seeing this term on clothing just never gets old in terms of how insulting it feels. And of course, I may be wrong about the origins of this term. I was way off with the “baby doll” reference!
So when did this emerge as a classification of not just sweaters, but jeans and I guess other things like shirts and jackets? The “Wise Geek” blog tries to describe this basically as a tradition of women wearing menswear, either raided from a “boyfriend”, “brother” or even dad’s closet:

So this seemed to come up in the 80’s. I’m not sure what leggings have to do with it except I guess the big oversized boyfriend sweater or top was popularly paired with tight “leggings.” Now there are even “jeggings,” a term I am quite fond of just because of its sound, and it does not seem to be connected to anything besides leggings which are just described using the word leg, so not bad, considering they could have been called “skinny tights” or something else…

Anyway back to the “boyfriend” cut. Sorry I had to resort to Wikipedia for the more detailed description, as well as celebrity references and possible beginning of the popularity of the garment. They cite Katie Holmes wearing Tom Cruise’s clothing, which is really ironic, considering that most people did not believe Katie and Tom were really boyfriend and girlfriend anyway. I will refrain from speculations about their relationship.

Wikipedia: “In fashion design, primarily in ready-to-wear lines, boyfriend is any style of women’s clothing that was modified from a corresponding men’s garment. Examples include boyfriend jackets, boyfriend jeans, and boyfriend blazers, which are often more unisex or looser in appearance and fit than most women’s jackets or trousers, though still designed for the female form.

The origin of boyfriend fashion is literally borrowing and wearing a boyfriend’s clothes—his distressed jeans, his band tees, his dress shirts, his blazers, his cardigan. The trend expanded in 2009 when actress Katie Holmes was spotted in public wearing Tom Cruise’s slouchy jeans after a Broadway rehearsal; other celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon, Rachel Bilson, Sarah Jessica Parker, and others began to follow the trend. From there, many brands such as Gap, Forever 21, and H&M began to create boyfriend fashion products or men’s-inspired fashion.”

Here are some live examples of boyfriend jeans from Forever 21.

Here is an example of a “boyfriend sweater” from Victoria’s Secret.

It seems like it must be hard to size these as they are meant to be “oversized” and in fact, some stores prefer the term “oversized,” which is at least descriptive and neutral, like “baggy.” I remember when “baggy” jeans were a big deal, must have been in the 80’s as nobody seems to be into them anymore!

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