Close-Up: Androchine And The Limitlessness Of An Androgynous Gesture. 特写:双性中国及其双性风格的延伸

Thank you, Claude Cahun. The lines between the feminine and masculine wardrobes have been shifted throughout history. From West to East.

谢谢你, 克劳德•卡恩(Claude Cahun)。在历史上,从西方到东方,女性服饰与男性服饰的分界线一直在变动着。

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “androgyny” as “of indeterminate sex” or “partly male and partly female”.


Take for example the androgynous vibe hailing from the 2013 pre-fall collections. As far as I know, the lines between the feminine and masculine wardrobes have been shifted throughout history. From Plato in his Grecian togas (427-347 BC) to the Ming emperors’ yellow dragon robes (1368-1644), hasn’t androgyny always been on the racks?


One wonders and ponders…  Can any fashion trend actually be called a “trend”? Aren’t they sometimes simply cultural staples? 或许你会问… 时尚热潮是否应该被称为“热潮”?难道这些本来不就是文化的产物?

Blurred Lines 


Many a collection in recent years has shown us a decisive blurring of what constitutes male and female dressing as oversized, double-breasted suits and pantsuits have often seemed to take centerfold. This is not the first time we’ve seen this emergence of female power-dressing though; just think of the 1980s broad-shouldered broads — shivers slide down my spine. Yet back in those days, the underlying motive for this masculine approach in women’s wear collections was one of economic striving; the glass ceiling had to be smashed and sloped shoulders combined with oversize dark glasses were risky essentials in getting big business.

在近几年发布的很多系列中,从经常出现的宽松型双排扣西装和长裤套装等可以看出,男女服饰的界线日渐模糊。想想1980年代那些穿着宽肩服饰的大妈们,女性霸权在服饰上的显现已经不是第一次了。回顾过去,突显硬朗男性风格的女性服饰曾一度大卖;颠覆柔美,打破性别歧视(玻璃天花板效应 Glass Ceiling Effect 是指在公司企业和机关团体中,限制某些人口群体像女性、有色人种等晋升到高级经理及决策阶层的障碍),穿上宽松版西装,戴上深色墨镜,这前卫的大胆着装是女强人们把大生意谈成的首要条件。

The 2010s collections bare a reshaping of the fashion world, characterized by interchanging collections and models. The likes of Andrej Peivic (sizzling up catwalks and confusing campaigns alike since 2010/2011 collections), Casey Legler and Taiwanese-born David Chiang flirt both with the camera and society’s fixed notions of how we should dress. As Legler once voiced it in a 2013 The Guardian interview:

2010年之后,双性服饰系列和双性模特风潮正在重塑时尚界,像炙手可热的时尚模特Andrej Peivic,Casey Legler以及亚裔模特David Chiang在相机前展示其撩人姿态的同时也在挑逗着人们固有的着装理念。Legler在2013年《卫报》The Guardian的采访中说道:

Fashion is now holding up its mirror to an obvious social reality: What you ‘should’ look like now means only what ‘suits you best’. 当今的时尚正在反射一种明显的社会现实:你看上去应该是什么样其实就是最适合你的。

Nothing in fashion is set in stone


The Oxford English Dictionary defines “androgyny” as “of indeterminate sex” or “partly male and partly female,” a definition which seamlessly fits in with today’s trend watching. In the fabulously anthracite and minimalist caves of Greece where a toga-clad Plato composed his “Androgyne,” (a term often explained as bisexuality, but which is in fact a reference to the “third gender classification” which existed among the ancient gods) there was male, there was female and then there was a mix ‘n match. No three-piece straightjacket muss, no layered-train dramatic fuss.


How then does China fit into this androgynous, gender-bending (according to Vogue columnist Sarah Mower all “yesteryear terms“, yet I find them suitable still) scenario? In terms of hairstyles, it would almost appear that Chinese men continue to outdo Ziggy Stardust with their elaborate weaves bouncing up and down the avenues.

那么中国的时尚是如何被纳入这个雌雄同体、性别偏移(这是Vogue的专栏作家Sarah Mower以前曾用过的词)的类别的?拿发型来举个例子,不断超越大卫鲍伊的Ziggy Stardust风格,波浪卷发在中国男士中间依旧盛行。

Fashion reflects social change, a modernizing maturity in terms of social notions which China is most certainly experiencing; the emergence of a middle moneyed class thanks to the nation’s economic growth surely plays a major part in this. Yet, while some may call the feminine pursuit in China’s menswear a new fusion dish, I believe it is in fact a staple food, having been evident from the halcyon days of the Tang Dynasty (唐朝, 618-907) to today’s tweeted pics from Tiananmen…


“Androchine”, I call it. 因此,我称其为“双性中国”。

Nailing it


China’s menswear took a particular turn to the more female side of things during the nation’s old Dynasty days: Long robes with butterfly sleeves and the headwear, all too often associated with femininity in modern-day terms. Since I do not want to go that far back in time yet again, I will instead prefer the example of the internationally hailed Jingju performer Mei Lanfang (梅兰芳, 1894-1961). Jingju (京剧), or Peking opera, basically celebrates the art of disguise. What disguise?


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Men disguising as women, for some roles, in the name of Grand Theatre. They get it down to a tee; the make-up, the effeminate hand movements, all take years and years of training to master (remember Zhang Yimou’s “Raise The Red Lantern/大红灯笼高高挂“?). Around the time of Mei’s death, the unisex uniforms of the Cultural Revolution were entering the photo shoot. Whether you were male or female, gender no longer existed and this simple fact was also expressed in one’s daily dress. The cut of the typical Mao suit was straight up-and-down. No fuss, no muss.


David Chiang remains one popular poster boy for the pretty-yet-masculine look.David Chiang仍是近年最有人气的封面男模之一。



Fast forward four decades and the average street view unfolding before our eyes has received a Midas touch in comparison with what went before, and the change has been startlingly rapid. Though the women participate in the ambiguous gender game as well, aka the zhongxing style or cool tomboy look, the predominance of androgyny in men’s style provides a better, read “easier,” review. Contemporary China specifically — and East Asia generally — bears mucho macho, but also mucho metro in its daily wardrobe.


Check out your average Chinese or Korean pop star sensation and witness hair that is more effeminately dyed, bleached or coiffed, with copious quantities of spray and gel to keep it all in place (be it up or down). They appear more “prim and pretty” (take K-Pop star Choi Si-won or Mando-Pop’s Wang Leehom and Jay Chou) than Viking-rugged. Yet both carry the same amount of male sex appeal with their fans.


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Many seem to take this “feminine” comment as an insult, probably because it is often associated with “submissiveness” as opposed to male “domination”, but I in no way intend it to affront like that. Male appeal with a pretty face; the ambiguity of androgyny carries with it fascination and liberation. It has done so for centuries, it seems.


As far as the “submissive” aspect goes, the earlier-mentioned and above-shown David Chiang remains one popular poster boy for the pretty-yet-masculine look. The entire industry simply cannot get enough of him as Chiang possesses that genderless look befitting the current trends. Talk about dominating.

只要这种“阴柔”的审美观存在着,上面提到的像David Chiang那样可爱又帅气的封面男模就会一直流行下去。整个时尚圈对Chiang的关注依旧热度不减,其双性的外观和气质正好迎合了当下的时尚潮流。






Original text by Elsbeth van Paridon

Chinese translation by Li Dan (李丹).