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February 21-27, 2007

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I Can Make You a Man: A whole new style for men is under construction.

Pink Alert

By Joseph Rosenfeld

PINK—the color most closely associated with feminine power—is making its way into your favorite men's store and is vying for a place on guys' bodies this spring. This got me thinking about something that I've been curious about for some time now: whether current fashion trends, including the pink parade, seem to suggest a new era of manliness.

A walk through any store selling men's designer fashions will show increasingly closer-fitting garments, including the silhouettes of suits. With the exception of the more classically American tailored suits, British, French and some Italian labels have eschewed lapeled garments that just fit at the shoulder in favor of silhouettes that contour the body.

Not intended for the faint-at-heart or for the out-of-shape man, the "new man" being targeted with these designs is thin from the shoulders through the waist and down the length of his legs. He is not overly muscular and has boyish qualities, almost as if to suggest that not being a "full grown man" is man enough.

Men's fashion magazine editorials and advertising campaigns dreamt up by the creative directors of fashion houses continue the courting of the "new man." Models can be described perfectly by the lyrics of "Ode to Boy," written by 1980s British sensation Yaz and sung hauntingly by Allison Moyet: "white and smooth almost feminine, almost American ... in his face age descends on youth, exaggeration on the truth."

The poses, the clothes and the model's physicality reflect an androgynous style laced with femininity that contrasts with the male-leaning androgynous styles made famous by the likes of Grace Jones and Annie Lennox. Many designers, like Dior Homme's Hedi Slimane, came of age during the 1980s when androgyny first found modern-day popularity. And since designers like him are creating clothes that are inspired by this era, it's crystal clear that fashion devotees are examining just how manly men should look these days.

Major advertising firms have been studying what sort of man the average woman is attracted to. Their findings indicate that the man showing brute force is out and that the softer, gentler man is in, right down to his facial features and personality. Of course, this information seems counter to the way many men naturally appear and act. It would be downright boring if all men were the same. And much of the folly over feminine fashions may fall flat on a populace of wary men with an interest in fashion and in looking attractive.

So what's a man to do with all of these not-so-subtle suggestions to soften up? Well, the answer will constantly change because fashion is fluid. But this spring, one way for a man to get in touch with his softer side is to put on something pink, be it a polo, a pullover or something else, and wear it proudly. It is possible for a man to portray himself as many things and the color pink certainly adds one more colorful dimension of dynamic expression.

Joseph Rosenfeld, AICI, CIP, the nation's only male certified image professional, is a men's image mentor based in downtown San Jose. Contact him at: [email protected]

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