Male Icons Who Shattered Gender Norms
These male icons challenged the definition of masculinity.
What does it mean to be masculine?
The answer to that hanging question is (and has been) changing. For decades, male icons have shattered the boundaries of traditional masculinity and placed themselves at intersections of gender and sexuality.
Here is V’s list of male icons who have defied the traditional definition of masculinity with their music, fashion and — let’s just say it — presence.
Prince’s music is undoubtedly uncategorizable. From his first tour in 1979, Prince not only defied what it meant to be a rock star, but what it meant to be masculine.
Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but Prince’s most worn color (purple) is the result of mixing blue (traditionally masculine) and pink (traditionally feminine). If one goes with this theory, Prince was quite literally living in a gender intersection.
Of course, Prince’s famous necklace worn at almost every one of his concerts can’t go without mention; the necklace intertwined the male and female gender symbols.
While most other male musicians of his time were being “edgy” by wearing black and ripped jeans, Prince embraced color, glitter and sequin designs. During a 1985 performance in Los Angeles, Prince toted a fluffy-pink scarf and a pearl encrusted one-piece. Now that’s rock-n-roll.
“I think there’s so much masculinity in being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be feminine,” Styles said in an interview with Vice’s i-D last year.
Since 2018, Styles has been consistently vocal about his rejection of gender binaries. His song “Lights Up,” released back in 2019, was hailed by fans and critics as a bisexual anthem that stressed the importance of defying societal labels.
“Know who you are / Do you know who you are?” Styles sang.
While many men arrived at last year’s Met Gala in tuxedos, Harry Styles walked down the red carpet head-to-toe in androgynous Gucci. His outfit consisted of a laced-black blouse, high waisted pants, short heels and hanging pearl earrings. A number of his tattoos were visible underneath the partly transparent blouse as well. Fabulous, right?
You’ve seen him on television, Broadway and in award-winning films. One letter away from an EGOT, Billy Porter has been shattering the definition of masculinity across mediums for decades.
In Kinky Boots on Broadway, Porter played Lola — a man who was ridiculed early in his life by his father for loving music and dance. This breakout role propelled Porter to starring as Pray Tell in Ryan Murphy’s series Pose about New York’s 1980s ball scene. As Pray Tell, Porter supports the lives and aspirations of many LGBTQ+ performers.
Off-screen and off-stage, Porter has graced us with his presence with some legendary red carpet outfits. At the 2019 Academy Awards, Porter blurred the lines of gender by wearing a black velvet Christian Siriano ball gown that topped as a tuxedo.
How could we not talk about Ziggy Stardust?
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars was Bowie’s fifth, and arguably most iconic, studio album. Ziggy Stardust, Bowie’s alter-ego, was an omnisexual alien rock star sent down to earth to send messages of hope through song and performance.
Oh, and what year was this? 1972! That’s right. Bowie placed this sexual and gender challenging figure into a genre of music crowded by traditionally masculine musicians in the 1970s.
Tight leather pants, blouses, heels and purses. Lenny Kravitz has rocked and worn them all on venue stages and even on the streets of New York City. Similarly to Prince and Bowie, Kravitz has embraced color and glitter tenfold.
Despite Kravtiz’s outfits that have challenged gender norms, Kravitz is also known for his embracement of traditionally masculine styled outfits.
This fluidity between femininity and masculinity is what makes Kravitz the male icon he is.
Andre’s flamboyance is partly to credit for his success in resurrecting the world of hip-hop. But his flamboyance is also to credit for Andre’s multiple shameless gender fluidity moments.
At the 2002 Grammy Awards, Andre wore a pink suit and bowtie with a long white haired wig. His shameless outfit combining both traditional male and female looks was performed to N.E.R.D’s song Rollinem 7’s.
Remember Prince’s fluffy pink scarf? Well, in 2004 Andre performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in a fluffy-pink jumpsuit with a (you guessed it) white haired wig.
“I’m not ashamed to dress ‘like a woman’ because I don’t think it’s shameful to be a woman,” Iggy Pop once famously said.
This “Godfather of Punk” has defied masculinity for decades. In the 1970s and 1980s, Pop was known to wear many clothes owned by his early partner Esther Friedman.