The presidential election might be over, but Trump surrogates aren’t done playing the man card to energize their base. After attacking President-elect Joe Biden for the size of his mask and implying that protecting others made him less of a man, they’ve moved on to being provoked by another piece of cloth: a dress.
Shockingly, men don’t come out of utero sporting a nifty pair of trousers or cargo shorts.
After pop icon Harry Styles posed on the cover of Vogue wearing a ball gown, conservative radio host and Trump endorser Erick Erickson tweeted: “Biden gets elected by promising a return to normal. Then the left goes all in on men in dresses.”
Just to prove that women can also perpetuate patriarchy despite being disproportionately harmed by it, right-wing extremist Candace Owens followed up by tweeting that “there is no society that can survive without strong men,” and that we need to “bring back manly men.”
The truth is that throughout history, men have always sported so-called dresses. And not that it matters, but most of them would be considered “manly men” under Owens’ own extremely rigid definition of manhood, a topic on which she curiously claims to be an expert.
Shockingly, men don’t come out of utero sporting a nifty pair of trousers or cargo shorts. In fact, pants made their first appearance when humans started riding horses about 3,000 years ago. Owens might find it noteworthy that that’s also why high heels were invented, and why men wore them first. But since pants really seem important to people like Owens, let’s talk about the several men — unequivocally touted as historical models of manliness — who never wore pants.
To clear up this confusion, and to avoid this unfortunate misunderstanding about the fact that men have been rocking a diversity of clothing for centuries, I’ve made a nonexhaustive list of men who aren’t known for wearing the pants, well, anywhere.
Let’s start with a classic “manly man.” That’s right, the Kings of Kings, Jesus Christ. According to historians, he wore a thin one-piece knee-length cloth tunic (called a chitōn), was a common undergarment for most men at the time. But because of his focus on income redistribution and helping the poor (another concept known for making Owens gasp), it make sense that he wouldn’t dress like the wealthier men of his time, who wore fuller length tunics. If Owens wants to live in a fantasy world in which men have always and exclusively worn pants, I wouldn’t recommend she visit anyone in ancient Greece or Rome, where tunics were a hit with men.
Speaking of ancient Greece, one of the most magnetic and lasting male archetypes of strength and stamina in Greek mythology was also technically a dude in a skirt. Known for going from zero to hero, the son of Zeus (another guy who was known for not being afraid to wear a dress) wasn’t just notorious for conquering monsters like Cacus and defeating the Titans, but also for doing it all without ever relying on pants.
In most depictions of the demigod, he is portrayed wearing a very-not-vegan-friendly lion's pelt, and in both Marvel's and Disney’s portrayals of the superhero, he rocks a sporty rust-orange skirt. Could Owens argue that Hercules, the ultimate symbol of strength and courage is any less of a man because of what he wears? “No chance, no way.” (If you don’t get that reference, you’re far too young to be reading this article.)
3. King Henry VIII
Often referred to as one of the best-dressed sovereigns of all time, Henry VIII did not try and hide his shopping addiction or his love for colorful velvet gowns. According to the book “Henry VIII: The King and His Court” by Alison Weir, he spent more than $10,500 (today’s equivalent of around $3 million according to the author) a year on clothes every year.
For comparison, that’s a tad more than the $70,000 President Donald Trump reportedly spent on his hair. Weir writes that James Worsley, who was the equivalent of King Henry VIII’s stylist, said that the king’s closet was packed with everything from “mantles, gowns of cloth of gold and velvet, coats, jackets and doublets, glaudkyns (surcoats), bases, girdles, belts, furs and sables, powdered ermines, cloths of gold of divers colors, velvets, satins, damasks, sarcanets and linen cloths.” He also said that in 1547, his inventory included not one, but 41 gowns. Henry VIII also had 25 pairs of hose, 23 pairs of girdles and “several bonnets.” The man was a legend.
In one of her threads about how petrified she is of men wearing dresses, Owens mentions Lord of the Rings as one of her favorite movies in a response to actor Elijah Wood’s chiming in about what masculinity means to him. Which is rib-tickling because the movie is basically about a bunch of guys fighting in dresses or skirts.
Owens’s reply features a gif of Gandalf, one of the most senior wizards in the trilogy, the leader of the Fellowship of the Ring. While his enormous hat and scepter may have been the most iconic parts of his Oscar-winning outfit, I’d be remiss not to mention his dark grey cloak, which Owens may be very disappointed to learn does not have separate holes for each leg.
5. Every Supreme Court judge, ever
With all eyes on the Supreme Court in the weeks leading up to the election, you would think it would be obvious that the outfit judges wear to court is called a robe, which literally translates to “dress” in French. Of course, one could argue that male and female judges wear the same robe, and I would argue that that is precisely the point. We don’t blink twice when judges show up to court in the same outfit. So, why do we have a public meltdown when Styles shows up on a Vogue cover in the same outfit as Ariana Grande?