Do you happen to live in a box? Are you limited to your own worldview, unwilling to accept the preferences of others who deviate from you? At times in the past, I too have been a bit judgmental, stifling the creativity of individuals who tend to think and behave outside my box.

I like to eat my French fries seasoned only with a dash of salt. “Bland,” you may say! Well, I have lived and worked in countries where folks enjoy them with a splash of vinegar. I’ve also sat at the table with those who ooze on a ton of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, or all three. But if these practices are just a matter of personal and/or cultural taste, should I punctuate some one’s burpful pleasure with an exclamatory “yuck,” or even worse, caution others not to try it?

Each social group of every generation creates their own web of cultural norms, traditions, and expected behavior, which the entire group is supposed to uphold. During the Renaissance, for example, it was customary for men in some places to wear short skirts and tights. But today…? Boy, have we come up with adjectives!

Clearly, some of the most negative reactions surface when designers blur the margins of our socially accepted definition of masculine and feminine. How the web buzzes with criticism, especially after notable fashion weeks. But I ask: Is our discomfort rooted in some sort of insecurity with our own sexuality, or is it simply because we feel threatened when others enter our comfort zone and challenges our accepted norms?

I’ve never been called a “fashionista,” at least to my face; nor have I ever been accused of being a “fashion victim,” whatever that means. Anyway, what I don’t want to be labeled is a victim to cultural standards or to the limitations placed on me by someone else’s personal taste. In return, hopefully I’m not guilty of trapping others as prey within my little web, either.

If someone wants to dress like pirates of the Caribbean, well, wasn’t that attire once hip amongst pirates?! Then, there’s Samantha on Sex and the City who thought a guy in kilts was pretty sexy! In my opinion, if you’re secure enough about your masculinity to pull off a skirt, more power to you! I’m not a kilts-kind-of guy, but I must say: Go Scotland!

I’m grateful to the contemporary designers who dare to take risks, breaking outside the box and challenging the accepted norms in menswear and men’s fashion. I may not wear everything that I see coming down the runway; but I’m not going to reject an innovative look or a resurrected style from history just because it doesn’t conform to my personal tastes or cultural standards.

We have inherited such a rich heritage of menswear; why should we now cut ourselves off from it? One reason we quickly reject creative designs, labeling them as “bizarre,” is a lack of historical perspective. We interpret them through the eyes of today’s connotations instead of realizing their proper origins. Another reason is the failure to appreciate foreign cultures.

Therefore, several years ago I decided to open the lid of my box and try basing my personal style, not on social acceptance or norm, but rather on (1) what looks nice on my particular body frame; (2) my sense of individuality (a balancing act between not wanting to look like everyone else in the crowd without standing out); and (3) the relationship of cost to quality.

Now, I only hope to be noble enough and allow others to develop their own rules, expressing themselves as they see fit.

Here are some designs from recent fashion weeks that have definitely challenged the status quo. Before you reject or label them, however, try to identify their roots in history and/or foreign cultures:

 
 
 
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