Fashion’s coolness means different things for men and women.
By Marissa Lee.
To scroll through an Instagram fashion archive page is to be greeted with a gallery of images that are not only unbearably fashionable, but of a niche “cool” quality. A typical archive consists of images of fashion moments and familiar celebrity faces, mixed with some art, technology, and interior design, branded with an irreverent and nonsensical name (think @She’sFarOut or @welcome.jpeg.) “I think archive pages are made up of somewhat carefully curated internet junk,” says Keaton Fader, the mind behind Instagram fashion archive @pradaproblem and concept Twitter page @dioridiot. “You can go on a profile and go from T-shirts to cars to tattoos to sneakers all in one simple scroll.”
There’s something about this “internet junk” that exudes an unspoken coolness; A$AP Rocky trying on shoes in Dover Street Market, screengrabs of sneakers from the beloved sports anime Slam Dunk, a model poking her legs out of a car window–often left uncaptioned or without explanation. It’s about the blasé yet high-profile nature of the images, the aesthetic qualities that are heightened when one understands the deeper nuances of the photo. “We live in a never-ending world of internet pollution and imagery, and archive pages are cool because they dig these things up and resurface these pieces that may have been forgotten about,” says Fader.
This may not appear as a phenomenon at first glance–believe it or not, it is possible to subscribe to a social media page without psychoanalyzing its intricacies. However, there is a noticeable difference between the content shared on men’s and women’s fashion archive pages–while they both typically follow the art, fashion, and celebrities content model, there are different aesthetics that “gendered” archives employ that create different visual experiences. Subscribing to a womenswear page might fill your feed with images of Carla Bruni and barely-there dresses, while their “male” counterpart pages will offer you scenes from Goodfellas and vintage sneaker catalogues. Put simply, women’s archive pages focus mainly on high-fashion luxury and the heroin-chic female form, while men’s archives revolve around sneakers, celebrities, and macho-man media.
When looking specifically to the men’s pages, accounts such as @hidden.ny and @yungwatergun emerge as some of the most prolific and well-known menswear archives, thanks not only to their follower count (both pages have soared past the 200,000 follower mark), but also the eponymous brands that have formed out of these pages. There’s a content formula to the men’s pages that consists of a roster of well-known celebrities (Pharrell, Kanye West, and Nigo of A Bathing Ape), sneakers, screengrabs from golden age animes, as well as specific fashion pieces from brands such as Undercover and Visvim, and filler images relating to art and interior design. There’s a fun and boyish quality to it all, carefree yet carefully curated.
The women’s archives, on the other hand, emanate a serious quality that’s long been attributed to women’s luxury fashion. While their male counterparts share imagery of current male celebrities and fashion items, the women’s pages seem to be caught in the aesthetics of the ghost of womenswear’s past. Pages like @She’sFarOut and @Roarvale take users on a journey from ’90s supermodels, to Lily-Rose Depp, to another cigarette-wielding celebrity. There’s an all-encompassing focus on the female form when it comes to the womenswear archives, as users dodge hips and legs and midriffs while perusing the page’s contents. Fascination with these archives rests on the golden days of women’s fashion, when stick-thin was the standard, along with tall Prada boots and skirts up to there.
This polarized content proves that “cool” means something different in menswear versus womenswear, the former attributing coolness to streetwear, sneakers and male celebrities, while the latter conveys coolness through skin, ’90s luxury stylings, and slender supermodels. “I think sexuality is an aesthetic for women through which they feel empowered,” offers Avery McQueen, a freelance stylist based in New York City, who says she “regularly looks to archive pages for inspiration.” “After all, the point of womenswear is to suit the female form and put it on display, so it makes sense that these pages highlight that–I certainly don’t think it’s a bad thing.”
“I think the core idea of [archives] is to provide that aesthetic,” seconds Fader. “With different audiences involved, [the content] will differ.” Men’s and women’s fashion inherently present different aesthetics, which these pages highlight. In closing, Fader says, “Providing that aesthetic from art to fashion to pop culture is a sweet thing. It’s not just clothing, nothing is just clothing–there’s always some source behind it.”