I started asking myself this question as a result of shopping for a watch for my fiance. We came to the conclusion that almost all of the men’s watches in the price range we were interested in were a) all the same and b) not what we were looking for. The stupidly far out of our price-range £600 Gucci’s were a really similar size, shape and colour to the £100 watches and, with one exception, all the brands looked really similar and were only recognisable by the logos. In the women’s ranges, however, there were huge ones and tiny ones; all different colours, shapes and styles – even the impractical kind that dangle from a charm bracelet.
Why should it be that a watch, acknowledged as a status symbol in the world of male image, should have so much variety in female brands and so little in male ones? While female jewelery is a much larger market than male jewelery, does it necessarily follow that all men’s watches should look the same? Perhaps all male watches are trying to look like a Rolex?
Of course the phenomenon is not confined to watches – male clothing is also extremely boring compared to the equivalent market for women. I don’t particularly want men to start wearing dresses – they haven’t the hips for it, in my opinion – but that’s no reason for the male wardrobe to be so dominated by neutrals, black and navy.
You might argue that the retailers manufacture and stock in these colours because those are the colours men want to buy and wear but I would suggest that they are partially drawn to those colours because that’s what all the other men are wearing – a self-perpetuating situation. If the shops sell boring clothes to men, that is what men will be wearing so the next wave of non-rebellious dressing men will also wear the same boring clothes.
The previous paragraph suggests I might be a champion of colour and innovation in my own wardrobe. I am not. I dress for camouflage and always have, although recently I have broken out and begun to buy and wear items which, although they might appear conservative to others, are outside of my traditional habits. My point is not that anyone’s clothing needs to be especially exciting, either for men or for women, but that there should be more opportunity for men to wear different colours/textures/shapes without that being in any way remarkable.
I had been going to avoid the question of footwear as the differences between the genders’ consumer habits there are too obvious to be worth discussing, but I will point out that a woman with particularly small feet can still find shoes for all occasions from the girls’ range, many of which are indistinguishable from adult ranges, because there is so much choice. A man with feet smaller than size 7 is faced a choice between a small selection of shoes designed to be worn to school, or trainers.
There was one area I found in the shops today where I thought the masculine selection was just as interesting as the feminine (although still much smaller) and that was in the fragrance department. I don’t have any explanation for why that is; perhaps others would disagree with me but to me both male and female fragrances were equally interesting and varied.
I am often a defender of “boring” as a concept and of the place of “boring” in my life, but I am glad that as a woman I have choice about when to have boring things and when to have something more interesting.