If life imitates art, Facebook might want to consider adding an “It’s Complicated” option for gender. The newest crop of gender-bending models to steal the spotlight is a bunch of chicks, and they’re man enough to take on ad campaigns, editorials, and European runways rocking the latest in menswear. Androgyny is nothing new in the fashion business, an industry that loves to push the boundaries of convention. But women dressing as men for survival goes back to Joan of Arc and beyond. Women dressing like men for marketability goes back at least to YSL’s Le Smoking in Paris in the Swinging ’60s or even earlier, with Rosie the Riveter Stateside. So what’s so different this time around? Now, women are actually replacing men as the faces of brands and lines that are specifically for men. Sex sells, but gender is for sale. And the modeling industry is one of the few places where women historically earn far more than men. So meet the ladies that are giving the industry a real shake-up, the outcome of which no one can predict.
This former Olympic swimmer recently discovered her modeling chops when she stepped in as the male model to Candice Swanepoel’s female role for photographer–and Legler’s buddy–Cass Bird, after the originally cast male model called out.
The Ford agency signed Legler to their male model roster just one day after her first stint in front of the camera, and even more surprising is that her career as a model began well into her 30s, typically the graveyard shift for women in the industry. Her super girly, giddy voice is not what you’d expect of a male model, but the rest of the package fits the bill. Legler is 6’2”, very muscular, and French, like many of the original masters of gender ambiguity.
Her online portfolio includes a couple of shots of her modeling topless or wearing kitten heels and a dress, but it feels forced, like trying to get a square peg in a round hole. Casey as a dude, in a shiny suit with nary a nipped-in waistline in sight, just feels…right. Slumped against a bodega wall chewing a cigar or standing on a street corner holding a cigarette between her thumb and index finger–a decidedly manly way to gun a dart–there’s no room for questioning whether she can hold her own as a male model.
SASKIA DE BRAUW:
Any blogger worth her American Apparel ad revenue has the internet abuzz with the news that Dutch clotheshorse Saskia de Brauw is the face of the newly rebranded Saint Laurent menswear line. But Saskia is not exclusively a male model, like Legler. De Brauw is slimmer and a bit shorter, with slighter shoulders, and while she’s not exactly convincing as a man, she can definitely pull off “moody British boy” pretty flawlessly. Before the Saint Laurent campaign, De Brauw posed nude for last year’s Pirelli Calendar, a measuring stick of feminine allure.
Saint Laurent itself is no stranger to gender crossover. It was YSL that popularized a womenswear version of the three piece suit when it debuted Le Smoking in 1966, and there has been no shortage of gender bending inspiration like the androgynous Betty Catroux, the original YSL muse whom the designer referred to as his female incarnation and twin sister.
Casting Saskia for the Saint Laurent campaign was definitely deliberate, and presumably an homage by new creative director Hedi Slimane to the history of the brand. All eyes have been on Slimane since he took the helm and shortened the name of the brand last fall, and choosing a female for his first menswear line for the house formerly known as Yves Saint Laurent definitely set the pace for the new regime and its envelope–and agenda–pushing, while nodding to the brand’s past.
Jenny, who was, like, huge in the ’90s, didn’t explicitly model menswear, but she did model for Calvin Klein’s legendary unisex fragrance campaign, and she was man enough for the man-eating, husband stealing Angelina Jolie and insatiable chanteuse Madonna, who allegedly flew Jenny around the world for booty-calls.
Erika Linder, who describes herself as having “too much imagination for just one gender” is the ultimate bad-boy. Squinty-eyed, crotch grabbing, denim-vest-wearing, shirt-lifting Linder is exactly the kind of guy your mom warned you about, except that she’s a she, albeit one who could easily play a young Leonardo DiCaprio if need be. Erika, who regularly posts photos on twitter of herself smooching fellow androgynist Andrej Pejic, is the unsung hero of true gender ambiguity, as she looks equally as hot – and more importantly, just as marketable – styled as a woman:
Even though there’s a lot of buzz about the new girls on the block, Tilda did it first, first by merely being born, and then again in 2010 as a model for Pringle of Scotland’s menswear line, although to be fair she also repped for the brand’s womenwear line as well.