Did you know that there’s photo evidence of Brad Pitt copping his girlfriends’ fashion for over 25 years? Wildly famous date after wildly famous date, Pitt has an outfit to match them. The pics are going around Twitter, and we can’t look away.
Just look at each partner Pitt is paired with. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie — he mirrors them all.
In 1997 he and Paltrow are both sporting the same pixie cut and nearly identical color. In another year, similar sunglasses and color scheme. In a photo with Aniston, they both look like white Rastafarians with his goatee and her near-dreads. Suddenly, in waltzes Angelina Jolie, and now they’re both dressed like extras on a Matrix set.
Thandie Newton? Juliette Lewis? Pitt’s got a look to match.
It’s called “twinning.”
Sometimes it’s a term that can refer to actual twins in action. It’s more informally used by teen girls, women friends or co-workers, moms and daughters, or any pairing up of accidental-or-not matching outfits, hairstyles, looks, color schemes or general vibes that seem to be perfectly aligned between two people who delight in the coincidence. There is also something called “boyfriend twins,” a Tumblr notable for collecting photographs of men whose boyfriends happen to look eerily identical to them.
But straight men twinning? Making a conscious apparent effort to alter their style to look more like their girlfriends? Not a lot of that.
So yeah, the attention on Pitt’s protean style makes sense. It’s rare to see! But baked into the observation and fascination is an emasculating dig. Men aren’t “supposed” to be influenced by women aesthetically to that degree. Women can wear a “boyfriend jean,” but there is no real “girlfriend jean.” (Well, unless you count the emo kids wearing women’s jeans back in 2003. And … whatever this is.)
It’s one thing for a woman to subtly influence a man to look his best, or to instruct him to ditch the cargo shorts and flip-flops for something more stylish, but it’s quite another for him to take his actual cues from her sartorial choices — to actively mimic her style. After all, that’s the sort of thing two women would do — right, bros? And one thing a man never does is anything a woman would.
So if a straight man is following a woman’s lead, he’s suspect:
For sure creepy:
Or, he’s gotta be a sub:
Even when men co-sign on twinning, they’re making fun of it by dressing in drag to do it, because, again, a man dressing like a woman is innately comedic:
To be sure, twinning in relationships could indicate a fucked-up degree of enmeshment. Someone quickly notes that Pitt’s relationship tendencies sure seem that way:
This reference is to Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride where Richard Gere calls bullshit on her because she’s such a lost soul that she doesn’t even know what kind of eggs she likes. With every new guy she bounces to, she eats her eggs a different way — fried with this dude, scrambled with that. She calls it changing your mind. He calls it not being able to make it up.
If you’ve ever come across a shapeshifter in a relationship — someone who caters to whatever you think or say, pretending to be like you when in fact they’re just so unsure of who they are they will just co-opt your life to fill the void — it’s among the creepiest types of people out there.
But it’s unclear how something as surface-level as fashion would prove this. Particularly when we give women a shapeshifting pass on copying other people’s style.
To be sure, it can be fraught when women twin. Vogue ran a list of rules for twinning with a co-worker, like debating when you need to ask another woman permission to copy her style outright so you don’t go full Single White Female. Still, the presumption is that there’s no real foul play or gender rebellion in noticing, liking and imitating another woman’s style.
What’s more, in couples, one assumes the twinning is mutual and chill, or they wouldn’t be participating and being photographed in the first place. Pitt also isn’t the only famous man to twin with his girlfriend or wife. Among other twinners Vogue rounded up a few months ago are Johnny Depp, who seemed to take on the style of both Kate Moss and Winona Ryder. There’s Victoria and David Beckham, who’ve shared the same haircut. Beckham was also notoriously mocked for wearing what appeared to be her sarong in 1999. Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love were grungily simpatico. Paul and Linda McCartney were twinning androgynous hippies in the ’70s.
What these men really seem to have common, generally, is not sociopathic chameleonic fashion sense, or even just that they’re famous actors, athletes, artists or musicians. It’s that they 1) are generally paired up with equally powerful women; 2) come off like they have an enormous degree of self-confidence and comfort in their particular brand of masculinity; and 3) project major admiration for their partners. These are all good things!
In other words, they seem to be twinning because they are not just okay with themselves, but also in awe of the women they’re with. It’s as much a statement of unity and compatibility as it is respect. To be influenced by someone is in many ways the biggest compliment you can pay them. You’re saying, in essence, I like you so much I want to be a little, or a lot, like you. More men should like women so much they feel that way, and aren’t afraid to show it.