A year ago, a self-proclaimed “fairly small and thin guy” on Reddit went searching for a “very form-fitting turtleneck.” He searched and searched, before eventually finding the right one — Muji’s Men Non-Itchy Neck Turtleneck (say that 10 times fast). But then, something peculiar happened: He noticed that Muji’s Women Non-Itchy Turtleneck Sweater looked nearly identical but was “thinner and had slightly longer sleeves,” which he found more appealing to his narrow frame. So he bought it and wore it, and no one ever said a thing (other than how great he looked in his new sweater).
He did start to wonder, though — do other guys intentionally buy women’s clothes? And if so, he posited to the r/MaleFashionAdvice (MFA) subreddit, which items do they go to the women’s section for?
In response, a fellow redditor pointed out that in most cases, “items like sweaters are identical, but labeled as ‘male’ and ‘female’ for marketing reasons.” Likewise, he added, if you’re a large woman, you could just as easily go shopping for sweaters in the men’s section.
As for men, if there is a unifying theory as to why some prefer to shop in the women’s section, it’s this: Women’s clothes — typically designed with the silhouette of the body in mind — drape and glide against the human form with intent. “I like the way draped garments hang off the body. I like the lines and the folds the fabric creates. I like the juxtaposition against the rigidity that characterizes the ‘ideal’ male proportions of blockiness,” says Jason, a 32-year-old MFA subscriber who explains that while designers like Rick Owens use drape in menswear, he isn’t always willing to pay that premium.
All of which is even more true for men who have a slender build and a smaller waist — something I can attest to, as I sit here, oscillating my fingers against the keyboard, elegantly, in my girlfriend’s pants. Moreover, sometimes her clothes just fit me better. Like the seemingly made-to-measure fit of her oversized cardigan, which is loose around the arms but narrow against my dainty wrists. Not to mention her jeans — they perfectly transform the puddle of water I have for a butt into the sculpted derriére of that marble statue known as David.
Speaking of women’s cardigans, 29-year-old MFA subscriber Luke says they’re a good place to start. “They’re drapier and look less dorky than a lot of male equivalents, especially since I prefer to wear my cardigans open versus buttoned,” he explains.
The same goes for coats and jackets. “In general, women’s winter jackets have a more flattering fit than men’s,” says Justin, another regular MFA contributor. “They tend to come in at the waist a bit while men’s tend to be boxier. The vast majority of menswear lacks creativity in design. I’m not interested in the umpteenth variation of a military-inspired jacket.”
Which is why, once the womenswear epiphanies start, they keep hitting until you find yourself discovering that women’s casual pants — particularly the linen kind as an alternative to chinos — are, as one redditor puts it, a “revelation.” “Ladies size 11 and 12 is roughly equivalent to 34-inch waist,” the redditor notes, citing the no-fly drawstring and multiple color options as just a couple of the benefits.
There are, of course, a few differences to be aware of. For starters, women’s shirts famously button on the opposite side. This, according to Southern Living, is because of babies. “As one theory goes, to make breastfeeding easier, shirts were designed to be opened or closed with the free right hand, so were buttoned on the left, and open on the right,” writes Melissa Locker.
But as so many of the men on r/MaleFashionAdvice are quick to suggest, as long as the fit feels right, who cares? “When no-show socks for men weren’t prevalent, I bought women’s equivalents,” Luke tells me. And in high school, he says, when skinny jeans weren’t common in the Midwest yet, all the emo/punk guys like him had to shop for women’s denim. “We also bought women’s Carhartt jackets to have fuzzy fur-liners on the hoods,” he adds.
Or to put an even blunter point on it: “Something as benign as a sweater is a rectangle with two tubes attached,” one impassioned redditor argues. “No one will know the difference except you.”