(Photo: Louis Vuitton)
Louis Vuitton has chosen Jaden Smith as the face of its new campaign, but more accurately, he’s the legs of the new womenswear line. The 17-year-old scion of Will and Jada poses in an embroidered skirt for the French luxury brand’s Spring/Summer ads alongside female models Sarah Brannon, Rianne Van Rompaey and Jean Campbell. Androgyny is nothing new in high fashion. Models like Andrej Pejic and designers like Jean Paul Gaultier have played with notion of going genderless before. Even the first trans Black model was on a Clairol box in the ‘70s. Jaden Smith’s androgynous moment is special because of what it represents for the new generation of hip hop.
Jaden Smith is the definitive malennial (or, male millennial). He traverses boundaries with ease — race, gender, sexuality — and is just at home with the picture-perfect Smith family as he is cavorting with the Kardashians in Calabasas. Sorry old heads, his generation doesn’t see the world in black and white. There are no rules as to what a young, Black man looks like. Everything is unique and represents individual expression. If Jaden wants to wear a skirt for Louis Vuitton or rock a white Batman suit to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding, he damn well will. It’s all #lit.
Hip hop culture has stereotypically been a genre of machismo. The paradigm was — and arguably still is — that rappers need to look like “tough, Black men,” whatever that means for any given moment in time. Even female artists like MC Lyte and Missy Elliott have oft been pressured (for lack of a better term) to dress like the boys to garner the same respect as their male counterparts. The few artists that have challenged the norm, such as Andre 3000 and his flamboyant wigs in the ‘90s, Kanye West in a Givenchy kilt in 2012 or even Kid Cudi wearing skinny jeans in the aughts, have been harangued and their sexuality questioned. "He dresses weird." The logical conclusion? He must be gay.
Last year, we saw mainstream society embrace gender (and lack thereof) as never before. Bruce Jenner transitioned to Caitlyn Jenner, Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox rocked red carpets and President Obama historically used the word “transgender.” Even Atlanta rapper Young Thug posed in a sheer Molly Goddard Tulle dress for Dazed magazine. It’s clear that gender is no longer binary. There’s no one definition for what a “real man” or “real woman” is. Gender is how you feel on the inside. It has nothing to do with whom you go to bed with, how you were born or the length of your hemline. Hip hop needs to get with the program. Rappers love Louis Vuitton. It’s about time they learn to love a dude in a skirt too.
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