Photo by Bruce Weber/Louis Vuitton
Jaden Smith and his sister Willow have been turning heads and raising eyebrows for most of their adolescence. As the children of celebrities they have the luxury to be seen as “outside-the-box thinkers” and explore themselves and their purpose in a way that most young black kids their age don’t get to—if they get to see adolescence that is.
In a 2014 T Magazine interview the two gave the masses some insight into their “New Age” way of thinking. When discussing the concept of time, for instance, Jaden said, “It’s proven that how time moves for you depends on where you are in the universe. It’s relative to beings and other places. But on the level of being here on earth, if you are aware in a moment, one second can last a year. And if you are unaware, your whole childhood, your whole life can pass by in six seconds. But it’s also such a thing that you can get lost in.”
Sure, his statements are “doing THE most”; but they are also endearing in some way. Why shouldn’t young black kids have the opportunity to be thoughtful and carefree and design their reality?
It’s this Avant-garde way of thinking that has everyone applauding “Father Time” aka Jaden Smith for his latest move as the fresh new face of Louis Vuitton’s SS16—womens wear line.
Jaden is not the first gender non-conforming male celebrity to rock dresses or skirts. Kanye, Future, Lil Wayne and others have worn everything from leather kilts to leggings. Magic Johnson’s son and “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” star EJ Johnson wears anything from fierce Beyoncé mesh tops to thigh high boots. Who can forget the flamboyance that NBA star Dennis Rodman used to wear off court — nose rings, rainbow hair, black nails and tutus.
While white male celebrities have wandered outside the socialized gender binary and been accepted for their eccentricity, black men have constantly been placed in the “hyper-masculinity” column. If they strayed too far from what was considered “normal black man behavior” they were either labeled gay or “trying to be white”.
Recently, we’ve all had a front row seat to the witch-hunt for NFL player Odell Beckham’s sexual orientation. His excuse for getting into a fight and suspended last month was that he claimed another player called him a gay slur. Beckham’s been called “soft” and a range of feminine words for dancing with male friends and dying his hair. It’s this perceived “gayness” or better yet “otherness” that has some black men’s stylistic expression stifled and their misogyny on full display as a tactic to show how “straight” they are.
Therefore, Jaden’s foray into women’s fashion isn’t just savvy marketing but a statement about the fluidity of gender, style and our evolution of thought around all of society’s “do’s and don’ts”.
Gendering of kids begins at birth and escalates with each passing year. So, much so that when you head down the toy aisles at any given department store you are inundated with either pink or blue items—even for something as benign as Legos.
Which begs the question, why are we so gender obsessed? If a little boy wants to sparkle and play with trucks why should that be frowned upon? If a little girl wants to wear combat boots, shun dresses and play with pick-up-sticks why should she be berated into “acting like a lady”?
An article by Genderqueer activist Jacob Tobia hit the nail on the head. Jacob wrote, “Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace both my love of lipstick and my facial hair, my affinity for sequins and my broad shoulders. I’ve learned to love all parts of myself equally, to hold my femininity and my masculinity in tandem — understanding them not in opposition, but as compliments to one another.”
Jaden, like his fellow gender non-conforming and fashion fluid friends have decided to buck the box , walk their own paths and discard analog thinking about what masculinity should look like.
Because in life, as in fashion, it’s much better to be the blueprint than to trace someone else’s picture of who you should be and what you should wear.