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Friday, 7 October 2011

Is stereotypically 'gay' style growing on hip-hop? Lil Wayne performed at the recent VMA in a jeggings

By OnTV Publisher
 Jeggings, otherwise known as the lovechild of jeans and leggings, are a hybrid of denim and spandex loved by teenage girls, stick-thin fashionistas, and somewhat surprisingly, Lil' Wayne.

The rapper has been catching major flack for the pair he sported to his show-closing performance at the MTV Music Awards -- a dashing leopard pair, offset by a bright blue pair of Polo Ralph Lauren draws and red and yellow kicks. It was an eye-catching outfit to say the least. Surely Lil' Wayne knew what he was doing when he stepped on stage looking like George Clinton's back up singer. Another ploy for publicity perhaps?

Naturally his outfit became a hot topic on Twitter, with most criticizing his look and questioning his sexuality. One enterprising person even created a fake Twitter account for the pants, @Waynes_Jeggings.

Despite the attention that particular outfit garnered, Lil' Wayne's clothing has been shrinking for a while now, in accordance with the trend -- while guys are still sagging, they are no longer rocking the baggy look. What results is a paradox of masculinity, in which staying on trend means refining a somewhat feminine sense of taste, and risking being mocked in homophobic ways.

Male rock stars have been walking the feminine line of fashion for years now. Prince and Rick James were both known for their "is he or isn't he gay" personal style, a question that merely boosted their controversial star power. More recently, Cam'ron pioneered the art of rapping about thug recreations while dressed from head-to-toe in Easter bunny pink.

But the icon of our times for feminine fashion sense has to be Kanye West. A self-avowed friend to the gay community, Kanye has never been bound by societal norms to dictate his clothing choices.

Sitting in the front row at numerous fashion shows, Kanye is the definition of a male fashionista, and doesn't care about any of the stigmas that title might hold. He dubbed a sophomore Yale student his fashion muse after spotting the undergrad in Barney's and complimenting him on his slippers. Kanye then recruited the teen to be a part of his fashion team, helping to dress the rap artist as well as help design a line of shoes.

The irony of Lil' Wayne is that he will wear a pair of jeggings but still attempt insult a foe by calling him a fa**ot in one of his lyrics. But then his own fans will question his sexuality for his fashion choices. Lil' Wayne knowingly wears clothing that will bring about that attention, aware of the fact that in hip-hop, defending your masculinity is crucial to credibility. However it's a risk he's willing to take, perhaps a privilege of having a well-earned reputation of being a thug.

Kanye on the other hand is the imperfect poster child of gay acceptance in hip hop, having spoken out in the past against the homophobia hip-hop is notorious for. He has helped normalize feminine fashion for men, and with more gangsta rappers like Lil' Wayne embracing the style, a lot of men are becoming more receptive to embracing tight pants and t-shirts. And hopefully this fashion openness can trickle down -- when you open people up to embracing diversity in self-expression, they become more receptive to diversity in other areas of life.

Though feminine fashion trends may not be blazing trails for homosexuals within hip-hop, they do signify a change in the perception of what constitutes masculine dress. Though Lil' Wayne's pants were indeed ugly, they are an emblem of the risks some rap artists are willing to go to in the name of fashion. And that may just be a good thing - By Kia Miakka Natisse, TheGrio

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