Some old-fashioned men’s clothes to ponder

I’ve been looking for historical information on clothing and I came across some pictures of men’s clothing from the Middle Ages.

This first book is Handbook of English Mediaeval Costume by Cecil Willett Cunnington and Phillis Cunnington, 1952.

This book says that men wore tunics which “widened to a full skirt (p20).” They also wore stockings, (although they were made of wool, so these were nothing like the nylon stockings we know today—however, we would call a garment that fits close to the leg like that “leggings” nowadays and consider them only for women.) Some men wore their hair medium long, coming down to the neck.

That first man in particular looks like he’s wearing what we would consider women’s clothing by our standards today.

(Also side note: Who knew people already knew how to disco in the 11th century???)

Anyway, the next book is Military Uniforms of the World, Blandford Press, 1968, written by Politikens Forlag, translated into English by John Hewish.

Just check out these dandies:

The lovely man at the top left marked number 1 is wearing a Swiss Guard uniform from 1506. Lovely man number 2 is a Yeoman of the Guard, also from 1506. Look at those skirts, puffy sleeves, leggings, and long hair!

I’ve included the next picture so you can look at the shoes on number eleven’s feet. Those are cute little bow ties!

In later years, clothing was less fluffy and more practical, but in 1813 a skirt still appears on man number 260, a Private of the Greek Light Infantry. (Yes there is a Scottish kilt here too, but that won’t surprise anybody.)

I pondered these uniforms for a while and thought about how these men wanted to look really fancy because they were important, upper class men and wanted to be recognized for their status. All these fancy elements add to their elegance.

Isn’t that what a lot of transwomen are doing today? Putting on makeup and fancy dresses and then insisting on being treated like the most important person in the room who has to be recognized for their status. I’m not saying ALL transwomen, but definitely the more narcissistic and shallow variety. What we can learn from this is that this has always been male behavior. Long hair and dresses are far from unheard of on men—they used to be quite normal. The only reason they’re abnormal today is because there is a strong insistence on conformity to a certain style on men—a style that is utilitarian and drab rather than elegant and fancy. Men who want to be elegant and fancy and recognized for their status are nothing new, and they’re not feminine, they are masculine.

Just something for you to ponder.

45 thoughts on “Some old-fashioned men’s clothes to ponder

  1. I was so with you until the paragraph before last!

    I hoped you would conclude, as seems natural from these wonderful pictures, that “men’s clothes” and “women’s clothes” are little more than constructs of any particular day, and therefore, making the distinction does not really make a lot of sense and we should lay off people wearing whatever. And then perhaps some of the people who currently identify as “trans” would not. (I’m not sure if they would or would not, but I would expect you to want less people to identify as trans).

    You do make a different conclusion, however. A very strange conclusion. If wearing elaborate and colorful dresses to show off their status is a masculine thing, then are the wealthy/famous women doing just that for just that reason “masculine”? Now, for some of them, you could answer that it’s just their husbands or male partners “showing them off” like prized possessions. But what about the women who are independently wealthy, those who outshine their husbands by orders of magnitude, those who do not have husbands/male partners?

    And yeah, also, wealthy and famous women who happen to be lesbians [no trans people involved] and STILL wear the aforementioned dresses to show off their status. Definitely no men involved in their case.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think on this particular subject we more agree than disagree, Ramendik. I definitely think that, as you say, what clothing is considered for men or for women is a cultural construct and that we should “lay off” people who want to wear certain clothes. I’ve been pretty clear, across many blog posts here, that I support people dressing how they want (with the small exception of not wearing inappropriate attire in public places.)

      I agree with you that wearing fancy clothes to show off one’s status is something that plenty of women do. I’d even say that this is much more common for women than men these days, therefore you could definitely call it feminine. I thought about why I think of this behavior as masculine and what I’ve come up with is that showing off one’s status is connected to the class system that was developed by capitalist patriarchy. The class system (both economic class and sex class), as well as racism, are manifestations of white men’s dominance. When men show off their high class status within a class system they designed, that strikes me as masculine behavior. However, masculinity and femininity are very broad and varied concepts, and indeed the same thing can be considered both masculine and feminine by different people within a similar time and place.

      If you agree that what clothes someone likes to wear has nothing to do with whether they are a man or a woman, then you must also think it’s nonsense when men say they “know they are women” because they like wearing dresses and makeup? If there is nothing inherently female about dresses and makeup, and if dresses literally are men’s clothing in certain times and places, then there is no validity to the claim that wearing a dress makes someone a woman. Yet claims such as these are the entire basis for a lot of trans people’s identities.


      • I am glad that we agree. It did not seem so whey you were apparently laying on those crossdressers who might be sexually motivated, but if you limit that to those crossdressers who choose to wear attire that is outright inappropriate for the circumstances [by a gender neutral standard], that’s different. You don’t come to a classical theatre in a fetish maid outfit, whatever your sex. (And I assure you there are women, born and identifying female, who get a kick out of wearing a fetish maid outfit. Some are even lesbian. There are entire subcultures out there).

        As for the claim you describe, I am not aware of this particular claim from any real trans person I know, by any definition of trans.

        Certainly crossdressers who do not have body dysphoria exist, but they usually identify as either men (perhaps “men who like feminine roles”) or bigender/fluid, not as women.

        And certainly male people exist who believe they are women “on the inside” and wear dresses “to match”, but they don’t believe they are women “because” they like wearing dresses – rather, they believe they are women for some reason, and wear dresses because they so believe.

        Also, the current setup might indeed be pushing some to claim an identity they (these particular people) would not necessarily have otherwise. I have just enrolled my elder son into a secondary school here in Ireland known for a liberal ethos. I have not inquired of their trans policy (no actual need and not the time to “do politics”) but they should be reasonably accommodating. And yet there is a strict gendered uniform policy. I would not be surprised if a girl hating these super-long skirts would try claiming a transgender identity to get rid of them.

        Which brings a question to mind – if a girl wants to get rid of the huge skirt, or a boy wants to pierce his ears (allowed for girls), and parents are supportive, might they have some standing in a sex discrimination claim? A nice bit of lawyering… with bigtime consequences. In the US you call the thing Title IX, we here in Ireland call it Equal Status Act 2000. The relevant article: and upon plain reading, 2(c) outright prohibits gendered dress codes. Which are ubiquitous. The list of exceptions does not include dress code. W.T.F.?


        • Re: French maid outfits. I’m aware there are women who wear fetish gear, including lesbians. Again, I think it’s fine to wear fetish gear in the privacy of your own home, or in certain adult-only venues, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to just wear it to the grocery store. I don’t just have a blanket opposition to fetish gear, what I have is an opposition to people making inappropriate displays of their private lives in public places.

          Re: you have never heard of trans people claiming to be trans on the basis of them wanting to wear certain clothes. I call bullshit on that. If you’ve never heard this claim then you haven’t read many articles or watched many YouTube videos by trans people, because they constantly claim to be trans on the basis of wearing clothes. I saw a video once by a teen lesbian whose entire claim to being a “man” was that she liked wearing boxers, and several other videos I’ve seen by “trans men” claim the same thing: they knew they were men because “I preferred wearing boxers, I didn’t like dresses…”
          Article after article about so-called “trans kids” is all about which stereotypes about boys and girls and which marketing campaigns the kids identify with.
          There was even one trans man who believed she was really a boy because she liked Pokemon:

          If you haven’t been noticing the reliance on sex stereotypes and superficial things like clothing choices among people who identify as trans then you haven’t been paying any attention at all.

          And certainly male people exist who believe they are women “on the inside” and wear dresses “to match”, but they don’t believe they are women “because” they like wearing dresses – rather, they believe they are women for some reason, and wear dresses because they so believe.

          This brings us right back around to question #1 again: Why do they think they’re women, then? A woman is an adult human female. On what basis does a human male decide that he is a human female? It is objectively not true that men can be women. A man’s only claim to “womanhood” is that “woman” is an identity that has something to do with makeup and dresses; without that construction of womanhood they have absolutely no claim to it.

          Liked by 2 people

        • I don’t think the claim is really that one was “not a girl” BECAUSE of liking Dragonball Z, more that this was one of the manifestations. (The same link also has other screenshots where body dysphoria is mentioned but ignored).

          Dresses and makeup are not the only non-biological social distinctions between women and men. And a male claim to “be a woman” or vice versa, when not accompanied by body dysphoria, refers to the social definitions as a whole, not just the part about the dress code. There is a huge system of differences that has evolved throughout history. The claim refers to identifying with the definition of “woman” according to that system (known as “the binary”), where dresses are an obvious visible part,not the whole.

          Now, the clash with a radfem analysis is obvious because (most) radfems take this entire huge system and interpret it as a straighforward rigid hierarchy. Therefore they equate a male’s claim to womanhood in this social sense as the equivalent of a master preferring to be a slave, which sounds either disingenuous or insane.

          But this analysis itself is a huge oversimplification, which grows from Marxist roots. A better analogy is a business owner who employed someone (“exploiter” according to Marx) preferring to go into a salaried position (“exploited” ditto). And this actually happens all the time! Even though it is true that a business owner has more freedom, if not always more wealth, and one can speak of some hierarchy in general terms, there are various reasons why particular people stop being business owners and become employees out of their own choice.

          You could moreover contend that a better solution would be dismantling the social system altogether. However, even you don’t want to dismantle some of that system, such as sex-segregated facilities – which are also socially determined, human biology does not require segregation. Thus, even you want a certain part of the gender system to remain in place. I am not saying I would remove these facilities, either – but I am not calling myself a gender abolitionist, I try to look for more realistic goals.

          The system (“binary”) can not be dismantled outright in any quick way because it has so many parts and most people, yourself included, have vested interests in some part or other. It can however be made less rigid. And on the social level, transition can be one of the things that makes it less rigid, especially if some hardcore transitioners are accompanied by loads of fluid gender non-conforming people of various descriptions.

          On the individual level, in the existing situation it is best for some people to identify with “the other box”. Asking them to hold off for higher social interest in some abstract theory is outright cruel.


        • There are entire departments of gender studies in universities, I can’t really make a decent attempt at defining the entire social category of gender in a WordPress comment. The best I can do is probably a Butlerian statement – “woman” is a set of modes of performance expected by “society” of an individual, plus a set of responses to performance that “society” offers individuals. Moreover, “society” expects this set of performances and responses to apply to adult human females. The definition of “man” is similar, but if we try to define “society” we go down a *very* deep rabbit hole.

          “Stereotypes” are to the actual definition what “a long thing that throws a stream of stuff behind it and moves because of that” is to rocket science. The most obvious parts of an existing gender (within the binary of a particular culture or subculture) are very roughly codified as stereotypes. The system is actually huge, and different people will define it in different ways because they experience it in different ways – just like the proverbial blind men describing an elephant. (And yes, I do agree that the radfem analysis, emphasizing the hierarchical aspect of the system, corresponds to the experience of a lot of people – it is a major side, but still only a side, not the entirety of the binary).

          Most people (except those in gender studies) do not go for formal definitions, they go for what they experience as the gender system, and trans people are no exception. A person who does not have body dysphoria has still internalized the performances expected of, and responses shown to, men and women around them through years of childhood and adolescence. They are typically not able to put most of them into words, which is why obvious things like dress or TV shows can come to the fore in a conversation. This happens simply because while the person identifies with a side of the binary in a much deeper way, they have no skill to describe it verbally.

          There are of course trans people in gender studies, and they do go for formal definitions. But I just have not read enough to represent their particular definitions. I also know that the actual definitions will differ across persons, unless one really does a metric ton of research to capture all kinds of experiences at least within one culture. And I am not sure that some trans person (or some researcher working with trans people) has actually done that.

          This does NOT mean that gender is entirely subjective. It is a complicated social system that exists objectively but is normally experienced subjectively. So, yes, I think there can be two persons of the same biological sex and feeling most adjusted to the same performances and responses, and one will transition while the other functions in a satisfactory way within a broadly-cis identity, because their experience of society differs (for example, because of geography or social class).

          And then, of course, some persons DO have body dysphoria. In what I have observed, some of these persons, in both “directions”, will go through a hypercompensation phase – when they will try to identify VERY STRONGLY with their “assigned” gender, follow its performances and expect its responses, hoping to subdue their body dysphoria by “manning up” or “being the best woman”. This is how we get beautiful divas who then disappoint their families by “throwing such wonderful beauty away” and transitioning to manhood. And I think that’s where the ex-military trans women come from, too. I hope actual researchers get to describing this phase eventually.


        • It sounds like you understand that gender is “the things we expect from women” so how is it that you don’t conclude that men who identify with the “things we expect from women” aren’t literally female? You and I are offering the same evidence but coming to opposite conclusions. Men should feel free to identify with the socially constructed aspects of “womanhood” but that doesn’t make them women, and that’s okay.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I am not saying that biologically male people who sincerely identify as women are literally female, inasmuch as we use biological, not grammatical, term “female”.

          I am saying, however, that the word “woman” does not necessarily mean “biologically female”, as it is a social term (much like “marriage”) and social terms can change. Yes, we know what the Oxford dictionary says at present, even though British law says otherwise. But it used to say marriage was a union of a man and a woman, too. If one gender-related social term can change, so can the other.

          I’m a bit old-school on this, I know. There are new statements that sex itself is not objectively fixed, but I’d prefer to wait and see on that. It might be that sex can be fully transcended with technology in the coming decades. I hope to live to the day when a trans woman, or a cis man even, actually gives birth. Or at least to the artificial uterus, making a key discomfort of the female sex optional and also resolving the abortion quagmire once and for all – if the US pro-life crowd meant what they say they would be throwing billions at this one. Anyway, none of the changes have happened, so we are at present locked into biological sex – just as 300 years ago we were locked into very slow travel, and right now we are still locked in the inner Solar System. This does not mean we have to keep our social definitions locked.

          (You can argue that this “transcend and conquer” attitude is masculine. I would definitely want to get rid of THIS side of the binary. There are excellent [cis] women in the natural sciences and technology, there should be more, and one is my manager. I am not naming the high tech company because I’d have to follow up with a huge disclaimer of “not speaking for it”).


        • I insist that woman means biologically female not out of “hatred” for males with gender dysphoria but because human females have a right to a word that describes ourselves and there is no coherent way to define woman other than adult human female.

          Liked by 1 person

        • What’s wrong with “biological females” or “natal women”?

          But here we do come to a big difference. We don’t even differ all *that* much in our analysis of the binary itself, perhaps. You don’t seem to be holding the view that “what is expected of women” is entirely abhorrent – the kind of radfem view that makes MtF “transgenderism” inherently evil because these people somehow want what nobody should want. Surely, I also put more stress on social response (“what women should expect of us”), but perhaps this is technical.

          And actually, the use of the word “man” or “woman” itself is also a part of the binary system, of gender, or in your words, of “what we expect from women”. But I guess you know that already 🙂

          Where we really seem to differ is the priorities for change.

          Mine is to ensure, to the maximum degree possible, the freedom of every individual, including, of course, persons who happen to have been born female. For me “adult females have a right to a word” does not sound that importrant because the freedom of no actual female is diminished when the word “woman” is used by someone not female. (Just like the rights of a traditional married couple are not diminished when a same-sex couple gets to use the word). On the other hand, a society where the word “woman” can be used by someone not female tends to be a more permissive society in general, so the aforementioned female gets more freedom too.

          (The above might sound libertarian, but I am NOT on board with dismantling welfare and leaving health care to the market).

          A rising tide of freedom, and specifically freedom from gender restrictions (which do include the use of words as well as countless other things), lifts all boats. I think that the wide definition of “trans”, such as the one Leslie Fineberg uses, is about that freedom. The context is “warriors”; people might come from very different backgrounds, but they fight for the same thing, not being constrained by “gender”, being free to “transcend gender”, thus they are “trans-gender”. This is a guess, though. I can’t buy the book right now but will ask around the libraries.

          Your priorities, apparently, are more in line with a group rights perspective. Which is of course how radical feminism is defined. Even Catharine MacKinnon, who is not trans-exclusive, is an outspoken collectivist.

          And for the sake of honesty, I have to say many trans activists would also see group rights as more important. This is exemplified by the recent repeat of the “Rachel Dolezal is not like us” mantras, based on some form of distinction between “race” and “gender” as groups. I don’t see why anyone except NAACP (who employed her in a related role) would have any cause to doubt her right, in the words of the Obergefell case, to her “personal identity and beliefs”.

          I have some idea what they would offer as a rebuttal to your idea of a “right to the word” within the group rights space, but I’d rather not speak for them, as I do not share the view.


        • Actually, in the real world, people often identify with something they can’t fully describe. Some obvious examples:

          – “Racial” identity, which is not even something objectively real, but “they know it when they see it”

          – Religious identity of those who are not well steeped in theology, and that’s probably the majority in most religions

          – Patriotism, for many people


        • Not “in any way”, but “comprehensively”.

          Trans people do usually have “a way” of describing their experience. But it can break down under comprehensive questioning, such as “exactly how you define a woman/man” and “how can you be sure this is not about stereotypes”.

          And in a very similar way, try asking an average Irish Catholic why he or she is a Catholic, and not a Protestant. You are very unlikely to hear an extended explanation of the primacy of the Pope, and you are even less likely to hear about current hot issues of debate such as divorce and contraception. If you try some deeper questions, on all these issues and on nearly all theology (except prayer to the saints) your average Irish Catholic might prove similar to a liberal-leaning Protestant.

          But the Catholic still very strongly identifies as a Catholic. Even while ignoring most Papal teaching. Contradictory. yes, but this is how human identity tends to work.

          As for “race”, there is the obvious “skin colour” thing, but there is also the well-known proof that genetic differences within a “race” are bigger than those between “races”. But most people who have a racial identity won’t care about this stuff.


        • There’s a difference between identifying with a belief system like Catholicism and believing that you have a female body even though your body is male. You’re comparing apples to oranges.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Very few biologically male trans people claim to “have a female body” (especially if we are talking about those who either do not need or did not yet have surgery). What they claim, rather, is the social category of “woman”. And it is indeed a social category, just like “Catholic”.

          Both your average trans woman and your average Irish Catholic firmly identify with a social category, yet can not produce a clear verbal definition of the meaning of this category. And both would not fit into the “usual” definition (the trans woman is not biologically female and the Irish Catholic is not submitting to Papal doctrine, and is most likely using contraception and quite possibly having sex outside of marriage). But if they both live in Ireland, they will both happily provide the “papers” (a baptismal/confirmation certificate for the Catholic and a changed birth certificate for the trans woman – the certificate is not hard to get since 2015). [*]

          There is only one big difference one can think of. Most people (Catholic and otherwise) will accept the average Irish Catholic as a Catholic – perhaps a “bad” Catholic, but a Catholic nonetheless. The acceptance of trans people is not at that level.

          [*] as an aside, Ireland has recently become, I think, the first *English-language* country to prove Janice Raymond, Sheila Jeffreys and their school wrong about the link between “pro-trans” and “pro-prostitution”. Not only the same country, but the same government and the same minister, Ms. Fitzgerald, have promulgated two laws – gender recognition by mere self-declaration and the Nordic Model. I have no complete opinion about prostitution, but I do observe that the issues are factually not linked.


        • A lot of them do claim to have a female body, which is why they expect straight men and lesbians to be attracted to them. I think you must be aware of this and it’s suspicious that you’re pretending it isn’t happening. Your comparison to identifying as Catholic is still not working. The Catholic religion comes with a set of beliefs and rituals that can be named. A male human’s identity as a “woman” is impossible to describe without the use of sec stereotypes. Ramendik, are you a trans woman? If so, please tell us what the identity “woman” means to you. If you’re not then maybe it’s time to stop speaking for them.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Actually you are very clearly wrong, because transgender people have a clear and well-defined way of determining who’s a man and who’s a woman: whoever identifies as a man or a woman. And they believe this is an innate, hardwired part of their biology.

          They are absolutely and completely wrong, but I don’t know where you get off saying it’s unclear. It is VERY clear indeed, which is why we criticize it so much. Are you saying radfems have no idea what they’re talking about?


  2. Yes, this is the problem with trans equaling “wanting to dress like a man/woman” and why bodily dysphoria should be the criteria. As in, no “pregnant men” or “lady penis”. You are comfortable getting preggo? You are NOT a trans man. Comfortable using your schlong t impale a woman? You are NO DIFFERENT than any other straight man, no matter what you wear.

    Personally, I would like to narrow the definition of trans to FULL BODY DYSPHORIA. As in, if you feel comfortable with any aspect of your body related, however loosely, to gender, you are not trans. You may have internalized misogyny, homophobia, lesbophobia, or (in the case of a feminine male who wants to use his peen on women), anguish over not being considered “macho” enough by male brutes. Still not trans.

    The only actual trans people are not braying “women have peeenisez and men have peeeriods and baybeez and vajiners!” they are trying their hardest to ignore ( in the case of trans men) or correct (in the case of trans women) the parts they loathe.

    And “non binary” is frankly no different than being a human who hasn’t imitated 100 percent of gender stereotypes according to bodily parts. It should not necessitate a separate category.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So you want people to acknowledge some trans people’s genders, and not others?

      Some trans people are indifferent to their birthbits. Some like their birthbits.

      And how is this supposed to work?

      Are you saying most people are born with body type A and body map A, or body type B and body map B, and some of us are born with body type B and body map A, or body type A and body map B, but no one is born with a body map between A and B or combining A and B? (And that leaves out everything else such as “these hormone levels feel right” A and B.)


  3. Trans-identified males (TIMs) claim to identify as women because of an attraction to feminine clothing or makeup or similar superficialities. But what they really “identify with” is what they perceive as women’s sexual status: of being the rape-able sexual party. Being the one who is “taken,” vulnerable, used, all the pornographic associations the culture imposes on female sexuality – this is what they truly “identify” with, the sexualization of victimhood. Feminine dress is merely a symbol of that sexual vulnerability that they celebrate, which we feminists abhor to the core of our being.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Lori, your analysis is spot on. The clothes are representations of vulnerability, submissiveness and acquiescence; all things that the MtF associate with being ”feminine”.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I prefer cargo pants. I often have to wear ear and eye protection too, because of the noise and strobe bombardment. I’m sick of being vulnerable, and, however arbitrarily, I associate cargo pants with safety rather than vulnerability.

      So while there’s symbolism, it’s not the same symbols for all trans women.


      • Sorry, I posted too quickly. Miranda wrote a very informed response to Juno’s disappointment on finding that “becoming a woman” didn’t turn him into the irresistible cock magnet he imagined himself to be. This was clearly the apogee of womanhood for him: “I strode out purposefully, sexuality ready, as soon as I healed and declared to the world, “I’m here, I’m ready, I’m luscious, I’m open for business or love – you pick, I’ll decide.””

        I have no idea how any person of normal intelligence reaches the age of 40 with such a pathetic, one-dimensional view of female humans. Let alone one who believes they are female, and gets paid to write on women’s issues!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. On a lighter note you might be interested to know that by about the 15th century men’s tunics had gotten so short that they were often flashing their genitalia, leading to some complaints (men’s stockings did not ascend to the trunk of the body). This led to the invention of codpieces, and you might want to scan google images for some pix of them . Boy could they be elaborate. I think it’s only been very recently in western culture that men’s clothing has become so boring. They’ve very often been as peacocky as women in their dress and toilet.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: What makes somebody ‘real’ trans? Part 2 – Kids. | Lily Maynard

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