Men in Skirts Break Fashion Boundaries

Caroline KwokSAMSUNG CSC
Otokonoko is a full package of skills used to recreate the feminine shape and image, but no sexual desire is fulfilled during the process.

In the 1960s, when fashion designers such as CocoChanel and Yves Saint Laurent introduced trousers and suits for women, it was widely thought to be part of awoman liberation movement. Since then, women who wear men’s clothes are generally accepted and oftenseen as gamine or unisex.

Today, two men from Hong Kong think that high heels and miniskirts should no longer be exclusively for women. They believe that men should not be bound to rigid fashion varieties as women were 60 years ago.

Otokonoko refers to men who dress like women.The concept first appeared in a Japanese manga series“Stop!! Hibari-kun!” by Hisashi Eguchi in 1981, in which a male character, Hibari Ozora, goes to school as a female.

The character was created to mock the popular teen girl manga in the 1980s. This genre of comics regained popularity worldwide in the early 2000s.

“I want to be more feminine than women,” said otokonoko player Tsang Tsing.

In recent years, otokonoko walked out of the two dimensional world of comics and came to real life. For example, on May 1, 2009, otokonoko maid cafes such as “NEWTYPE” opened in Japan. In 2010, an online shopping website, “Lagrangel”, which sells clothing specifically for otokonoko, was founded.

Tsang Tsing, who refused to reveal his real name has been an otokonoko for almost six years. He likes being complimented on his female image which he builds with makeup and clothing. “I want to be more feminine than women,” said the 30-year-old man.

He is in a stable relationship with his girlfriend.Tsang said being an otokonoko did not change his sexuality because it is just another way to express his freedom in different fashion styles.

“It is strange that we can accept women wearing men’s clothing but not the other way around,” he said.“Clothing should not be limited to any gender, it has nothing to do with sexual orientation,” he added.

However, Tsang is worried about the age limit of being an otokonoko. He explained that makeup would no longer look good with wrinkles or poor skin conditions. Plus, men’s body shapes change and it will become difficult to mimic the female silhouette.

Another man in skirt with the stage name of Alisa Lau, 25, has been an otokonoko for about three years.He fell in love with women’s fashion because of the wide variety of makeup and clothing styles, ranging from sexy to cute.

Lau explained that otokonokos not only invest a lot of money in clothing items, they also devote a lot of time practising with makeup and staying slim to create the female figure.

Lau says even when the weather is cozy he still feels hot with the wig on. He once got a heat rash on his scalp for wearing a wig for too long during the summer

Otokonoko is a luxurious fashion attitude. BothLau and Tsang have rented storage units in DiamondHill and Kwun Tong to store their corsets, wigs, high heels, cosmetics products, body-shaping garments and hosieries that added up to more than $30,000.

Lau can only afford to dress up as an otokonoko three to four times a month because of the high cost and limited spare time. He said otokonokos have to resemble females from head to toe, from outerwear to undergarments.

At the beginning, Lau was criticised for his poor makeup skills that failed to hide his masculinity. But he liked the criticisms because they challenged him to improve and strive for a full resemblance of the female image.

Nowadays, Lau said people on the streets often think he’s a woman as long as he does not talk. However,he enjoys being mistaken as female in public because it proves that he successfully blends in with his girlfriends.

Lau, who is also heterosexual, said otokonokois different from sexual fetishism. According to the Oxford dictionaries, fetishism refers to a form of sexual behaviour in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, activity or part of the body. Lau said otokonoko is a full package of skills used to recreate the feminine shape and image, but no sexual desire is fulfilled during the process.

Also different from cosplay, drag queens and gender minorities, otokonokos see themselves simply as heterosexual males who dress up. They don’t do so to entertain nor do their costumes mimic anime characters. Instead, they treat their attire as a style of regular clothing.

Lau’s parents did not object when they learned about his dressing preference because his sexual orientation will not stop him from carrying on his family name. Laus aid some of his previous relationships did not work out because his partners did not accept his clothing style.“Now I would inform my prospective spouse of my hobby right away and my future girlfriend has to accept it, ” he said.

Professional makeup artist, Sharon Lam Yuk-kuen,37, who specializes in special effect makeup, has bee ndoing male transformation makeup for almost six years. She considers otokonoko as a form of role play.

Most of these role play makeup are for drag queens and cosplayers, but seldom for otokonokos.

As a female friend of Lau, Lam does not think Lau is any less macho than other men because his behaviour, his manner and his mindset are all very manly.

From a Christian perspective, Lam sees Lau as a male because she believes that the Bible has a clear distinction between men and women. “I do not discriminate against otokonokos, but I think overindulgence in otokonoko will cause confusion and can harm gender relations, “she said.

Lau and Tsang said they see the otokonoko community growing in Hong Kong because society is increasingly accepting of androgynous gender images.They believe all male players should be able to dress however they like in public.