interview

Mark Bryan, man on high heels

Recyclart organises an evening with a performance and a discussion about “gender fluid fashion”. In addition to designers and artists, influencer and model Mark Bryan will also be turning the classic dress code on its head.

About a year ago, Harry Styles was the first man to appear on the cover of the fashion magazine Vogue in 127 years. This produced the predictable comments from the conservative camp, as well as the more pertinent comment from actor Billy Porter, who found it strange that with his years-long struggle to be able to appear in a dress on public occasions, he hadn't been sought out by Vogue. Regardless, it was another step forward towards a less binary world with a more gender fluid wardrobe.

American German Mark Bryan is yet another ambassador of gender fluid or hybrid fashion. He is a short-skirted and long-haired maverick because he has embraced wearing skirts and high heels as a straight cisman. The sixty-year-old, who moved from Texas to the lovely town of Schwäbisch Hall in Germany ten years ago, is married to a woman and now has four grandchildren, has gained an army of Instagram followers. The robotics engineer, American football coach and car enthusiast has also been an influencer and model for a year now.

“If you had told me a year ago that I would have 600,000 followers and be on the cover of several magazines, I would have asked you what you put in your pipe,” Mark Bryan assures us. “It certainly wasn't my intention. I've been interested in high-heeled women's shoes since I had a high-school girlfriend 45 years ago who, like me, was just over six feet tall and often wore high heels. I too started wearing it back then and haven't really stopped. First mainly for private use but for five years now, also for commuting to work. For years, I have worked in offices where you are expected to wear a suit and tie. The colours and patterns you can choose from are limited. Just try and find a suit with a nice floral pattern or even one with stripes that won't make you look like a clown. One day, I just didn't feel like wearing grey, black, brown and navy blue anymore.”

When you see the images on Bryan's Instagram, you wonder why more men or women don't wear “different” clothes. Mark Bryan knows why: “Most people assume that clothes say something about their sexual orientation, and they don't want a label put on them that doesn't fit them. Most of the men who wear what I wear may indeed be gay, and a lot of the male models and people in the fashion industry I meet now belong to the LGBTQIA+ community, but that's by no means always the case. My clothes have nothing to do with sexuality. Many of my followers are women who would rather wear men's clothes. So we need to get rid of the fear, the stereotypes and clothes that dictate your gender.”

NOT UNISEX
Bryan, who combines skirt and heels in a “hybrid look” with rather “masculine” shirts, vests and ties at the top, also doesn't feel vulnerable in skirt and high heels. “If you have doubts about what you are wearing you run the risk of people who can sense that taking advantage of it. But I don't have that problem, also because I have my height on my side. People think I can make a skirt look 'masculine'. Nothing in my work environment or my family changes at all because of what I wear. If any strangers ask anything it's how I manage in those high heels, or where I buy my stuff.”

Because Bryan gives others courage and impacts lives through what he does, he would love to expand his role as an influencer at the expense of his current job. But he doesn't want to call his clothes “genderless”. “We will always have gendered clothes because men's and women's bodies are generally different and so, frankly, not everything fits. Genderless clothes are therefore unfortunately rather baggy oversized unisex clothes. The battle will only have been won when people stop seeing a skirt as uniquely feminine.”

HEELS FOR MEN (WITH MARK BRYAN, ANNELIES WOUTERS AND JOHN BOY)
4/11, 19.30, Recyclart, www.recyclart.be

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