Do the Clothes make the Man?

Social norms define what men and women should, or should not, do — and how they should, or should not, behave, speak, move - and dress. Growing up, men are taught to be tough and never cry; they are laughed at if they like pink over blue, dolls over cars; they are instructed not to talk about their problems. But what if your father dies and you can’t hold back your tears, if pink is your favorite color and if sharing your fears helps you confront them?

Society is judgemental: deviating from socially induced norms results in a “stop acting like a woman,” or “Man up!” response; more often than not, it leads to assumptions about a person’s sexual orientation.

Mano Svanidze’s photographic collage combines images which, without commentary, highlight this juxtaposition. Men portrayed in their casual, everyday “manly” clothes sit next to their same selves wearing clothes normally associated with women.

“I did a little experiment,” explains the Tbilis-based photographer. “I showed just one side of the images to random people in the street and asked them to describe the guys in the shots. I showed one set at the time. To images of the guys in their usual clothes, most peoples said they were ‘students’, ‘cool’, ‘handsome’, ‘book lover’, ‘confident’, ‘smart’, ‘ugly’, ‘macho’… When they saw the ‘other side,’ 40 people out of 50  commented - ‘Gay!’”

Svanidze’s project challenges deeply rooted stereotypes, highlighting what people consider “usual” or “unusual.”

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