Androgyny is generally defined as a person who “does not fit neatly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles.” According to psychologists, androgyny has less to do with fashion, but more about how an individual sees himself. Androgynous people “don’t fit neatly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles of society.”
Let’s extend that definition to include individuals who don’t even look like the typical girl or guy, have you seen Australian model, Andreja Pejić?
With her delicate cheekbones, thin frame and sharp androgynous features, she turned the traditional concept of beauty on its head. After she was scouted in 2008, it didn’t take long for her to be dubbed the ‘poster boy for fashion androgyny.’
The former McDonald’s employee was considered so ‘pretty’ that when she signed with Storm Models, she was listed in both its male and female divisions. Pejić walked in both the male and female Jean Paul Gaultier fashion shows in Paris in 2011. Her likeness was so uncanny that an edition of Dossier Journal was pulled from the news stands. On the cover, Pejić posed shirtless with her long blond locks in curlers. Barnes & Noble and Borders deemed the cover too risqué because customers would think Pejić a topless woman.
Since Pejić, the world of fashion has become even more enamored with androgyny. The androgynous look has been valorized, with with male models walking runways in female clothes and vice versa. But while it’s a passing trend in the fashion world, androgyny has existed in the arts for decades. Annie Lennox, David Bowie, and Prince have been praised for their androgynous style for decades, and more recently Ruby Rose.
Some people channel androgyny through the clothes and makeup they wear (Boy George), others have distinctive facial structures (Grace Jones) that stop people in their tracks. Since Pejić, there have been other models that make you do a double take; here are ten gender benders that made us do a serious double-take.
11. Jaye Davidson
Remember Jaye Davidson?
With a simple plot twist in 1992’s The Crying Game, he landed in the record books as one of the most convincing transgender women in cinema history.
Despite being nominated, he was passed over for the Academy Award because movie critics really didn’t know how to nominate him. Some nominated him as an actor, others as an actress, others didn’t know what to believe. He kept the confusion up by doing interviews as an actor AND as an actress.
This ambiguous sexuality allowed him to play the female character so well that even after the big reveal, audiences still doubted his sex. Add his delicate facial features and that big 90s hairdo, and you’ll be just as confused. The part-time fashion buyer quit acting after only two movies, citing an inability to deal with the fame.
10. Erika Linder
Linder is often branded a James Dean (or Di Caprio, depending on who you ask) look-a-like with the way she effortlessly channels 50s cool. Which makes it a shock when she strips down and you see she’s not the flat-chested menswear model you’ve seen modeling for YSL, Louis Vuitton and Tom Ford.
A combination of an impressive six pack, her pale Swedish skin and chiseled cheekbones all add to her bored and brooding look. Her androgynous features also allow her model women’s clothing and lingerie.
In one campaign for a Swedish label, she pulled double duty, modeling the male and female line – at the same time.
9. Saskia de Brauw
Through her modeling career, de Brauw has taken a somewhat unconventional path. Scouted on a metro in Amsterdam, she modeled briefly in Holland, Germany and Belgium. But at 16, de Brauw left the industry to attend art school.
Upon graduation, she started a career as an installation artist and photographer. But three years ago, she dipped her toes back into modeling. With her strong bone structure, slender physique and cropped hair, she proves she’s still got what it takes.
In 2012, the Dutch model became the face of menswear brand, Saint Laurent Paris.
8. David Chiang
Long before strutting on the catwalk, the self-acclaimed nerd was trying to carve a career in the fashion merchandising industry. But when a friend pointed out his similarity to runway models, he decided to give it a shot.
First debuting at the 2010 Milan Fashion Week, Chiang went on to become the first Asian male to walk the runway for Dior in 2011. With his slender 6ft2 frame, shoulder length jet-black hair and high cheekbones, Chiang also models select women’s pieces.
He has since walked for Emporio Armani, Dior Homme and Alexander McQueen‘s final menswear collection. Citing super model, Linda Evangelista, as his muse, the Canadian export says he is often labeled as too feminine; Karl Lagerfeld once described him backstage at a Dior show as a “really beautiful Chinese girl.”
7. Elliot Sailors
When Sailors started modeling in 2001, the former beauty pageant contestant was the poster girl for swimsuits and lingerie. Long supple limbs, flowing blond hair, she soon found herself signed to the Ford agency, modeling swimsuits and lingerie.
In October 2012, she decided to cut off her long hair and try her hand at modeling menswear, in order to extend the length of her career. The model has been described as having a strong jaw, wide forehead and bushy eyebrows. Despite having a vast lingerie modeling portfolio, Sailors says she has been told she looks like a man wearing makeup.
Embracing her features and her 6ft 2 frame, Sailors now wraps her breasts, sports a shaved-sides-and-long-on-top hairstyle and struts her stuff with the best of them. To date, whether its tailored tuxedos or mini-dresses, Sailors switches effortlessly, putting her own spin on the term gender-fluid.
6. Roan Louch
Sailors isn’t the only model embracing gender fluidity, 18 year old Louch also has it down pat. With his navel-length tresses, willowy frame, delicate bone structure and Cara-Delevingne-like brows, it’s no wonder Louch has been hounded by scouts for over six years.
The New York City native finally signed with ReQuest Models in 2014. Though relatively young, Louch has walked the runway for Hood By Air, Gucci and recently became the new face of John Galliano’s new collection for Maison Margiela. He is one of the models hailed as the future of gender fluid modeling.
5. Casey Legler
The multi-talented Legler is a former Olympian (swimming), who also studied architecture and set design. She gave up a scholarship to law school, abandoned medical school and moved to New York to focus on her art, music, and writing.
In 2012, a photographer friend submitted pictures of her to Ford Models. She was immediately signed to the men’s division. This made the 6ft2 Legler the first female model to have a contract with Ford’s men’s division. Her athletic frame, razor-sharp cheekbones and trademark short back and sides allows the 36 year old to rock tailored suits with style and grace.
Legler is also an advocate for removing all gender labels.
4. Elly Jackson
When she first appeared on the music scene, Jackson could have passed for Justin Bieber‘s twin. With her sculpted quaff in the air just so, and a face made for teenage angst, she could pass for the sixth member One Direction didn’t know they needed.
With her penchant for not smiling in photos, tomboy style, an eclectic wardrobe with strict rules (she never wears high heels or a dress), Jackson successfully throws gender stereotypes out of the window. Citing David Bowie and Prince as her style icons, the Brixton-born electro-pop sensation is more at home in trouser suits, brogue shoes and of course her flaming red hair. Little wonder, she is often compared to a young Tilda Swinton.
3. Rain Dove
With her dark features and piercing stare and masculine pout, the 6ft2 Dove looks like she was born for the runway. But she has way more skills than your average runway model. Dove studied genetic engineering and civil law at UC Berkeley, while doing stand up at night.
Her androgynous look has also helped her land jobs outside the fashion world. She has worked in landscaping and construction; even spending a year as a firefighter in Colorado, working under a male pseudonym.
The only reason she attended a casting call was because she lost a bet during a football game. She was surprised to be called back the next day for a Calvin Klein men’s underwear show.
Since her modeling career took off in , she now identifies as an agender model, and has walked at the New York’s Fashion week, and starred in a number of menswear campaigns.
2. Stav Strashko
Did you see the Toyota ad for the Corolla in 2012 with the long-haired blond model in those tiny red bikini bottoms?
Bet you wondered how the company got away with an ad that showed a topless woman.
Well they didn’t.
Meet Strashko, the male androgynous model with an impossibly slender figure, elegant cheekbones and luscious locks. The Ukrainian stands at only 5ft11, which adds to his elfin look and allows him to cash big checks modelling female clothes.
Following a scouting agent’s advice, Strashko poses exclusively as a woman, and has done campaigns for Ray-Ban, L’Oreal and Diesel. He has also walked the runway for Donna Karan and Thom Browne in New York.
Elle magazine recently billed him as ‘the next top model’.
Step aside, Pejić, here comes Pejić 2.0!
1. Ruby Rose
With her chiselled cheekbones and a riveting gaze, Ruby Rose has been mistaken for a young Angelina Jolie. But the boyish haircut, tattoos, ripped jeans, biker boots and hoodies, has led to her also being mistaken for Justin Bieber.
Only a few models can flit between those extremes; all hail the current gender bending queen, Ruby Rose.
Though many viewers first took notice of her in the short film, Break Free, the Australian was already a well known model ‘Down Under.’ For a few years, she even presented MTV Australia with flowing treses and wearing dresses. These days, between appearing in a recurring role in Orange is the New Black, Rose also DJ’s, runs an ethical clothing company and still finds time to model.
The 29 year old identifies as gender queer and chooses her outfits based on how she feels, so you may find her in a dress or in a man’s suit. With a host of starring roles in upcoming movies and her recent award as GQ Australia’s woman of the Year, it all seems to be working pretty well for her