In a refreshing twist in the fashion world, young Chinese women are spearheading a transformative trend called the “old man style.” Characterized by oversized men’s clothing, this trend resonates deeply with those who prioritize comfort and are looking to challenge societal norms about body image. As women face unrealistic standards and sizing discrepancies in women’s clothing, many are turning to men’s wardrobes as an act of empowerment and self-expression.
May, a Gen Z Chinese woman, embodies this shift. Weighing just 50kg, May often finds herself unable to fit into women’s apparel sized lower than XXL. Her journey towards embracing men’s clothing began innocuously enough, during a shopping trip with her father. Delighted by the fit and feel of men’s clothes, May started wearing them not only for comfort but to “feel respected again,” she told Sanlian Lifelab.
May’s experience isn’t isolated. Across the Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu, stories like hers abound. User @Waayikou shared her astonishment when an XL camisole, purchased online, turned out so small it seemed suitable for her toddler self. Such narratives highlight the skewed sizing metrics and perceived body-shaming inherent in women’s fashion.
The popularity of the “old man style” is evident on Xiaohongshu, where the hashtag #laotoufeng (#oldmanstyle in English) garnered 66,000 views, reflecting a widespread resonance. Enthusiasts are quick to enumerate the perks of wearing men’s clothing. Some appreciate the generous cuts, which they jokingly say are tailored to accommodate a “man’s beer belly.” This relaxed fit offers liberation from persistent concerns over slight weight gains or wardrobe mishaps. Additionally, the timeless color palette—often dominated by blacks, whites, beiges, grays, and navy blues—means these clothes are less susceptible to fleeting fashion trends.
Taking a broader perspective, some Chinese women also relate this trend to the global surge in genderless fashion. They point out the diminishing lines between male and female fashion in global brands, with one user quipping that men’s clothing at Zara closely mirrors women’s styles at high-end brands like Balenciaga.
In professional spheres too, the “old man style” finds takers. Many female office-goers believe that wearing men’s clothes lends a “professional and mature” vibe. For instance, Shanghai-based Azaki confessed her preference for such apparel as it allows her to work without fretting over potential stains or dirt.
However, there’s also a pragmatic angle to this shift. Women are realizing that men’s clothing often comes at a significantly lower price point. On Taobao, China’s premier e-commerce platform, a men’s vest costs roughly 20 yuan (US$3), whereas a similar women’s item can command three times that price or even more. This disparity has sparked discussions about the “pink tax” – the controversial practice where items marketed to women are priced higher than their male counterparts, even when they’re essentially identical.
In essence, the “old man style” trend among Chinese women isn’t just a fleeting fashion statement. It represents a broader commentary on societal standards, gender norms, and consumer economics.