Why Are Men’s Fashion Terms So Unmanly?

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A model holds a murse as he walks down the runway during Milan Fashion Week on June 19, 2011.

We’re bound to see an influx of groundbreaking men’s garb as Fashion Week struts into New York. But what do we call some of these brand new items?

Fashion is hardly thought of as being manly. After all, what self-respecting dude would admit to admiring the way a shoe fits or the way a pair of pants is hemmed? We kid, of course – it’s no secret that more men have started to take an interest in the world of couture. And designers are wising up to the fact that men are seeking to be just as fashionable as women with entire lines of items once reserved solely for the fairer sex.

The Wall Street Journal notes that there is a host of repurposed and redesigned garb once created only for women. Sandals for men, purses for men, even fashion-forward swimsuits for men. But what do we call these creations? Surely they cannot take on the same name as their counterpart clothing made just for females. No way, that would insinuate that men enjoy the same fashionability. So, as reportorial lingo would have it, it’s easiest to add the word “man” to the beginning of the name. We have mandals, murses, and even mankinis.

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But really, how do these portmanteaus make the vetements any manlier? If anything, the man- names call even greater attention to the fact that the item was once inherently feminine. Men need original names for their newly adopted clothing items, in order to fully break from the female characteristics of sandals and purses. Now you’re waiting for NewsFeed to christen such terms, right? Truth be told, it’s often the media’s fault for introducing the man- prefix, as writers are unsure of what else to call the items in print. Wordsmiths as we may be, we’ll let the fashion world dictate the new vocabulary.

The Journal cites a study from market research group NPD that saw men’s clothing spending rise 4.6% in the first half of 2011, while women’s spending dropped 0.8%.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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