About a boy
Rebels, adventurers, athletes. Today, tomboys rule the world.
Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin met in 1969 at the set of Slogan by Pierre Grimblata. They didn’t like each other straight away. Jane wasn’t his type. A skinny tomboy, with no bust, real waist or hips – she seemed to him a denial of femininity. Back then, on the walls of his room, hung huge posters of Brigitte Bardot, while in Slogan he would’ve preferred to see Marisa Berenson at his side. But something clicked between them. After a memorable night at his parents’ house they became inseparable. That’s how one of the hottest affairs of the 20th century started and Jane became a new icon for several generations.
‘What I wear doesn’t make me more feminine. If I was a boy, I would’ve been much prettier than most boys I know’ Birkin used to say. The English actress captivated the heart of the biggest French beau with her elevated style. She has also become a model to be followed by millions of young girls around the world, who didn’t feel comfortable in colourful, frilly dresses. Lizzie Garrett Mettler was one of them; in May 2010 she started a blog tomboystyle.blogspot.com. Lizzy: ‘Jane Birkin is the quintessential tomboy. Her hair was tousled at 20, 30 and 40, she wore t-shirts, worn jeans and didn’t even think about it.’ Aside from Jane and her daughters Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon, you can find pictures of young Jodie Foster, Charlotte Rampling, Patti Smith, Caroline – Princess of Monaco, Katherine Hepburn, Alexa Chung, Caroline Kennedy and Coco Chanel on the blog. ‘This project is not only about fashion but also about the context that surrounded it. About who these women were and who they are, the important things that they have said and done’ adds Lizzy.
It all began with Coco Chanel, who was ahead of her time and offered her clients something that they didn’t know was necessary. That is how Chanel started sports women’s fashion. In the 20s of the last century, women started to resemble men in the way they dressed. They prioritized convenience over femininity. Unscrupulously cut their hair short, wore sailor pants and loose shirts. At the time, Victor Marguerite’s controversial book The Tomboy became a bestseller. Sold in more than 750 thousand copies, it somewhat contributed to the change in the existing stereotype of beauty for many women. The main character, a 19 year old Monika Lerbier, bitter from the betrayal of her fiancé, participates in the meetings of feminists, tries drugs and starts lesbian relationships. The Tomboy brought Chanel free advertisement. What the designer offered at the time was Monika’s quintessential style – the natural look of a girl next door combined with being expressively androgynous.
The things girls shouldn’t do
In 1966, Yves Saint Laurent created the classic tuxedo for women, but tomboys became truly fashionable in the early 70s – together with sexual revolution. The term ‘tomboy’ however, hasn’t always been positively associated. Some used to say that girls who wore trousers and liked to play sports instead of playing with dolls, exhibited typically masculine traits, which clearly contradicted with the female role and was socially condemned. Lizzie: ‘I was a tomboy growing up, but as a teenager I became ashamed of this label, it seemed pejorative, wasn’t associated with anything stylish, trendy or cool”. But with the increasing popularity of street fashion and the so-called ‘it girls’, being a tomboy has become not only acceptable, but pretty much obvious. Today it’s normal for a woman to wear man’s clothes. Sneakers instead of heels, worn pants instead of short skirts, preferably a shirt borrowed from a boyfriend, these are the attributes of every respectable contemporary pop culture icon. It’s not just fashion; it’s a way of living, a way of self-expression.
Modern tomboys like Alexa Chung, Agyness Deyn or the latest muse of Karl Lagerfeld, Alice Dellal, can skilfully combine these elements and at the same time keep their femininity. They have that special ‘something’. International press quickly appreciated Lizzie Garrett Mettler’s blog: New York Times, The Guardian, Independent. Aware of the success of Scott Schuman (www.thesartorialist.com) and Yvan Rodic (www.facehunter.blogspot.com), she didn’t have to wait long for proposals from publishers. In April this year, Rizzoli New York released the album Tomboy Style. Beyond the Boundaries of Fashion. Mandatory reading for all tomboys!
6 PRINCIPLES OF MODERN TOMBOYS BY LIZZIE GARRETT METTLER
FASHION MAGAZINE 40/2012