Thursday 12 July 2012

Switcheroo. an ongoing project by Canadian photographer (and dance music DJ), Hana Pesut, documented at sincerely hana. Switcheroo consists entirely of ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos – first, of people in their own clothes, and then after they've changed into each other's. The overwhelming instance is of a male and female couple switching clothes.

I was alerted to Switcheroo by a piece at GMP entitled "A Confrontational Gender-Bending Experiment", a headline guaranteed to get my attention. Pesut herself, however, provides no explanatory text, so it's not apparent what her motivation is. Is it a political, cultural, satirical or comedic statement? Is she saying that men and women can wear each other's clothes, or that they can't? That clothes are gendered, or that they're not? That men have more style, or that women do? Is she saying anything definite at all? Perhaps not. Perhaps Switcheroo just seemed like a nice idea and she's running with it. Or perhaps the absence of documentation is the point: she's deliberately not saying anything about what it might mean, not drawing any conclusions, to allow the viewer to bring their own perspective to the photos and come to their own conclusions (if any).

Okay, so. As a cross-dresser, as someone who already finds cross-gendered expression perfectly acceptable, including aesthetically, my main interest is in how the couples look – and for me the results are varied. Sometimes after the swap, they don't look very good at all; sometimes the couples look okay, sometimes they look better; sometimes they both look better in ‘her’ clothes, sometimes they both look better in ‘his’; sometimes that's because the various clothes look good or bad whoever's wearing them.

One reason some couples don't look good ‘after’ is their significant difference in size, with (usually) the men being larger than the women. The changed clothes are then too small for the men and consequently look a bit silly. They'd need to be a size (or three) up for any meaningful assessment to be made – though the women often manage a certain ‘urban’ cool in their now baggy clothes. As for the couples looking good or better: rather than take my word for it, judge for yourselves. The following switcheroos (click on the couples’ names) seem good to me, even if that's a subjective judgment which says more about my own fashion sense than anything else...

The couple both look good after the swap: lina & jim, emma & ejede, west, ainsley & leila — though ejede would probably look good in anything.

They both look better after the swap: clayton & alpha, christina & philip, daniel & hayley — especially daniel & hayley, who look like tourists before; whereas after, they're the epitome of cool, to my eyes anyway.

They both look better in her clothes: dustin & shmoo, maryanne & dmitry, vij & andy — vij should seriously think about throwing his own clothes away.

They both look better in his clothes: steve & monika, garret & judy, brenna & javan — with a nice range of female masculinity too.

And those are just a few of Pesut's switcheroos. There are dozens more on her blog (she's been doing them for over two years now). Here are another three: the first set; a five-way switcheroo; and meeshelle & nathan (who looks totally rad in that dress).

What do you think? :)