Leopard Print Is No Longer Just For Ladies

Leopard print has been an acceptable, if not staple, part of a women’s wardrobe for years. It isn’t even only a casual pattern: it’s perfectly acceptable for women to wear tasteful leopard print cardigans or sweaters to the office. I’ve even see women in leopard print blazers!

This is potentially excessive!!
However, as is usual in the divide between male and female dressing, such an outlandish pattern has been traditionally considered inappropriate in a male wardrobe. For men, wearing leopard print indicates that you are a) a member of a glam rock band, b) a stripper or c) a stereotypical Hollywood caricature of a camp but sadly tasteless gay man. In short, it hasn’t been considered stylish or dignified in the same way it is in women’s wardrobes, and it most certainly hasn’t been considered understated.

However, 2014 has changed all that as the SS14 collections have brought a flurry of animal prints into men’s departments. I have one thing to say to this: GIMME. GIMME. GIMME. Liking a trend in womenswear and wanting to find an equivalent in menswear sometimes feels like my life, so I am really excited that leopard print is suddenly so much at my disposal. To the extent where, “Stop buying leopard print!” has become my new daily mantra because I’m actually getting worried my existence is turning into a massive leopard printed blur.

Maybe you want in on this new trend. Maybe you don’t believe me that leopard print is taking over not only my world, but the world of menswear. Either way, to help you out on that, I’ve listed some articles of clothing you can now wear leopard printed and where you can grab those goodies below.

1) Shirts
There are a whole lot of leopard print shirts around now! Asos have had them, and I bought a very nice short sleeved leopard print shirt by Brave Soul through asos. As ever, I think a loud print works better with short sleeves so it is less overwhelming.

Shirt by Brave Soul, through asos.
They are also selling shirts with leopard trim on boohoo.com, which I think are a lovely design. However, I bought a small and a medium to try and they sadly couldn’t have fit me less well if they tried. I do not have particularly wide hips (I’m a 30 – 32 inch waist) and they barely did up! Furthermore they were much too long for me – a hazard which comes from male bodies having a long top half and shorter legs, and female bodies being the opposite. Disappointing!

Loved these shirts from Boohoo but not
a good fit for a butch!

2) Jackets
H&M are stocking charcoal leopard print men’s blazers. Very subtle.

3) Trousers
H&M are also stocking trousers in the same material as the aforementioned blazers! They are a slim-fit chino style and on seeing them I threw myself upon them and wept with joy knowing they were what I’d been waiting for my entire life. Or that’s what I did in my head. In actuality, I purchased them then hurried home to show my girlfriend and my Instagram.

4) Sweaters
Leopard print sweater by Zara Men.
One of my favourite recent purchases is a grey leopard print sweater from Zara Men! So obsessed with it. And might I add, very formal friendly! I have also seen more casual versions in Forever 21 men’s department and H&M men’s department.

5) Bags
Again, asos are selling bags with leopard print. Maybe this article should have just been about how asos is stocking leopard print.

6) Underwear and Socks
The ever-lovely asos has been fuuuulllll of the leopard print socks and underwear! I have to say I’m a little hesitant about full-on leopard print boxers. It does feel a little Ron Jeremy. But if you feel you can rock it, please do!

7) Formal Shoes
A year ago, I bought a pair of suede desert boots with leopard trim from All Saints. They retailed at about £200 and I actually thought I missed out on buying them when my size went out of stock. I then came across a Size 7 in a sale and was so super excited that I have to admit I dropped over £100 on them. They are lovely shoes but a large part of my excitement stemmed from I HAD NEVER SEEN LEOPARD PRINT IN A MEN’S DEPARTMENT.

My All Saints boots!
Now, as we’re seeing, leopard print is old news. River Island are stocking desert boots which are totally leopard print (and will be less cardiac arrest-inducing when they pop up on your bank statement than mine were, let me tell you). Asos also had a leopard print desert boot in. The other formal shoe that’s been loving the leopard is loafers. You can find leopard print loafers everywhere – guess where’s a good place to start. Hint: begins with an A.

River Island's more affordable alternative!
8) Sneakers
Leopard print is all over sneakers right now. Stores like asos and Primark which make shoes in the iconic Vans style are selling leopard print ones. I’m also seeing a tonne of leopard print chukka boots. They’re, again, everywhere, but a good first stop is asos.

Leopard print embossed
tie clip from asos.
9) Accessories
H&M stock grey leopard print ties! They are lovely. Also, good old asos (I swear they’re not paying me) are selling leopard print pocket squares and, my own personal favourite, LEOPARD PRINT EMBOSSED TIE CLIPS. I’ve just bought one and we’re so in love we’re considering eloping.

10) Tops
It’s not just on shirts, but is also appearing on t-shirts and vests in a number of different ways: on pockets, in text, even on the whole top. I’m not even going to bother listing shops for this one because you can find it everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

What do you think of animal print in menswear - dashing or disastrous? Have you been rocking any yourself? Let me know if you're loving or hating it in the comments!

Inspiring Individuals: Sarah and Laura

We are so excited to publish our first Inspiring Individuals feature, and doubly excited that it contains not one, but two individuals! Alex and Tay met with the lovely Sarah and Laura, a fellow British and American couple! We were so inspired to hear about all the amazing travelling they've done over the course of their relationship. They are also engaged to be married this year (congratulations, ladies!) and we just couldn't resist asking for some wedding details from the soon-to-be Mrs and Mrs!

Tell us about how the two of you met!

We met at our first jobs in London. Laura had come over from the USA (she is lucky enough to have a British passport - her Dad's from Brentford). Sarah had just moved from her home town an hour outside of London to try city living. The job was a trader training company and was not at all what either of us was expecting! It was crazy, insane, manic and stupidly long hours. At first we disliked each other - we started a few days apart and Sarah viewed Laura as the loud, obnoxious American and Laura viewed Sarah as a quiet, reserved, slightly stuck up Brit. We avoided each other until we were made to work together on an event. As they say the line between love and hate is a thin one.
It took one day of working together to make us inseparable. 
The differences that annoyed us at a distance meant we complimented each other when working together- a fact that is true to this day. Laura's outgoing, sociable, pretty, creative, brilliant at planning and coming up with ideas, Sarah is logical, kind, thoughtful, witty and amazing at getting things done- a complete team!

Tell us about the different places you've lived/worked.

Having met at a crazy job we both decided that we needed a break and recharge so using our savings, Laura's Australian passport & Sarah on a visa we headed to Australia. After travelling from Adelaide to Melbourne we ended up in Sydney - Manly to be precise.
We shared a flat with a guy we rarely saw and were lucky enough to have beaches both ends of the road and Laura's grandparents just over an hours drive away. 
We also had Laura's best friend from childhood just down the road so the 10 months we spent living there were amazing. We did manage to get as far up as Byron Bay and even did a tour of New Zealand - our favourite holiday destination thus far.

After our Oz trip we headed to Laura's home town of Boise where we stayed for a couple of months until our money ran out and Sarah returned back to the UK followed by Laura a few weeks later and it's the UK we've made our home. From here we have travelled to Moscow, Russia, Cairo, Egypt, Koh Samui, Thailand, Iceland, more than a few European destinations with Naples being a highlight and quite a few of the US states - but Idaho will always be our second home!

It's not long till your wedding! Tell us a bit about the plans...

The wedding planning itself has been a great team work experience. From our initial plans to the smallest of our suggestions we have worked with our wedding planner to put together a wedding week. It will start with a bachelorette in Vegas, continue with a trip to Laura's home town and then our ceremony will be held in the beautiful Garden Valley surrounded by the mountains of Idaho. We can't wait to show our friends (and families) the place we love so much.

And what are you most looking forward to about married life?

Sarah: I'm looking forward to the actual act of making the public declaration of our unity in front of our friends and family. I also can't wait to call her my wife, it sounds so official and proper!

Laura: Having the same last name! Proving we are just as much of a family as we feel. And knowing I get to share everything with Sarah for the rest of our lives.

Do you have any advice you would give your younger selves?

Care less about what people think. That's not to say care less about others but I was such a goody two shoes, I always wonder what would have happened if I wasn't. In some ways I think if I had rebelled at all my parents may have taken my coming out better, it blindsided them and wasn't expected at all. Sometimes setting high expectations for yourself and others sets you up for disappointment.
Worry less and smile more, it's something we try to follow together.
We really loved chatting to Sarah and Laura! You can check out their blog at http://sarahpluslaura.blogspot.co.uk/ and also follow them on twitter.

Beyonce's "Drunk in Love" Fails to Empower

Although “Queen B” didn’t grace the Super Bowl stage again this year, her football presence certainly wasn’t nonexistent.  The night before at a Super Bowl pre-game party, Beyonce joined her husband, Jay-Z on stage. Together they performed her recent hit “Drunk in Love.”

Beyonce performing at the Superbowl in 2013

Although a shrewd businesswoman, new mother and loving wife, Beyonce hasn’t escaped criticism. Like most women in the media, it often seems like Beyonce can’t win.  When released that that the name of her recent world tour was to be “Mrs. Carter” there was an outcry from several corners of the web. Other complaints have included: she faked her pregnancy, she’s a bad role model for young girls and that she’s secretly had plastic surgery done on her face 

 It’s tough to catch a break when you’re a female in the limelight, but is it possible that Beyonce isn’t the embodiment of empowerment?

Despite the criticism mentioned above, Beyonce is often cited as a feminist to admire,.  However, it seems that the truth is that Beyonce’s performances aren’t much different than any other barely-clad, overly sexualized modern day pop star.

Beyonce in her music video, "Drunk in Love"

In her recent Grammy’s performance of “Drunk in Love” with Jay-Z  (and in the song’s music video), Beyonce is clad in skimpy outfits, crawling on the ground and generally acting submissive towards Jay Z, while he is fully dressed and remains upright the entire time.*

Although there is nothing wrong with wearing barely-there clothing or shaking your ass, the notion of a women needing to do these things in order to be viewed as equally relevant, sexy and enticing as her fellow male artists or even her husband, is not a message of equality or empowerment.

This isn't much different...

Beyonce’s Grammy’s performance was minimally different than Miley Cyrus’s notorious performance with Robin Thicke at the 2013 VMAs.  The two differences? Beyonce is married to the man she grinded on while Miley isn’t., and Miley received an enormous negative backlash from her performance while Beyonce was applauded.

....than this

Perhaps it’s time for society to stop trying to dictate what women can and can’t do on stage, in the bedroom, or anywhere else for that matter. Better yet, maybe it’s time for women to remain upright and let the men do the bending over for once.

*For an in depth analysis of the problematic lyrics in "Drunk in Love" check out the Time's recent article.

What Makes A Long Distance Valentine's Day Worthwhile?

One of the suckiest parts of a long distance relationship has to be Valentine's Day, right? Everyone else is going out on phenomenal romantic dates while little old you is home, alone, victim of not only miles but the dreaded time difference too. I have to admit, it can be quite sad. I can't even go to Anti-Valentine's Day parties because mindblowingly, after twenty years, I'm no longer couple-hating and single. I was only ever the first one because I was the second one anyways.

Personally though, despite the fact that I'm in the UK and Taylor's in the US, I don't dread Valentine's Day. I don't dread any special occasion which comes along with her and me being a couple - anniversaries of the night we met, the anniversary of our first date (our anniversary in Alex Land), the anniversary of the day we became official (our anniversary in Taylor Land) or, indeed, Valentine's Day. In fact, I actively look forward to all of these, even though we've never spent any of them together.

This may be due to that I have nothing to compare my long distance Valentine's Days too. I am not ashamed to admit that I had never had a Valentine prior to Taylor. It fairly blew my mind when five months into our relationship, good old V-Day rolled around and I still had my beautiful girl by my side. Although the phrase I use is metaphorical rather than literal, this didn't crush my thrill to share such a special day with my new love.

This year will be our second Valentine's Day together. A part of me would love for us to be together in person on the day, but honestly, it's hard to listen to that part over every single atom in my body bouncing up and down and yelling with excitement that I'm actually, genuinely, real life spending another Valentine's Day with someone who I have honestly spent my whole life dreaming about meeting.

And besides, Valentine's Day for us isn't just one day. There's a lot more excitement to it than that. We have a couple of months build up. We have to plan and purchase each other's cards and presents ages in advance in order to send them to one another on time. There's the thrill of planning what we'll get each other, penning beautiful cards and the excitement of telling each other when the other's gift is all wrapped and ready. I always feel super proud and happy when I go to the post office and send a package to LA - it's like a little tangible connection to my girl.

After posting, we wait in turn for each other's package to arrive, and there's a feeling of Christmas, having your gift waiting for you for a couple of weeks while you wonder what it could be. On Valentine's Day, the same as on our anniversary or birthdays, Taylor and I will open our gifts to each other on skype and this is always a wonderful and special moment to share. It's thrilling to see the gift I bought Tay making her smile on the other side of the world.

I am so excited for next year, when Taylor and I will be able to spend Valentine's Day together, in person, and we'll be able to go out on a fun, romantic, swanky date together. But I'm also someone who does not believe in discounting the good things about the here and now. Valentine's Day is famously discounted for being a commercial, consumerist day. However, I wonder if the day is about more than that. While I'd love a glamorous dinner date, Valentine's Day for me is a day to celebrate something much more rare, special and irreplaceable.

For me, it's about that I have a partner who I've been with for over a year and I still love her more every day. I have a partner who makes my heart do backflips when I think about her and who makes me catch my breath when she walks in a room. I have a partner who I still can't quite believe is mine to call my Valentine, even though she's now my Valentine for the second time round. When I think about these things, it's hard to feel like I am lacking anything on earth.