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The benefits of 'man repelling'

Leandra Medine, creator of <i>The Man Repeller</i> blog.

Leandra Medine, creator of The Man Repeller blog.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a certain wardrobe is not going to get laid. ''Man repelling'' has helped many women feel more comfortable in their own skin while wearing spiky accessories and sequined jackets, but on the other hand being OTT often scares and confuses those with the XY chromosomes.

It has taken almost 30 years, but I've finally found my style spirit thanks to a fast-talking, piss-taking, 23-year-old New Yorker named Leandra Medine, creator of The Man Repeller blog, which spurred on a fashion movement and gave birth to what quickly became my favourite verb.

The not-so-sexy style reached our sartorial shores at the 2012 Australian Fashion Week, and even earlier for our northern hemisphere comrades, but come Monday it will no doubt be on show once again when the fashion pack descend on Carriageworks for the 2013-14 spring-summer and cruise shows.

Blame it on the fast fashion chains that churn out international trends quicker than Usain Bolt on the track, such as Topshop and Zara and the impending arrival of H&M down under, but for the upcoming seasons, be prepared to say hello again to cartoon characters and crop tops and goodbye to your bloke.

''Initially what defined me as a 'man repeller' was my conscious effort to wear clothing that was attractive in my opinion but not necessarily in a man's opinion,'' Medine said in filmed Q&A where she was both the interviewer and interviewee. ''The whole blog is based on this premise that I'd been dating these three guys and none of them would commit and I just didn't understand why.''

When she launched the blog from her bedroom in her parent's Upper East Side home in 2010, Medine told The New York Times: ''I think men like things tight and simple. It's not even about slutty, tiny dresses from Bebe because that's not very becoming of a woman, either. But to guys, harem pants don't exactly shape the body, shoulder pads are unusual because you look like a linebacker and sequins are a cry for attention."

Medine's comical and self-deprecating influence will continue to grow once her first book is published later this year. The collection of essays was given the working title Man Repeller: A Series of Short Stories About Alien Life on Earth but it has been toned down to a more austere Seeking Love, Finding Overalls.

Through her blog and social media voice, Medine serves up a refreshing dialogue considering we rarely go 24 hours without copping a glimpse of Miranda Kerr's taut thigh, witness Kim Kardashian uncomfortably dressed to impress Kanye West or read about how perfect Beyonce is. ''This pic could single-handedly destroy the self-esteem of an entire nation,'' Rihanna once posted on Instagram under a photo of a blinged up Mrs Carter.

There is hope for the fashion savvy single girl, though - Ms Man Repeller, like Beyonce, got hitched to a guy who likes her very much. Just as she is. When she wed, she wore the longer version of a Marchesa dress Miranda Kerr famously paraded down the red carpet at the 2011 Met Ball. However, she added her own flair with a white satin biker jacket, white leather vest and gloves. She refused to buy a wedding cake and instead invested that portion of her big day's budget in a selection of new Celine handbags.

While fans of The Man Repeller may think it's all about ''psoriasis jeans'', hairy legs, furry shoes and how many bracelets and charms can be stacked on one's arm for an ''arm party'', Medine has always said female empowerment is the most important achievement of her blog.

Empowerment rather than consciously constructing an outfit to make a man's skin crawl is what made me change my mindset not just about dressing but for day-to-day situations.

Soon after I discovered The Man Repeller, I picked up a copy of Run Fat Bitch Run by Ruth Field.

In the same take-no-prisoners, like-it-or-lump-it tone as Medine, Field's exercise manual has taught me how to stop worry about how I look when I exercise and just ''get shit done''.

''I will whisper in your ear 'YOU FAT BITCH' when you are contemplating one more roast potato. I am the voice you need to listen to and obey,'' Field writes.

I still think I have 16 chins when doing sit-ups and I am an open-mouth breather when I work out, but I'm now at a point in my life where I'm just as comfortable in sneakers, covered in sweat, as I am in heels and high-street garb.

Who knows if it's maturity or if I've just started listening to the right external, no-nonsense voices, but I can now run five kilometres and will quite happily assert myself when someone (who isn't Anna Wintour) decides to critique or discriminate against my wardrobe choices.

Small wins in the big scheme of things, but I've never felt more comfortable in a world full of Photoshop and plastic.

14 comments so far

  • But you're still angst-ing about the guys. You are thinking about the men when you dress to repel them. Guys sometimes dress to impress girls, or the boss, or someone else, but mostly dress in what they like the most - disregarding whatever anyone else thinks. Key point being that they are not thinking about you when dressing.

    Date and time
    April 04, 2013, 3:16PM
    • I'm hoping that the lack of comments for this piece are a reflection of my reaction: speechless at how jaw-droppingly ridiculous it is. Man-repelling clothes? You mean COMFORTABLE, PRACTICAL, NOT-CARING-ABOUT-WHAT-ANYONE-THINKS-NOT-EVEN-A-MAN clothes? You know what? It's not the wrapping, it's the contents that attracts anyone, of any gender. Gain some meaningful content and see how the situation changes.

      Date and time
      April 05, 2013, 10:14AM
      • The benefit of “man repelling”??? perhaps this meant to be titled “The benefits of replling love from men”?? It’s a little immature Jenna and demonstrates poor literary/journo understanding of the universally understood journo concept that “Love makes the world go around”. Sweety, there are many ways to express intimacy with someone of the opposite sex, and physical contact is just one. …. The message of your article appears to centre around “the benefits of withdrawing love for others if a girl does not get what she wants” which might include a commitment, a baby, money, gifts, a fast car, nice dress, shoes. Quite a pathetic article considering there is a strong possibility that your article might influence the community into pursuing self gratifying, impulsive opportunism… it appears to be more about hardline negotiating tactics in the psychological warfare with a loving partner??? A little confusing? Perhaps sending amessage about effective communication might be little less pathetic?

        swinging voter
        Date and time
        April 07, 2013, 10:24AM
        • What ????? the article is slightly obscure but your comment is so difficult to decode it comes across as a random series of sentences that just happen to be sharing the same paragraph.

          The point of the article is that, for women, it's (becoming ?) ok to stop worrying about what other people think and just dress in a way that pleases them. But this is only a new concept to those who studiously follow fashion. It's also a very Anglo thing because in Europe most people, not just women, don't seem to slavishly follow fashion. I mean, we all follow fashion because it's to a degree unavoidable, but in Europe it's ok to dress in a way that is classicaly fashionable but not necessarily what has been dictated as fashion law for the current season. This is so much more liberating and interesting but may require more confidence about self image and individualism than many in the English speaking world seem to possess.

          Date and time
          April 15, 2013, 10:02AM
        • @haveasay

          I am also guessing the intention of this article is female empowerment by boosting self esteem. My concern is that Jenna is suggesting a high correlation between female fashion sexualisation and self esteem. This article is bubble gum for the brain and could just as easily be written by a teenage girl who is struggling to find an identity and is wrestling with the sexualisation of fashion to gain attention from boys. Why is the article in the Sydney morning herald and not “Dolly”/”Cleo” etc? The concern is that women blindly follow the philosophy identified by Jenna,.... that.... fashion sexualisation is now occurring in pre-pubescent girls. Divorce rates are through the roof….
          Boosting self esteem is about focusing on a positive direction, like climbing a mountain to feel better yourself… or going for a walk… or live life… or occasionally dressing up to feel better about oneself. According to psychologists, self-esteem is based on finding a balance between 2 factors….1.) love/compassion and 2.) individuality/dignity/individualism. Self esteem is developed by setting goals and achieving those goals.
          Is a girl’s self esteem really dependent on the way she dresses in order to generate love/compassion by getting laid or pushing men away by deliberately wearing man repelling fashion sense? The tension caused by the see sawing between crushing someone with excessive love (eg sexualisation of intimacy) and pushing them away with man repelling philosophy , is one of the biggest tensions to exist since “before Jesus was a baby”.

          swinging voter
          "Dolly" editorial office, we want Jenna on the payroll
          Date and time
          April 17, 2013, 6:18PM
      • This is a very insecure article. I even started feeling insecure while reading it. I did not like it at all! I do not get on here to complain about what one writes but in this instance I found this to be very strange, very... immature, and very shallow.

        Date and time
        April 08, 2013, 9:26AM
        • I'd been dating these 3 guys and none of them would comit....I couldn't understand why?
          What guy wants to commit to a woman who dates other men?
          Why should they comit if she won't?

          Date and time
          April 08, 2013, 4:26PM
          • That's the entire crux of the article in a nutshell right there. It's probably also, in more cases than not, the reason that men get tagged with the "won't commit" label. I've dated my fair share of women who I knew were dating other guys, as soon as I did know, I was out of there. They come chasing but by then you are done, and they don't get it. Loyalty ladies. Learn it.

            Date and time
            April 18, 2013, 9:38PM
        • Lol at men repelling

          "be prepared to say hello again to cartoon characters and crop tops and goodbye to your bloke"

          "'psoriasis jeans'', hairy legs, furry shoes and how many bracelets and charms can be stacked on one's arm for an ''arm party'"

          This is not men repelling, this is targeting a different demographic of men

          Date and time
          April 09, 2013, 2:32PM
          • I have a good friend who introduced me to the concept of Divorce clothes. She pointed out that once a woman starts wearing clothes which look pretty to her but like something the mans great aunt might wear then the marriage is doomed. I could see what she meant and have kept that type of clothing to wear when I am certain my guy will not see them. Clothes for a woman's eye but not a mans.

            Date and time
            April 11, 2013, 11:37AM

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