The year was 2016. I was in seventh grade, and it was a few days away from winter break. My sister and I shared the aux in our mom’s car on the way to school. My sister chose a song that would, nine months later, become a renowned Puerto Rican star’s breakout single: “Soy Peor” by Bad Bunny. The track is a sort of trap ballad that foreshadowed how creative and explorative Bad Bunny would become throughout his musical career. That passion for creativity wasn’t confined to the realm of his music — it extended to his personal style.
Bad Bunny, who created a platform for himself as a Latin trap and raggaetón singer-songwriter, is known for experimenting with different clothing styles, evidenced in a number of his songs’ music videos. His fashion has become increasingly unique as he grew more comfortable testing out unusual styles and articles of clothing. While some of his clothing is simpler, like the peach-colored set worn in the “Si Tu Novio Te Deja Sola” music video in collaboration with J Balvin, he has also taken fashion risks. A noticeable choice was his red latex set, orange/yellow-toned dress and black set he wore in the “Yo Perreo Sola” music video, all while dressed as a woman. The artist has worn makeup and painted his nails, a concept many of my male Puerto Rican friends — and other men, I’m sure — found ridiculous before they saw Bad Bunny do it.
I’ll admit that occasionally wearing makeup in music videos and painting his nails vibrant colors isn’t revolutionary. Bad Bunny’s efforts of this sort will not single-handedly dismantle years of patriarchal gender stereotypes. Nonetheless, coming from a culture that constantly feeds into “machismo,” his actions are highly effective and inspiring among Latinx men, especially teenage boys, who largely comprise his fanbase.
In an interview with E! News, Bad Bunny explains how proud he is of the impact he has had regarding self-expression through fashion, especially in the Latinx community. He mentions that his fashion choices are a reflection of his evolution as an artist and individual and that, with time, he has been able to express himself more freely through his style, an accomplishment he is proud of. He goes as far as to credit himself with inspiring Latinx men to be more creative and comfortable in their styling choices, but also emphasizes how he has been influenced by the “new generation” that is “creative and daring with their fashion.” While he recognizes his effect, he is also thankful for others, making sure to note that his efforts are not a solo job; he is constantly influenced by those he simultaneously looks to impact, a collaboration that is inspiring in itself.
Bad Bunny also takes classic male clothing like a suit and gives it his own spin. In 2018, just two years after his music began to blow up, he wore a purple, metallic suit with an eccentric embroidered pattern, silver and gold jewel detailing and purple glasses to Billboard’s Latin Music Awards. In 2020, he performed on The Tonight Show wearing a light pink mid-length suit jacket with black flower detail. He paired this with a long black skirt and dangly gold earrings. His combination of men’s and women’s fashion reached an all-time high with his 2022 Met Gala look featuring a floor-length dress and hair beads. In an interview with Vogue, his stylist, Storm Pablo, said the dress was a “new thing” for them. His hair, too, was styled in a feminine up-do, with little golden flowers added as detailing. He wore tiny, gold hoops for earrings, all while keeping his beard trimmed, contributing to an androgynous final look. The fact that there are timelines of his style evolution and lists of his hottest outfits reflects how influential his styling choices have been to his target audience and to anyone who engages with the media.
Bad Bunny isn’t the only male artist using fashion to experiment with and break out of gender stereotypes. Another artist often praised for dressing in feminine clothing is Harry Styles, who has faced his fair share of controversy and backlash regarding his fashion choices. While Bad Bunny and Styles are not the first (and hopefully not the last) celebrated artists to wear skirts and dresses, their efforts to promote gender fluidity in fashion aren’t without impact. The artists have even come to each other’s defense: Bad Bunny stood up for Styles after he was criticized for wearing a dress for the cover of a 2020 edition of Vogue.
Bad Bunny’s embrace of a more experimental style doesn’t mean that, as a Latinx man (or any man), you have to start wearing traditionally feminine clothing. You can continue wearing the same jeans and T-shirt with a cool pair of Nike sneakers and you’ll be fine. But Bad Bunny has undeniably impacted and continues to impact men’s outlook regarding gender fluidity and has helped them become progressively more comfortable in expressing their own femininity.
If anyone still thinks it’s weird for men to dress in skirts and dresses, wear makeup, paint their nails or engage in other fashion activities seemingly “reserved” for women, it’s time to realize they’re wrong. Clothes aren’t gendered and, thanks to efforts by artists like Bad Bunny, that patriarchal idea is beginning to crack for men. So, men, this is a call to add a bit of “sazón,” to your style as Bad Bunny would say in his song “El Apagón.” Dressing outside masculine norms isn’t a challenge toward masculinity; rather, it’s an embrace of self-expression.
Daily Arts Writer Graciela Batlle Cestero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.