Gay Fashion: The New Straight Fashion Youth Radio's Mark Anthony Waters used to hear straight guys in his inner-city neighborhood whisper about his style on the bus. Now, they're copying his look.

Gay Fashion: The New Straight Fashion

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Each week Day to Day brings you a story you actually wouldn't normally hear on national public radio because it's not from us. It's from youth radio. It's a series on cultural trends. It's called 'What's The New What', and this week, Mark Anthony Waters.

Mr. MARK ANTHONY WATERS (Reporter, Youth Radio): What's the new what? I say gay fashion is the new straight fashion. In the hood that is and that's what makes it new. In ghetto neighborhoods in my generation male fashion has always been about blending in.

(Soundbite of song "T-Shirt, Blue Jeans and Nike")

Mr. WATERS: I know you've seen the look before. White T, blue jeans and Nikes. The rapper Keak Da Sneak even recorded a song dedicated to this boring uniform of the street.

(Soundbite of song "T-Shirt, Blue Jeans and Nike")

Mr. WATERS: I wouldn't be caught dead rocking the white T look. I'm all about big shiny sunglasses, sparkling necklaces, tight leg jeans, and this cute (unintelligible) by one of my favorite stores, Didi's Discounts (ph).

Mr. WATERS: What is this? Oh, my gosh I've been looking for this shirt forever. The straight boys who used to whisper about me on the bus, haven't discovered Didi's yet. But they are hijacking my style. It started with artists like Kanye West, Pharrell, and Cam'ron (unintelligible) showed up on the TV screen, suited them (unintelligible) an outfit that I would have picked out back in middle school.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WATERS: Now my uber macho nephew A.R is raiding my closet.

Mr. A.R. (Mr. Water's Nephew): To tell you the truth you got a swag.

Mr. WATERS: A.R. loves that word swag. A.R: Swag is how you dress, it's how you make people just compliment you on everything you do, and even how you walk, that's swag.

I'm so proud A.R. doesn't look like every other fashion reject in a white T-shirt, but standing outside my closet at home I ask A.R. if he thinks my favorite new shirt is swagalicious, his word, not mine. It's got a rainbow pattern. It says 'I will not apologize'.

Mr. A.R.: No disrespect to all the homos, but that ain't my swag.

Mr. WATERS: No disrespect taken because I always dress better than he does. But then I ask A.R. if he'd at least complement a gay boy on a nice pair of jeans.

Mr. A.R.: If they do get something nice on, I will respect it and I will probably let them know that I like the jeans.

Mr. WATERS: Hearing that comforts me. But Duke University Professor Mark Anthony Neal who writes about gender and race, isn't so optimistic. He says straight boys might push the boundaries in terms of fashion.

Professor MARK ANTHONY NEAL (Department of African and African American Studies; Duke University): But not necessarily push those boundaries in terms of the cultures and lifestyles that some of those clothing styles come from. So they could dress gay in their minds, but they still aren't necessarily wanting to have friendships with gay men.

(Soundbite of song "What is Love")

HADDAWAY: What is love?

Mr. WATERS: They don't have to be friends with me. They just better realize they want to look like me. And if Ghetto fashion has always been about looking tough, there is nothing tougher than being who you are without apologizing.

CHADWICK: That's Mark Anthony Waters. He's a reporter for Youth Radio. You can hear all the What's the New What? stories. They're at

BRAND: And you know, I can't see him, I haven't seen a picture of him, I don't know what he looks like, but I want to look like him. I just do. Just listening to that, I want to be him.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from and Youth Radio. I'm Alex Chadwick.

BRAND: And I'm Madeleine Brand.

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