Male Models: The Female of the Species

Casey Legler is a woman working as a male model. She looks wonderfully comfortable shrugging into tailored suits and chomping on cigars. But assigning words to the experience isn’t as easy

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Casey Legler is a woman working as a male model. She looks wonderfully comfortable shrugging into tailored suits and chomping on cigars. But assigning words to the experience isn’t as easy. In an interview in her New York City studio, Legler steers around phrases like “gender identity” and “gender expression” in favor of having a conversation about freedom.

“I understand signifiers. We’re social creatures and we have a physical language of communicating with each other,” she says. “But it would be a really beautiful thing if we could all just wear what we wanted, without it meaning something.”

Androgyny has long been celebrated in the fashion world. Women have modeled as men, and men have modeled as women. Andrej Pejica young male model from Bosnia, made a splash in recent years with his feminine beauty and knack for wearing women’s clothes. (“Andrej is gorgeous,” Legler says. “In many ways, I come ushered in by that.”) But it’s still rare — if not unheard of — for a woman to sign a contract to model men’s clothing exclusively.

Legler landed the modeling gig this summer when her friend, the photographer Cass Bird, invited her at the last minute to participate in the role of a man for a photo shoot for Muse magazine. The photos were shared with an agent at Ford Models, and the next day, Legler was invited to sign a contract to work exclusively from their male roster.

“This is a unique little moment that fashion is allowing to have happen,” Legler says.

Her own relationship with fashion has always been complex. At age 13, she had already almost reached her full height (6 ft. 2 in.) and began swimming competitively in her home country of France.

“It really was just something that I happened to be good at,” Legler says. “My fantasy was always to be able to sit by the pool deck, preferably in a pink tutu, reading a book.”

When she qualified for the Olympic Games in Atlanta at age 18, Legler got together with some of her male teammates and shaved her head, eager to experience the feeling they described of swimming with a bald head.

“That was the beginning,” Legler says. “It was always one of those things: ‘These people get to do it, I really want to do it — why can’t I?’”

After the Olympics, Legler flirted with more traditional paths before coming into her own as an artist. She now works in several media, meditating on themes like time, ritual, mythology and the body. She often appears in her own pieces, using her physicality and movement as part of the work. While her entry into modeling was swift and surprising, she is eager to emphasize that becoming a male model is a natural extension of her art. It also helps that she has forged friendships in the art world, including with photographers like Bird and Ryan McGinley.

“I have a body of work. I don’t think that anyone looking at that body of work and then seeing me as a model would see it as any kind of a stretch,” Legler says. “It implies something interesting. I am not the artmaker in those cases. I get to participate with other artmakers as part of their palette.”

As for being on the men’s roster, Legler says that working as a peer with other male models has been nothing but positive. She looks forward to walking in shows in Paris in January and New York in February, and to following wherever this new role takes her.

“I wish a long and slow career for myself,” Legler says. “For everyone.”

22 comments
PedroVanPeter
PedroVanPeter

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ibtlius
ibtlius

Just like you inadvertently step into the weird part of youtube videos, just realized I strayed too far on Time. Getting the bleep outta here, now!

Valentin
Valentin

She seems cool but haven't you heard of ERIKA LINDER. Who shot with Andrej Pejic (and even had a romance with him)?I, personally, thinks Erika Linder is SO MUCH hotter than Casey. Plus - I think Casey is mid 30s now and unfort that's a bit too old if you ask me. Erika Linder was put up on Men's Division WAY before Casey and has done WAY more editorials as a man and is quite famous so far.. Erika is more than 10 years younger than Casey is and looks so sexy and handsome as a boy and strikingly beautiful as a girl. It's pretty amazing and fun to see how she can be so high fashion and work bot soooo well.

ERIKA LINDER, you guys... Check her out. More interesting.

ElenaOne'A
ElenaOne'A

casey legler is obviously a beautiful body&soul and this article makes me smile but i still ask myself: why does she work as a "male" model or w h y is this significant, if the whole idea of being allowed to do whatever one pleases (freedom) can inspire to find more open concepts rather than put allegedly "new" things (her) in old constrained boxes of thinking (gender binary: female/male). why is this better than modeling as a "female"? what exactly makes the proud moment in being listed in the ford men section? what is the subversive aspect of this unique moment? i couldn.t quite make out what the argument in favor for such a trend was.. and i don.t see it (yet). why not work as a "female" model, since the labels are inaccurate anyway? as she states herself, legler considers herself a woman (sec.38-sec.44) and as i understood working as a male model is an act and a little "weird". i guess, i don.t understand how modeling under the "male" label is helping fluidity of gender expression. hmmh, maybe i just don.t get it... anyway, i guess this article allows for nice discussions to develop. thank you.

tranimal
tranimal

Amazing! and inspirational that gender expression is just that, an expression. 

AlexSamuel
AlexSamuel

@KaiDrawwater I can't believe you would even contemplate leaving such an unbelievably sexist comment. As somebody who has lived as a transman for many many years, I want to say that this comment is given trans people a terrible name. The definition of sexism is people not being allowed to do something because of their sex. That includes people saying you shouldn't live as male although that's not the gender you were assigned at birth. That also includes you saying that women should have their opportunities limited just so you can pass more easily. That is not what the fight for gender equality is about, and with your oppressive attitude you will never get anywhere. True gender equality will be people can just say what gender they are and have people respect that. That will not be achieved by saying women should not be allowed to do everything a man could do. Reality check, if we lived in a proper sexist society where women COULDN'T do everything a man can do, it would be pretty blo*dy hard for you to express yourself as your true identity.

BNE_VA
BNE_VA

Why set limits on what any one person can/should identify as? Kai, you of all people should understand that. She is fabulous.

not_the_cheese
not_the_cheese

Except that this article also cited an example of a man who very capably models women's clothing as well. Any transgender friends I have would celebrate this as a movement towards the fluidity of gender, and acknowledment of the fact that clothes and genders don't define us - we are free to work in whatever frame of mind or fashion we desire...

TerryBaggins
TerryBaggins

@ibtlius awwwww, poor thing. yes, better hurry and return to where everything is either black or white, it's so much easier to handle, right?

nwjerseyliz
nwjerseyliz

@Valentin This isn't a competition. I think Casey is awesome and now I'll check out Linder. No need to be so strident.

tranimal
tranimal

@ElenaOne'A Hi. I think the significance was that a woman can model men's clothes (that were made for men not masculine inspired women's clothing) and be seen in the male section. This, I feel like, is to indicate that masculinity is more than just what biological men possess, that we all possess different types of gender expressions.

auronlu
auronlu

@not_the_cheese This.

A woman being a male model and rocking a dress when she's in drag celebrates the fact that gender is more than binary, and that we each define and find our own place on the spectrum.

And that's just as true with the male model of women's clothes.

Besides, she's fun! Loosen up, man! :) 

apollojaymes
apollojaymes

@TerryBaggins @ibtlius awww lets jsut you and me spit in the face of natural selection and makin little ratarded gender neutral GAY babies... yay. You freaky enough to like it ;-)

Cabodogg
Cabodogg

@TerryBaggins @ibtlius 

Seriously, it amazes me too that there are so many people living in fear to step out of their comfort zone.  Maybe they can learn something new or enhance their life.  There is so much in life to experience and yet some just stay in their little box as the world passes them by.  Very sad.

ElenaOne'A
ElenaOne'A

 @tranimal sure masculinity and femininity are expressed in countless ways by persons of all sexes. i sure can be wrong, but i thought the point that legler wanted to make was to show a fluidity of gender expressions. my question then was why she thinks its helpful to make use of the female/male binary, the very constellation that restricts the notion of female and male, and chooses to be a male model instead of emphasizing that there are other concepts out there (see lgbtiq community). i actually don.t see how this decision is a gain for women, men, transgender, intersex etc. who notedly deal with those questions. i simply find it a little sad that it seems to me that what she actually w a n t e d  to express falls behind the outdated "the woman wears a suit"-shock moment (see marlene dietrich etc.). nobody is shocked or shaken by a suit wearing woman nowadays but conjuring this idea brings us right back to marlene dietrich times. the real story i see  here is the very contemporary issue of the range of identities and sexualities that are out there and which she addresses, but which are made invisible and mute by using only "male" and "female" as labels in our mental vocabulary. hence i think that stating that modeling male fashion is clearing the air for those issues is misleading. well, she.s a soul whose intentions were good. oh lord, but i think she misunderstood.. ;) 

MarcoNegrino
MarcoNegrino

PS. Has nothing to do with Natural Selection, retard.

MarcoNegrino
MarcoNegrino

apollojaymes - Hey, that's an act of war. I would wipe you off the face of the planet in seconds; saving the future of our species, from your nauseating ignorance. Scum.On the bright side. Yes, androgyny is hellishly sexy.And what's with these TOTAL FREAKS who get seriously scared & offended by it!?!?

nwjerseyliz
nwjerseyliz

@ElenaOne'A @tranimal I think this was a matter of Ford signing her to  a contract to model male clothes. This was their decision to classify her based on one photoshoot she did. I wouldn't be surprised if she also has done some female modeling but she doesn't have the standard NYC model look, she's beautiful in a different way than the 15 year old, emaciated look. Thank God.

tranimal
tranimal

@One'A I see what you're saying. Gender is a spectrum and the whole "male modeling" is just re-enforcing social norms that have already been established. But I still think in terms of the "fashion" world and I guess even for Time magazine readers, this reality can be distant from their own. Thus their understanding of Legler needs to be in the container of "male modeling" vs "female modeling". I also see Legler has someone who enjoys messing around with gender and comfortable enough to do that with heels, oxfords, and everything in between. That comfort is what I admire (the modeling in suits is a bonus).


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