Men’s chokers are a thing now, so I wore one on a night out
If being fabulous is a crime, lock me up
by Bobby Palmer
It’s a Friday night in Shoreditch, and the barman is visibly recoiling as I lean in to order my pint. Granted, I might be speaking too loudly. Maybe he’s not a fan of my aftershave. More likely, though, is he’s not taken a liking to my choker.
Come on mate, I want to tell him: it’s 2017. Clothes are genderless now, as the likes of Jaden Smith and Kid Cudi have proven. So was it really any surprise when ASOS announced last week that they were debuting chokers for men?
The popularity of the choker has exploded in the last few years, and now it seems men want a slice. Or maybe they don’t. Regardless, ASOS think they do and everyone from Harry Styles to Matt Lauer is wearing them, so I decided to clip on a choker for a night down the pub to see if the average Friday night is really ready for men in satin dog collars.
I’ll say it before you: I look like a fucking idiot, as if I’m trying to skimp on my costume for a tarts and vicars party. I put it down to the fact I didn’t really match my choker to my outfit, confident I’d probably have looked cute af had I paired it with a Forever 21 velvet bralet.
Still, this was my average pub outfit, and for the purpose of research this was to be an average night at the pub in all other respects. So, throat suitably clasped, I headed out to see what the world thought of my bold new look.
Which takes us back to the bar, and the recoiling barman. It seems to be a trend – the general male disgust, that is, not chokers. The people in the queue look at me with bewilderment, but at least they’re keen to avoid being seen near me. “That’s one way to clear a bar,” the old gent next to me with the half-drunk Doom Bar observes.
I’ve ordered a pint for me and a vodka soda lime for my friend, but the barman pointedly sets the beer down on the bar and presses the vodka into my hand. If a man in satin neckwear can’t enjoy a lager here without judgement, maybe this isn’t the establishment for me.
After all, why can’t I wear a choker? Because I look like a tool and it’s meant to be for girls? Leave those outdated ideas in the mid-noughties, pal. This is a brave new world, and I’m embracing it with open arms.
By the next pub I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable, although I can’t help but immediately blurt out that it’s for an article when I bump into a friend in the smoking area. “It’s a conversation starter, at least,” she generously says.
When her boyfriend comes over, I resolve not to mention it and see how he responds. “Hi mate,” he says, and shakes my hand. “Nice choker!”
As far as I can tell, he actually isn’t taking the piss. Maybe it’s not as outlandish as I first thought. This is East London, after all.
Then, as if to knock me down a peg, the girls I’m with go to the toilet and I’m forced to wait on my own like a ribbon-tied mug. It’s back to awkward stares and uncomfortable daggers, not least from the guy who’s telling his girlfriend he doesn’t want to be here because “All Bar One was doing bits.”
The reception elsewhere is just as frosty. Within seconds of a picture going up on Facebook, my old housemate has messaged me to share her disapproval.
One guy I’m talking to does ask me if I’m OK, though, and it’s only then that I realised how much I’ve been clawing at my neck and swallowing. Girls have the upper hand with chokers when it comes to lacking Adam’s Apples, and mine feels as though it’s been vacuum packed in perspex like a fashionable yet uncomfortable Ken doll.
Another girl points it out, and we spark up a conversation.
“Do you think it’s a good look?” I ask.
“Well, I’ve never seen a man in one,” she replies, with the insinuation that she wished she never would.
My mum doesn’t seem to be a fan either – at least for my own personal safety. I’m starting to wonder whether it’s the choker that’s the problem, or those who’d drag me down for being brave enough to wear it.
Regardless, I’ve basically forgotten I’m wearing it by the time I’m at the final bar. Maybe it’s the beer, but I’m starting to think it’s actually improved my confidence, giving me a ballsiness you just don’t get unless you’ve surrendered your masculine dignity to a 15 inch piece of cheap black satin.
I could get used to this, I decide, until a guy I vaguely know from uni walks in and I try with all my might to hide behind a group of strangers because holy fuck I cannot let him see me with this monstrosity around my neck.
The male choker. I’ve tried it, and it’s probably not a gamechanger – but, like the man braid and the male crop top before it, it’s nice to be able to add something to our repertoire which our stiff-upper-lipped forebears would have scoffed at. Do I think it’s a good look? Nope. Do I think it’s going to catch on? Not a chance.
Would I wear it again? Absolutely.