A quick note before I get started: This is not about reinforcing the gender binary, nor is it a criticism about knitting being too feminine. We are not claiming that men are discriminated against in knitting, but suggesting that perhaps we need to cater better for their traditional body shapes and fashion styles.
It is entirely up to every individual to choose to wear the clothing that they feel most comfortable in and that best represents how they feel. I refer to male and female in this post because that is how the items are defined on Ravelry. This is more about trying to help those choosing to create classic menswear to be able to easily access those patterns. To be able to see them on models that are male in appearance to have an idea of fit, without having to sift through traditionally female knitwear patterns featuring female models in order to do so. It is also about a distinct lack of traditional menswear style knitting patterns that are of a more modern top-down circular-knitting design style. Whatever your choices on your own personal appearance, the ability to find the items that you are looking for is important, and unfortunately for those looking for 'men's' knitwear, this is very much an issue.
My lovely friend Pitou posted on a mutual Facebook group recently about the frustrations he has had trying to find decent male knitting patterns. Until then I must admit that I had no idea how bad the situation was, trying to find a decent pattern for a sweater designed for men that would also be an enjoyable knit. For me and many other knitters this involves working in the round, usually top-down. I decided to look into it and see what it was actually like on the pattern-platform Ravelry.
The short answer is that it's pretty dire.
Did you know that there are over 589000 knitting patterns on Ravelry? Out of these, only 41000 are tagged 'Male', with only 28000 for adult men.
However, if you actually look at these patterns, you find that they include very feminine items such as bralettes (2nd image along on the 2nd row in the picture above), butt-shorts (3rd image along on top row) lace shawls, and cardigans that are very much designed to fit a female body shape (8th image on the top row). On that first page of 'Male' patterns (48 in total), only 2 feature identifiable male models.
Narrowing this down to look specifically at sweater patterns, there are 6277 patterns marked 'Male'. Over the first 10 pages of these patterns, that's 480 patterns, only 204 feature male models - that is only 42.5%.
Narrowing down further for top-down in-the-round sweater patterns, which most knitters find more enjoyable to create, there are only 458 patterns for adult males as opposed to 5264 female patterns. Of these 458, 313 are also tagged female. Again, looking at the photographs of all of these patterns, of the 449 with photographs, only 162 (yes, just 162!!) feature a male model - this is just 36%. The whole of Ravelry - over 589000 patterns, only 162 male sweater patterns knitted top-down in the round and actually designed for men.
This doesn't feel nearly enough and I think we owe the male knitters, as well as female and non-binary knitters looking for enjoyable male sweater patterns, a much better selection! I can't help feeling that if the tables were reversed and only 36% of patterns tagged for adult females showed an adult female modeling, then there would be a (justifiable!!) outcry, and I think we need to do better.
So - what am I going to do about it? Sadly I don't think there is much I can do about the situation on Ravelry, though I do plan on messaging them and discussing the situation. What I am going to do is create a selection of sweaters designed with classic menswear style and fit in mind. The idea is that these will be (for the most part) top down, and definitely in-the-round. They should be enjoyable to knit, (the ones I don't enjoy don't get past the design stage!) which for me means that it shouldn't be too repetitive or boring and there needs to be a change to look forward to, such as in pattern or colour. It does also need to fit comfortably and look good at the end too!!
So this is where you come in! I would love to have your opinion on what you want from these designs so that I can create projects that are going to be enjoyed by those who make them and appreciated by whoever is going to wear them. As such, with the help of Pitou, I've designed a quick survey for you to give me some input.
Please visit the survey page here and fill it out if you can. Hopefully together we can try and get more decent mens' sweater patterns out there!