Attitudes to gender are moving faster than ever. There’s only 2 options, you’re either a boy or a girl, right? No, not really. Or at least no more. It seems our attitudes to gender are becoming open and fluid by the day.
Not too long ago, gender roles were largely straightforward. There was a direct link between gender, aspiration and expectation, such that women were generally expected to keep house, and men to bring home. However, it perhaps comes to no surprise that millennials are leading the change against traditionally accepted gender expectations- thank god. I am glad that my generation has fewer attachments to traditional social, political and religious institutions than previous generations did. Our generation is much more relaxed about same-sex marriage, homosexuality and non-traditional family structures.
In culture at large, we are seeing a slow blurring of lines between gender customs and stereotypes. Fashion designers are increasingly turning to unisex fashion, with androgynous oversized tops here and skinny jeans aplenty there. Menswear designer J W Anderson’s 2014 collection for Loewe was shown on male and female models, whilst Saint Lauren sent men and women down the runway in glamorous but nonetheless gender-neutral outfits for its SS15 Psych Rock collection.
When designer Rad Hourani sent a fleet of male and female models in silver mask down the catwalk in gender-neutral clothing at his SS14 couture show, he cause quite a stir. This was the first time unisex cloting had been shown at a couture fashion show. It wasn’t however, the first instance of fashion disregarding gender; a number of designers have recently experimented with gender in various ways.
Designer JW Anderson has challenged the confirmity of male clothing by creating menswear with exposed shoulders, knee-length tops, and even leather dress. Or how deisnger brands like Raf Simons and Prada both opted for a mix of male and female models at their menswear shows at PFW this year.
So how did we get here? Why is the fashion world, which previously split its presentation of womenswear and menswear, now coalescing under one ambigious-gender banner?
This can partly be explained by aesthetics. A growing section of today’s fashion consumers now prefer to dress more simply, so the details and embellishments that typically helped differentiate womenswear from menswear are less evident. Fashion brands such as Acne which produce clothing in simple cuts and muted colours are on teh rise. Alongside this hunger for minimalism there has also been a change in purchasing habits. Consumers have become increasingly comfortable with buying and wearing items originally intended for the opposite sex. Just look at the swathes of men who walk in female department stores in search of the skinng lood during the noughties.
It’s not about gender any more, it’s about how you feel as a person on that spectrum of what is known as boy and girl. It’s a trend that’s seeing fashion consumers, previously constrained by gender divisions, buy into brands that experiment within this gender spectrum. Genderless fashion helps to legitimise people wishing to free themselves from classic gender dressing.
With fast-fashion stores hungry for new trends, it might not be long before gender-ambigious clothing, or at least a watered-down version of it, is seen across all mainstream fashion retailers. Perhaps it’s time for bigger retailers to consider a new third-gender department alongside men’s and women’s.