Fashion + Sexuality

Will fashion ever be truly genderless?

In this article we’ll be investigating whether or not genderless fashion is just a trend, or whether it’s here to stay.

While gender-fluidity can seem like quite a recent topic, it can be traced back to 1824. Hidden in the forests of Indiana, a small town called New Harmony was founded. In this town, both men and women could wear shirts and trousers.

But how could one small town revolutionise gendered clothing while the rest of the world was trapped in rigid gender-stereotypes for the next 150-200 years?

How has vintage and second-hand clothing changed gendered clothing?

Now that sustainability is becoming a huge part of life for all of us, second-hand clothing shops have seen a huge rise in customers. We all have something second-hand.

But what I find really interesting, is that when it comes to vintage clothing, we don’t really care about whether the pieces are for men or for women. We see a cool Hawaiian shirt or comfy Adidas jumper and we don’t think whether it’s meant for our gender. We just think it’s cool.

So why hasn’t this translated across to your average high street stores like H&M, Urban Outfitters or Zara?

Can genderless fashion eliminate bullying or make it worse?

Firstly, we must think about the crux of the issue. Women have gradually gained the authority to wear masculine clothing, which is great. But it seems that men have not yet gained this privilege.

I recently wrote an essay for university about the influence of gender-fluidity in fashion. I couldn’t believe how much men have been left behind in the unisex fashion movement. But when you think about it, of course they have!

“I was sent to a psychologist at five years old because I was a sissy and my family was afraid.” 

Billy Porter, The Independant 2020

We’ve all heard lads teasing their friends for ‘seeming gay’ or being too effeminate. Even celebrities like Billy Porter have spoken about the years of torment for being a ‘sissy’ or ‘gay’. I think we can all agree Billy Porter’s Met Gala look was unbelievable and will continue to be a talking point for years to come.

However, if you read comments on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, it is clear that the look really, really bothered some people. Especially after the buzz from Porter wearing that gorgeous velvet skirt with his suit jacket at the Oscars. The anti-gender-fluidity movement came out in droves. It highlighted how society is refusing to be ok with men wearing ‘feminine clothing’, however you want to define that.

Have men ever had a chance at wearing feminine clothing?

The closest piece of clothing I can really think of was the men’s romper trend from 2017. And while the trend kind of flopped, it was an important stepping-stone for the unisex clothing market. It blurred the line between menswear and womenswear; even if only for a short amount of time.

While it’s really sad to me that men are victimised and taunted for wearing or even simply liking feminine clothing, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s really happening.

I went to an all-girls school and was brought up by a single mother. So I have always been very conscious of the prejudices against women in everyday society. But it was not until recently, since I wrote that essay for university, that I’ve began to notice the more subtle injustices against men.

It’s actually been really difficult to feel empathy for these men as well. I had a very strong mindset that they almost deserve to experience some prejudice. This is mainly because that’s the reality for so many women for much more than just wearing a certain type of clothing. But that is not fair.

The only way we will be able to truly accept gender-fluidity in mainstream fashion is if both men and women ditch their preconceived ideas of gender and just enjoy what they like to wear.

Is the future of fashion genderless?

I do think it’s possible for society to accept gender-fluidity enough for shops to scrap their gendered sections. But I don’t think it’ll happen any time soon. I think ideas about gender and sexuality are something so intimate and personal that they’re hard to change.

However, I do believe that genderless fashion influencers and celebrities such as Sam Smith are the key to these changes. The majority of us closely follow these people on social media. Often to the point where they can even influence our innermost thoughts. They will be the catalyst needed for this movement.

I personally own a lot of men’s clothing that I’ve found in vintage stores and thrift shops. I’m really excited to see which high-street store is the first to scrap their gendered sections and combine the two to have one united store and clientele.

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