The androgynous style has been around for a while, with many catwalk shows and high street stores such as Topshop featuring clothes fit for either gender. Indeed, this style is nothing new – since the 60s, many celebrities (think David Bowie and Mick Jagger) have pushed the boundaries of ‘gender strict’ clothes. In recent years, Givenchy, Saint Laurent and Gucci have walked models of both sexes down the catwalk in capes, skirts, suits and ties. In their January show, Gucci even walked female models in the men’s show.
So should fashion become genderless?
The idea of gender neutral products and shopping experience is beginning to appear more and more in our day to day lives.
Since 2013, Toys ‘R’ Us has been marketing their products as ‘gender neutral’ after bowing to pressure from the lobby group Let Toys Be Toys. The group campaigns for the removal of gender bias in toy sales and marketing.
This decision followed the launch of a gender-neutral advertising campaign by the Swedish segment of the store; and of a similar promises from Boots, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
Target, one of America’s biggest supermarket chains, has agreed to unite girl’s and boy’s toys, bedding, home décor, entertainment and some clothing in one ‘gender neutral’ aisle. The store, speaking of their decision, said, “Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender. In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not.”
A UK based company, Climbing Trees Kids, has also garnered a lot of attention for their clothing line for girls. Cheryl Rickman, mother to 7-year-old Brooke, was frustrated at the amount of pink and girly clothing in stores.
Cheryl says, “We went to buy a top with a dinosaur on it, but they didn’t have one…Since my daughter was 4 we’ve bought most of her clothes from the boys aisle because the stuff she loves doesn’t exist in the girls aisle.”
The line provides t-shirts for girls who love space, dinosaurs and other things traditionally deemed for boys.
But what about men and women?
The line between men and women’s clothing has become very blurred and skewed. This was demonstrated during last year’s award season, with Angelina Jolie wearing a matching suit to her husband, Brad Pitt at the BAFTAS. Pharrell Williams and his wife, Helen Lasichanh followed the trend, arriving at the Oscars wearing a coordinated suit designed by Hedi Slimane.
On the high street, Gap, North Face and American Apparel have sold unisex clothing for a number of years. However, these clothes are still cut to fit men and women separately.
Until April this year, the Oxford Street store had removed its separate women and menswear departments in place of three floors of unisex clothing. In a campaign entitled ‘Agender’, designed by Faye Toogood, the store tried to create a truly genderless experience.
Describing the campaign, Toogood writes, “This in-house concept store goes beyond the concepts of androgyny and unisex to question the innate assumptions that still underpin gendered clothing in the 21st century.”
Selfridges’ creative director, Linda Hewson said of the campaign, “in fashion, more and more we are seeing physically masculine men wearing what might traditionally be thought of as feminine. Function and individuality are now more important than a uniform idea of what’s conventionally appropriate.”
With the rise of ‘metrosexualism’ and more and more men buying beauty products and ‘feminine’ clothing; and the rise of power dressing and androgyny in women, the idea of gender equal clothing is one worth talking about.
However, there are many obstacles and questions still left unanswered regarding the introduction of these ideas and products. For one, men and women have an entirely different body shape – will these clothes be made to suit different sexes or all be cut the same? If this is the case, then is it truly about unisex clothes or rather the idea of women and men not being confined to society’s idea of clothing norms?