Is High Fashion Becoming Genderless?
‘If 2015 was the year unisex became a trend in fashion, 2016 may be the year the question of gender and dress enters an entirely different dimension” -NY Times
Recently there has been a massive increase in the visibility of transgendered and cross dressing celebrities in the media. From Caitlin Jenner, to OITNB’s actress Laverne Cox, society may be turning a new leaf. We are becoming collectively less concerned with gender distinctions and more accepting of non-conformity.
This acceptance is being especially embraced by the fashion industry where genderless fashion is not so much a trend as it is an evolution of style. In the past few years, fashion has celebrated gender inclusivity. Runways and advertisements are more androgynous than ever before. Celebrities such as Kanye West, Justin Beiber and 2 Chainz have made appearances or performed in women’s clothing.
Remarkably the number of hip-hip singers and rappers who are not only involved in the fashion industry but are simultaneously pushing the gender binaries of fashion is quite extraordinary. For a musical genre that preaches, sex, money and being a playboy, it’s more than ironic that rap artists are encouraging gender indifference.
But in order for something to become popular in today’s society, it takes someone truly powerful to sway public opinion.
….Kanye West strikes again.
One of the more recent and popular icons of gender neutral fashion is Jaden Smith. Earlier this year Louis Vuitton revealed that the teenage rapper/actor would be the new face of its 2016 Women’s Collection. Jaden has been widely recognized for his bold fashion choices. His Instagram feed is covered in artistic, fashion forward photographs, many of which show him wearing what would be considered women’s clothing. It’s clear Jaden exudes confidence beyond his years. In an interview with GQ Style Jaden explains, "I feel like people are kind of confused about gender norms. I feel like people don’t really get it. I’m not saying that I get it, I’m just saying that I’ve never seen any distinction. I don’t see man clothes and woman clothes, I just see scared people and comfortable people.”
In addition to Smith, rapper Young Thug has turned heads in Calvin Klein’s 2016 Global Campaign. Decked out in garments from the CK womenswear collection, Young Thug explains that you can be a gangster regardless of what you’re wearing. He believes there is no such thing as gender.
We have seen this type of gender bending before when singers like Prince and David Bowie would dress in high waisted pants and flashy, tight fitted clothing. Both artists were extremely confident about embracing feminine clothing, and were considered two of the most exciting and sexy men of their time. In fact, it was only a few years ago that men were still shopping in the women’s department for jeans in search of a sleek, form fitting style.
So does this mean male skirts and dresses are the next step for men’s fashion?
Of course we can’t forget about how dramatically women’s fashion trends have transformed in the last few decades. Many of you reading this are probably familiar with the term, “tomboy”. Growing up, that word was used to describe any girl who shied away from skirts, make-up or the colour pink. Dressing in clothing that was more gender neutral was a cause for categorization. Today the term “tom-boy” is a part of dominant culture. High fashion designers such as Hood By Hair, Rick Owen, J.W Anderson and Provenza Schouler have all released gender-free lines, cross dressing male and female models to echo gender non-conformity.
A quick scan of mainstream stores shows us that a handful of retailers have embraced the gender-free trend. Earlier this year, Zara introduced the brand “Ungendered” which offers a selection of unisex garments ranging from sweatpants to t-shirts in neural tones and fabrics. Oak and Fort is known for its loose fitted clothing and shapeless styles. The Vancouver based brand embraces simple designs and structure. And although some garments are designed for the feminine physique, most of the clothing can be worn by either gender.
Fashion has always been a clear method of self expression. Perhaps the shift towards gender neutral clothing indicates that society is taking a great leap toward genderlessness. And although there is still a long way to go, both politically and socially, there is a definite path being paved for the future.