“Genderless” is becoming a trending buzzword in the world of fashion. From non binary models walking in the latest fashion week to unisex clothing lines, the industry seems to be shifting into greater inclusivity when it comes to gender. With designers like John Galliano sending men and women down the runway in identical outfits and Zara releasing a fashion line without differentiating, it appears that unisex fashion is becoming more common around the world.
In Japan, Genderless Kei (“kei” meaning style) has managed to defy traditional fashion trends with more than just designing sweatshirts for women or men wearing skirts, and has continued to grow on social media since 2015. This new style has been gaining popularity in the streets of Harajuku and is gaining traction through social media.
Genderless Kei incorporates both male and female fashion, makeup, and beauty techniques to achieve an androgynous look. Although this style is technically for both men and women, the popular idols of Genderless Kei are slim, cute faced boys who dye their hair, wear colored contacts and nail polish, flashy clothing and platform shoes. Genderless Kei is not about men trying to pass as women, but rather they are rejecting traditional gender rules and create a new genderless standard of beauty.
Although it seems inconsequential, this fashion trend is part of a larger movement of people attempting to loosen rigid gender standards and embracing identities that cover the entire spectrum from male to female.
With companies pushing towards unisex clothing and genderless fashion trends around the world gaining traction, it seems that things are taking a progressive step towards inclusivity, however there are several issues. Zara’s collection was described as boring and uninspiring and the clothing options stayed within the safe boundaries of sweatpants and leather jackets – clothes that are already considered genderless. In the Western world, men are proportioned very differently from women. Therefore, it’s challenging to tell men to “wear what they feel” when sizing precludes most males from partaking in genderless fashion in a meaningful way. Furthermore, the clothing seems to skew toward menswear for women, rather than introduce feminine clothing marketed towards men. It is still socially unacceptable for men to wear skirts or dresses, while women have been wearing trousers with no such stigma.
That has been the challenge thus far – although gender fluidity is about offering equal options for everyone, no matter what your chromosomal make-up is, women carry most of the freedom. That’s what some designers are trying to change.
Vaquera is a unisex clothing brand created by Patric DiCaprio. The brand aims to “dissolve current fashion tropes based on gender, physical location, race, and monetary value”. On their website you can see men pulling off bardot tops with dangly earrings. Tilly and William is another company who is attempting to break gender norms. Their philosophy of “transformability and gender inclusivity, with a focus on comfort and fluidity”, is one that the brand takes seriously by the looks of their collections.
Although it seems inconsequential, this fashion trend is part of a larger movement of people attempting to loosen rigid gender standards and embracing identities that cover the entire spectrum from male to female. Toman, a member of the Japanese band XOX, commented on Genderless Kei in a recent ModelPress interview: “We just wear the fashions we like, and just from that it spreads naturally. When I was in Sendai, people looked at me like ‘what is this guy gay or something?’ I think there are pros and cons to it, even today, but it’s becoming so widespread now that before long it’s going to be considered something totally normal – or that’s how I want to make it”.
Jaden Smith, while receiving criticism for his fashion choices, has often defended them and stating “I’m going to take most of the blows for my fellow [misfits]. So you know, in five years when a kid goes to school wearing a skirt, he won’t get beat up and kids won’t get mad at him”.
While there are shifts happening on and off the runways, it will take some serious work to fight society’s deep-rooted resistance to a truly non-gender specific beauty standard. As the fashion industry continues to adopt this type of style, they allow people to dress themselves in a way that defies traditional indicators of identity and better reflect their true selves. Although time, exposure, and overall acceptance will help accelerate this movement, it will take some serious culture shifts for true genderless fashion to be normalized.