15th Mar 2023
With celebrities like Harry Styles, Sam Smith and Billie Eilish embracing more fluid forms of dressing, fashion's future is genderless says stylist Adam Walsh.
Genderless fashion and clothing have become prominent talking points within mainstream media in recent years. Recently a debate was sparked over non-binary musician Sam Smith and their music video for their recent single I’m Not Here To Make Friends. Throughout the video, Smith wore a corset and nipple tassels, which seemed to trigger backlash from a particular corner of the internet – many saying that there should be a content warning on platforms streaming the video.
While a lot of this backlash was deeply rooted in homophobia and fatphobia, an extremely interesting conversation was had, as a lot of people raised the same question – if this video was released by a female artist and they had worn that, would there have been any backlash at all?
Genderless fashion is not a new concept – going back as far as the 10th century, Persian soldiers used to wear high-heeled boots to keep their feet in stirrups and give them stability. Fast forward to present day and we have mainstream celebrities such as musician Harry Styles and actor Billy Porter making headlines for their camp and outlandish fashion choices on the red carpet, which usually are met with extreme opinions. Candace Owens, a conservative American author tweeted that “we need to bring back manly men” when Harry Styles posed in a dress on the cover of Vogue in December 2020. The idea of genderless clothing does not only apply to men in dresses – in recent years we have seen female stars like Billie Eilish embrace more of what would typically be considered a more “masculine” style.
Looking at clothing as a form of self-expression on a day-to-day basis rather than as just pieces of fabric, Gen Z, making up 40% of the consumer market has pushed this movement to the forefront. In a survey with Unidays, 80% of the Gen Z participants who responded to the survey admitted to focusing on how clothes look and feel while 55% said that they don’t mind how clothes are labelled and 65% believe brands should give shoppers the option to search for gender-neutral clothing.
As always, celebrity and runway fashion culture dilute down to the high street. As society adjusts to the idea of people not conforming to gender norms in fashion, there is an expectation for brands to keep up. In September 2019 Levi’s launched their “Wear What You Want” campaign, stating “we believe that self-expression isn’t just about what you wear it’s how you wear it. Whether you’re trying to make a statement or just doing your own thing. Levi’s are designed to be worn by anyone and everyone, regardless of gender.” The resulting video features models Jesus and Matia, who explain that they dress “how they feel most natural”. “Whatever feels the most natural is what anyone should be doing,” Jesus points out. “It is an amazing time to be able to express yourself in a very personal style. It’s a time where we are very free to express ourselves how we want to,” Jesus tells us.
More recently, online fashion retailer Zalando partnered with fashion designer Nikolaj Storm to launch a 13-piece genderless and circular capsule collection titled ‘SYNTHESIZER.’ “This was such an empowering journey for me as a designer – to be able to create something that tries to push the boundaries but also stays true and honest about the process,” Nikolaj said of the collaboration.
While there are more “out there” ways to embrace genderless dressing, I caught up with Irish podcaster PJ Kirby and jewellery designer Gabrielle Luksaite to ask them how they incorporate gender-neutral dressing into their day-to-day style. Being a long-time fan of Gabrielle’s style, I have always loved how freely she mixes typically masculine and feminine pieces together. She describes her style as “original, laid back and ever-evolving”. “I love to wear lots of oversized pieces, denim and of course statement accessories in different colours and textures,” she explains, listing Ganni, The Frankie Shop, Acne Studios and of course her beautiful jewellery brand, Gabsluk, as some of her favourite brands to achieve this. When asked if she has seen more people embracing a more gender-neutral approach to fashion, Gabrielle says it’s definitely something she’s noticed more frequently as of late. “You can see this with many brands too, especially The Frankie Shop. I often wear my boyfriend’s cool pieces. I believe that clothing should have no boundaries.”
Podcaster PJ Kirby thinks we need to stop gendering clothes altogether. “They’re literally just a piece of fabric,” as he puts it. PJ cites Jacquemus, Loewe and Diesel as brands he loves, along with Dublin-born menswear designer Robyn Lynch; “I love how she weaves Irish culture into her designs, it’s unreal.” Describing his approach to fashion as “not too serious and a bit all over the place,” he says that he draws inspiration from people like Rihanna and New York-based creative, Alexander Roth. I admire PJ’s style because it’s fiercely unapologetic and uniquely alternative.
So, while there may continue to be uproar from the darkest corners of the internet when it comes to genderless fashion, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Photography by @samsmith.