Undressing Gender Norms

In-store demarcations are there to assist shoppers. Denoting size or article can help consumers more easily find what they are looking for. Other signage, however, may hinder shoppers. Categorizing sections as Men’s and Women’s potentially halves the selection available to a shopper.

It has long been acceptable for women to wear men’s clothing. Women’s fashion freely borrows concepts from menswear designs such as the corporate suit. Even casual looks like women’s “boyfriend hoodies” are stylized to appear as though they came from the men’s department. Borrowing style from across the aisle is not one-sided. Male pop-star Justin Bieber admitted to wearing women’s pants. Men and women buying things made for the opposite gender is on the rise.

Today, consumers have begun to request that companies rethink the products they sell. Select brands are creating clothing devoid of division. Phluid (and other brands) have bucked the trend of gender-based fashion in order to create fashion fit-for-all. These boutique stores are pricey, so while they aim to cater to everyone’s needs they may not cater to everyone’s budgets.

But, the emergence of these small brands alone has put pressure on major retailers. In 2018 H&M launched a more affordable gender-neutral line. The London based department store Selfridges now has “Agender” floors while Target and Harrods have introduced gender-neutral children’s clothing.

Selling agender clothing is a step in the right direction but it still marks gender-neutral clothing as different. And, that label in and of itself may be adding to the problem. The removal of separate sections would allow for the removal of stigma. This is not a push for stores to change their layout, but rather simply to remove the giant signs hanging above each department. With minimal effort, any store can make this noteworthy change.  

Perhaps change has not taken place due to fear of backlash.

Then again, maybe not.