the mall involves sifting through the women’s and the men’s aisles in search of the perfect outfit.
McCann, who is nonbinary, often starts out by perusing dresses, which tend to be a better fit for a female body type. Then, McCann will shift to the men’s side of a store to pick out more masculine items: combat boots, oversized tees and sweatpants. McCann, who uses the gender-neutral pronoun they, mostly spends time and money on resale apps like Depop, and shopping vintage goods from thrift shops by browsing by size instead of by gender.
“The way that I dress has changed a lot to reflect what I want people to think about my gender,” the 24-year-old retail worker said. “I really truly believe that clothing has no gender.”
There are more consumers like McCann, who are seeking gender-neutral apparel. And retailers want to meet that demand. Gender-neutral brands — such as Les Girls Les Boys and Tomboy X — are marketed as options for everyone. The brands attempt to disregard traditional gender constructs and labels. Gender-inclusive clothing, which is mostly found on websites as unisex, can range from basic T-shirts and jackets, to dresses and skirts, for all body types.
Several initiatives are kicking off in June in honor of Pride Month, further testing the waters. But analysts and fashion experts say the gender-fluid fashion trend is here to stay.
“Retailers and brands should be looking at gender-fluid apparel as an opportunity,” said Erin Schmidt, senior analyst at Coresight Research, a global advisory and research firm specializing in retail and technology. “It absolutely can’t be ignored. It will definitely be impacting the fashion trends of the future. And the retailers and brands that are doing it now are really going to be ahead of the curve.”
Gender-neutral fashion is heavily influenced by younger, Gen Z consumers who are more vocal when it comes to expressing themselves and what they stand for. They’re thinking creatively and outside of the box. Many of them, like McCann, shop secondhand clothing on platforms such as Poshmark and Depop. As this demographic gains more spending power, analysts’ say, this is another facet of fashion that brands cannot ignore.
The global fashion shopping platform Lyst found that searches for fashion pieces including agender-related keywords have increased 33% this year. Specifically, Lyst has tracked spikes for searches of oversized T-shirts, skirts and pearl necklaces (like the ones worn by rapper A$AP Rocky.)
‘A dress is a dress’
When the Covid pandemic hit the U.S.in March 2020, it was still early days for gender-fluid fashion lines, according to Schmidt. But over the past year, she said, some notable brands have entered the space.
“It’s really been driven by the conversations around gender identification, … everything from updating your signature in your email to schools having conversations about how to refer to students,” Schmidt said.
The movement has started with smaller clothing brands — The Phluid Project, Les Girls Les Boys, Tomboy X and Wildfang — that are looking to challenge gender norms. Catering to people looking for gender-fluid clothing options, these companies embrace diversity, equality and inclusion, and their efforts are reflected in their marketing.
Wildfang’s website reads, “Why is the fashion industry still clinging to outdated gender norms that serve no one?” Les Girls Les Boys defines itself as a “shareable label.”