Embracing the Gender-Neutral Generation

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I come from a generation, born in the late ’90s that can’t be considered a Millennial but is also snubbed by the younger end of Gen Z as being too old for TikTok. We saw the transition from video to DVD and DVD to streaming, we witnessed social media slowly creep its way into everyone’s life, we watched in awe as Lady Gaga outraged the masses with her eccentric style and we suffered through what we now view as some of the worst moments in fashion.

Photographer: Maria Luiz / Model: Alexandru Silaghi / Hairstylist: Andrew Kyriakou / Accessory Designer: Laura Nelson

As is the case with many boys of my generation my go-to outfit every time I left the house consisted of a pair of beige chinos accompanied by a brightly coloured T-shirt, topped off with a pair of shutter shades and a snapback cap, but as society evolves and fashion changes, are we likely to see more boys accepting the idea of wearing a skirt?  

Coming from a small town in the countryside where everyone knew each other and the largest shopping centre was an hour away and had no more than eleven shops. My eyes were never opened to the notion of a boy wearing a dress and it being more than just playing dress up. From a young age many of us were taught that boys wore trousers and girls wore skirts, boys liked blue and girls liked pink. But everything has its moment and then we move on, we change and we evolve and now the lines between masculine and femenine are blurred, and once I had relocated to the city I began to see how different and more accepting the culture is.

While gender neutral fashion is far from a new concept, it is definitely accelerating in today’s world. With high profile stars such as Billy Porter and Harry Styles publicly standing up for the right to wear whatever they want, and the art of drag finding a prominent place in mainstream media, it’s now easier than ever for a young individual to find a person in the spotlight that they feel they can relate to. As Gucci successfully launched a section of its shop dedicated to gender neutral clothing and more brands that are designed solely to making neutral apparel emerging, why is it still more difficult for men to combat the stereotypes when it comes to fashion than it is for women? 

It’s not uncommon to walk past a woman that is wearing a suit or to find an item of clothing that’s conventionally deemed masculine in the womenswear section of a clothes shop, however, most men still feel uncomfortable to browse through womenswear for a dress for the summer or a blouse for the office without the fear of being judged.

 A common stigma surrounding the subject is the frequent assumption of an individual’s sexuality. While previously mentioned Billy Porter is an openly gay man.

Singer Harry Styles has on a few occasions publicly stated, I never felt the need to label my sexuality.

Another celebrity whose sexuality is often a topic of conversation is rapper and songwriter Lil Yachty, who earlier this year released a line of Nail Polish for all genders. Even after stating he identifies as a heterosexual man, many fans often still question whether this is the truth, solely based on his social media content. In March 2021 a video posted to Lil Yachty’s Instagram account went viral as the rapper could be seen getting a multi-coloured pedicure. This sparked conversation in the comment section with many refusing to accept the star’s previous remarks about his sexuality. 

So why is it still so difficult for so many to come to terms with the idea of a man wearing a dress, or being comfortable enough in themselves to wear makeup or painted nails?

The human race has always been very quick to accept new concepts, when we were first introduced to streaming sites it didn’t take long before they were replacing the way we used to watch movies; and as our friends started to build profiles on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook it didn’t take us long before we were following in their footsteps. The same people that blasted Lady Gaga as she stepped onto the red carpet wearing her infamous meat dress are now the first in line to congratulate her every time she wins an award, and as soon as one person stopped wearing low rise jeans it wasn’t long before everyone else followed. I often wonder why the same mob mentality hasn’t carried across into this subject. But ultimately this isn’t just a trend and it’s not the same as just following in the footsteps of your peers, the right to wear whatever you want is a form of expression and for many people, myself included, dressing in a way that combats the norm is liberating.

Unfortunately, there are still many that don’t believe they should accept the idea of an individual breaking down the barriers between masculine and feminine and while it is impossible to change everybody’s opinions and attitudes it would be more comforting to know that we could step out the house looking however we wanted without fear of judgement or endangerment, it’s no secret that most people are beginning to open their eyes and conform to each and every way individuals choose to express themselves.

I never look into the future and expect to see every man wearing a dress, but I do look into the future and expect to see a world where we have all outgrown the attitudes society once taught us and we no longer care about the way in which anybody chooses to present themselves. 

Perhaps it’s about time people realised that this isn’t just a phase and it’s not going away so all they can do is accept and understand the new gender-neutral generation.