The Rise Of Genderless Fashion: The Role Of Fashion And Beauty And What It Means For The Modern Man...
WORDS BY ANWAR BOUGROUG
Fashion pioneers are dismantling traditional industry norms and buyers and consumers have begun to view gender as a spectrum rather than a set of boxes. A new non-binary approach to fashion and beauty is redefining what it means to be a “real man,” which leads us to the seismic transformation in clothing, accessories, and make-up as we know it today and the rise of the debonair, softer, more vulnerable man. Unpacking this new post “metro” masculinity is ultimately just a self-aware man allowing himself to explore who he is and what he truly craves by diving into his true desires and permitting himself to expand and invest in his own individuality and sensuality. Which is why genderless fashion and make-up are poco a poco becoming status quo. Vogue featured labels, Gypsy Sport, famed for their unapologetic castings prioritizing the voices and experiences of marginalized communities, and Palomo Spain, celebrated for their handmade Iberian gowns made for boys who don’t care about gender, but rather look for connection, passion and beauty, illustrate the shift in consumer’s expectations of fashion and our more profound desires.
While we may still have a long way to go to fully embrace this movement, the current understanding of masculinity and genderfluid fashion is constantly being challenged thanks to a new generation of gender non-conforming pioneers, using their digital platforms to push the boundaries of a gender-free and uninhibited way of fashion and beauty. Since 2008, we have seen an exponential increase in male beauty influencers – completely changing the landscape for what make-up and skin care mean for a man. Global darling, internet star and make-up guru, Bretman Rock, famous for his notoriously sassy tutorials, is one of the many male beauty influencers globalizing the shift in the male beauty industry. Additionally, we have ALOK, the American-Indian gender non-conforming performance artists, writer and educator, employing their internationally renowned eclectic style to challenge the gender binary on social media through sparking conversation and posting “confronting” imagery. These two, and many more use the power of online tools to increase awareness and champion tolerance and diversity within men’s fashion and beauty by not conforming to any norm, but rather creating new styles and identities whilst in chorus encouraging their audience to look within, self-examine and encourage a greater understanding of who they are and what message their sense of style transmits.
“… for boys who don’t care about gender, but rather look for connection, passion and beauty, illustrate the shift in consumer’s expectations of fashion and our more profound desires.”
The intersection of music and fashion have existed in symbiosis for decades, and is evident in the performance art duo FAKA: the South-African cultural movement established by Fela Gucci and Desire Marea, two creatives using their art and visual storytelling to create a new narrative for the African Queer community, while simultaneously navigating in a predominantly cis-straight masculinist culture in Johannesburg. With the likes of Telfar Global and Versace, these artists are rewriting fashion history for the African man via genderless fashion and beauty and at the same time gaining global recognition and representing a worldly style that’s inspiring the brands of tomorrow, laying the foundations of the emergence of Africa in the fashion scene.
Examining 2019s obsession with duality and twin-hood, testifies the success of the Dupont twins, Jake and Joseph, the first identical twins to strut the runway in head-to-toe genderless looks. Representing the importance of fraternity, the boys pose in matching outfits by brands such as Weslah and Staud Clothing, showcasing a softer side and adding to the dialogue about how men relate to themselves and other men. While celebrating brotherhood, they make it visually clear for the world to see how two non-binary brothers are comfortable in their own skin whilst experimenting with fashion and beauty unconventionality.
“… the fight for gender equality and human rights is encouraging us to use ourselves as a canvas to push the boundaries and dig our heels into the dirt and own our space now more than ever before…”
Fashion Weeks are becoming more inclusive and diverse than ever. Once being split between men and women, they now blend more and more into one single genderfluid space. This gender-bending movement was first introduced as unisex, and later on, evolved into genderless and now even a-gendered collections. Buying from a brand has become less of a classist tool, but a means of visual communication, portraying your values and what stylistic tribe you belong to, something that is more important than ever considering our current polarised social and political climate. Brands like Gucci, No Sesso, and Helmut Lang now combine their traditionally gendered runway shows to celebrate diversity like never before, in addition, casting models of all colors, genders and body sizes. Luxury fashion houses including Chanel and Tom Ford, now offer a wide selection of make-up and beauty products for men, commercially normalizing men wearing make-up in daily life and creating new industry expectations for consumer products.
In a society where people care less about traditional household structures and identities, we are creating room for undefined genders and gender norms, and as fashion becomes less about your sex and sexuality, it speaks more to your personal identity and what you want to express to the world.
But what does non-gendered fashion really mean? What happened to the swift of unisex fashion we just witnessed a couple of seasons ago? Unisex, implying that everyone has a universal gender, for some, this was too superficial as it didn’t include the debate about diversity in which non-gendered fashion seems to represent more sophistically. Gender-free fashion started taking shape thanks to such pioneers referenced above and a global fight painting a view of the struggle for gender equality and creating digital communities and safe spaces for gender non-conforming individuals to be visible. For some, where hate crimes and discrimination isn’t criminalized by the state, this visibility is still a real risk. People that identify as non-binary are conscious about the solidarity in non-conforming communities, and the responsibility that comes with having the privilege to fully express oneself. We want to change the world, little by little, even if it’s by wearing a harmless earring, adorning one’s nails, or presenting eccentric fashion – the fight for gender equality and human rights is encouraging us to use ourselves as a canvas to push the boundaries and dig our heels into the dirt and own our space now more than ever before…
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