The fashion and beauty industry has traditionally been considered a feminine pursuit (despite a large proportion of the biggest designers being male, queue the eyeroll) with relatively strict gender binaries. Girls wear makeup and love fashion, boys can’t because fashion and makeup is frivolous and feminine; you know the drill.
However, over the last few years we have seen huge changes in the recognition of different genders in the fashion and beauty industry. Whether it’s Jaden Smith advocating androgynous fashion by wearing skirts and dresses as often as he wears jeans. Or Ruby Rose representing gender fluidity in the public eye, comfortable in her masculinity and her femininity. Or Jeffree Star who doesn’t want to label himself as anything other than a person who loves makeup, wears heels and wigs, but doesn’t see it as a gendered choice. There has undeniably been a shift in the way the public view gender in relation to fashion and beauty in recent times. Turns out, boys can like fashion and makeup too! Who knew?
There have always been celebrities who have challenged gender stereotypes. Julia Roberts accepted her first Golden Globe in 1990 wearing an oversized suit and Brendon Urie has been rocking that classic black eyeliner for decades. But in recent years more and more celebrities are celebrating the diversity of gender and representing it in their own unique ways. Tilda Swinton’s androgynous style or Lady Gaga’s ever-experimental fashion choices are just two examples of women looking fashion designers in the eye and saying those infamous words “Florals? For Spring? Groundbreaking.” If Miranda Priestly isn’t content with spring florals, then why should modern women be content with traditionally ‘feminine’ fashion? Fashion is about creative expression and freedom, not antiquated ideas about what men and women should and shouldn’t wear. And it would seem that the fashion industry has finally started catching up.
On the other side of things, it would seem that men are equally tired of pretending that they don’t care if their belt matches their shoes, or that they don’t secretly put some concealer on a spot. With a surge of male-identifying social media influencers publicly expressing themselves through the medium of makeup, men like Manny MUA, James Charles and Patrick Starr are uploading reviews and tutorials and slaying the game; proving that there is no reason a guy can’t beat his face to perfection, wear a wig or get his nails done. It opens the door for ‘ordinary’ boys and men to try their hand at contouring. For those of you who have been watching Educating Manchester, Mitchell Farrelly is just one example of a young boy who openly enjoys and wears makeup in his daily life; he picked up the beauty blender and didn’t care what anyone else thought.
Even mainstream brands are picking up on the idea of gender neutral fashion, with John Lewis’ recent decision to make their childrenswear genderless. Perhaps this suggests that the future of fashion won’t be tied to outdated ideas of gender.
The fashion and beauty industry are being forced to keep up with the changing face of gender diversity. Transgender women like Laverne Cox are being given opportunities to publicly embrace their femininity in a variety of ways, instead of feeling ashamed of their gender identity; the fashion and beauty worlds are embracing them. ‘Plus size’ men and women who have rarely been given the chance to dress fashionably before, are seeing plus size ranges pop up in retailers like ASOS, offering a whole new world of fashion. All of which is heralded by influencers and models like Tess and Nick Holliday, who are unapologetically ‘plus size’ and fashionable. The changes in this industry are the first steps in a much larger journey to a fashion and beauty world that celebrates diversity in all its forms, not just the prepackaged white, slim feminine ‘ideal’.
So maybe you’d like to knock down a few bricks in that gender wall, but you aren’t sure how. SUBCULTURED have a few ideas on how you can be part of the movement to diversify fashion, to experiment with your own concepts of femininity and masculinity and find your style, unique to you.
- Try masculine/feminine scents (depending on which gender -if any- you identify with!). There’s no reason a woman can’t smell like sandalwood if she wants to, and a man should be able to enjoy a light floral scent if he’s so inclined. It’s a small, subtle way of challenging gender stereotypes.
- Try a more minimalist style, the androgyny vibe is versatile and so easy to wear. But doesn’t immediately scream “I’m a guy in a mini skirt!”
- If you’re traditionally ‘masculine’ try some basic ‘everyday’ makeup, a little concealer and a light layer of mascara can go a long way. Experimenting with makeup in any capacity is a fun way to look at your style differently, there are no rules and it washes off – so go ahead and try something new.
- Try different hair looks, maybe you’ve always secretly wanted short hair but you’ve been afraid you’ll look boyish. Or the opposite, that growing out your hair long is too feminine. If you’re ready to give gender stereotypes the middle finger, just go for it. And if you hate it, well there’s always a wig.
Ultimately, listen to yourself. If you’re wearing clothes because you feel like you should be wearing that style and not because you want to, change it. If you love the artistry of makeup and think you could rock a smokey eye, do it. Live authentically and don’t be held back by society’s definitions of gender. You do you.
Text by Holly Butteriss
Picture research by Donna Darafshian; featured image from beautylish.com.