GENDER NORMS AND FASHION / by Anji Becker

As we predicted almost two years ago when we first conceptualized the WE ARE MORTALS brand and coined the phrase "THE FUTURE HAS NO GENDER", the fashion world is now obsessed with the topic of gender. The bigger picture (a society that is questioning our traditional concepts of gender identity), is the more important issue. But fashion is of course at the forefront of this discussion since fashion tends to reflect human consciousness by always staying one step ahead of our cultural norms. Plus, fashion is all about self-expression and pushing boundaries. In contrast, a person's clothing selection is also the easiest way to label or categorize them when you first meet... we put people into preconceived ideas of what or who they are based on how they are dressed. Are they male or female, gay or straight? Every person decides for themselves how they want to speak to others through their outfits, and it's been fascinating to watch how this awareness is spreading and gradually beginning to trickle down to the mainstream. 

First of all, clothes have nothing to do with sexuality. In fact, gender has nothing to do with sexuality. These distinctions have begun to come to the surface now and it feels like we're finally crawling out of the Dark Ages when a guy couldn't wear anything further than a standard flannel shirt without being teased or insulted. As a society, we've already gotten used to women adopting menswear. It's no big deal for girls to rock a sporty or dapper look, but now the time has come for high-profile men to stand up for their gender's right to play with fashion. The discussion originally started sweeping the internet when Jaden Smith began tweeting about wearing skirts (and eventually posing in a skirt for a Louis Vuitton ad campaign), then rapper Young Thug talked about how he shops in the women's department, and the ball keeps rolling from there with brands like ours introducing the concept of genderless clothing with perfect timing. 

Right now the focus is on the non-binary and transgender community, as it should be. It's time for our world to start grasping the concept of gender-fluidity. When it comes to the apparel industry, though, we believe this idea should eventually go way beyond the idea of accepting a 'marginalized' community, and the changes should impact everyone; which will in turn un-marginalize those communities. We don't all want to look alike anyway, right? Why would you want your clothing selection to put you in a box and categorize you for the rest of the world to easily comprehend you? Gender is nothing more than an idea, a social construct, therefore all gender norms are arbitrary and one of the most concrete and visibly apparent ways of understanding that is through fashion. Read Upworthy's article (above) to learn some interesting history facts about perceived 'rules' of fashion across gender lines throughout the past. Is there any particular reason women are the only ones who should be able to wear skirts? Not really. And do our clothing, hair, and accessory choices have to signify something about our sexual orientation or gender identity? Not at all. As Jaden puts it, "I don't see man clothes and women clothes, I just see scared people and comfortable people".

Although gender-fluidity has made huge progress within youth culture and gender-fluid apparel is thriving within the high-fashion world, it's still mainly a concept that's only being embraced in big cities by creative, fashion-savvy people who pay attention to the runways shows, read the influential opinions of youth-culture mags like DAZED and BULLETT, and who don't shop at the mall. There is still a long way to go for this progressive mindset to reach mainstream culture. Mega-chain store ZARA recently debuted their non-gendered line and recieved a very sad reaction. Their desire to simply capitalize on a current trend was very obvious, as there was no diversity in their ads, no gender rule-breaking in their designs, and no changes being made within their physical stores. Unisex dressing rooms? Doing away with mens/womens departments? They did neither. Their attempt was pathetic and it reinforced the idea that even though gender neutrality happens to be a huge 'trend', the perspective of the average person has not changed much. What they didn't understand that it's not about adding a unisex option to your store or brand.. its actually all about removing gender from the equation all together. It's about inclusivity and blending womenswear and menswear into one.

DAZED nailed it in their recent article about the gender revolution when they stressed the need for the retail side of the fashion industry to catch up with current thinking in order for any real change to occur. In our opinion, it's not so much about the actual clothing design as much as it is about the people wearing it and the act of removing the labels. Rather than designating a special 'alternative' place for non-binary or open-minded people to shop, the idea should be to make this approach the norm and change the way all clothing is labeled, marketed, and displayed in a way that includes and welcomes all people. WE ARE MORTALS is part of this movement that represents a catalyst for this change. We realize there is still a need for brands to define their target markets, but why can't clothes be marketed based on personal taste rather than traditional demographic data like age, race, and gender? In the future, couldn't there be clothing departments organized by style direction... the 'rock and roll' look with jeans and leather jackets, the hip-hop inspired streetwear look, etc.? Those categories naturally inspire choice and freedom based on inspiration rather than our sexual organs. Our current system pressures people to limit themselves to outdated gender prototypes, and we hope to see the end of that era soon. Check out our gender-fluid clothing here!