I recently tried to explain the braless trend to my mom. My first two explanations—that we all just got very comfy not wearing bras during the pandemic and that current trends aren’t exactly bra-friendly—were easy for her to take in. But the third reason, that there is a bit of a sartorial revolution going on centered around challenging ideas of gendered fashion, was a bit harder for her to grasp. “I don’t really understand why men would want to wear skirts,” she told me,” but if that’s what makes them happy then go for it, I guess.” Interestingly, her comment isn’t actually that far off from what Gen Z, the leaders of the unisex fashion movement, has to say on the matter.
Unisex and gender-less styles have been rising in popularity for a few years now, but something about the 2020 pandemic seems to have accelerated the trend greatly. According to the global shopping platform Lyst, searches for fashion pieces including agender-related keywords have increased more than 33 percent since the beginning of 2021. Pop culture icons like Harry Styles, Kid Cudi and Lil Nas X have all had notable and public gender-neutral style moments—Styles’ Vogue spread in December 2020, Kid Cudi performing on SNL in a floral midi dress (an homage to Kurt Cobain) and Lil Nas X wearing a skirt on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, among other incidents—and their shopping impact is pretty impressive, triggering massive search increases in the following days. Dan Levy’s choice to have his character on Schitt’s Creek marry in a Thom Brown skirt also had a major real world effect, causing a lasting spike in searches for “men’s wedding skirts.”
While the biggest changes seem to be happening in men’s wardrobe choices, women are simultaneously embracing more and more typically masculine fashions. Billie Eilish’s signature predilection for oversize T-shirt and shorts has caused a steady rise in searches for similar styles over the past two years, and one of the hottest trends for women this summer is menswear-inspired boxer shorts with matching button-downs.
So why the sudden rise in unisex fashion? The simplest explanation, and one my mom hit on right away, is that it makes people happy. More specifically, it helps people to express themselves more openly and honestly and to feel more comfortable in their skin. It’s no coincidence that this rise coincides with a surge of LGBTQIA+ awareness and is absolutely connected to broader discussions of gender and sexuality. Even for those who don’t identify as part of the queer community are leaning into the notion that gender shouldn’t dictate what clothing you are or aren’t allowed to wear.
For some, wearing a dress or power suit is a proud statement of identity, while for others it’s just nice to feel free from societal boxes. The bottom line appears to be, if it makes you happy then why not? Here, a handful of our favorite unisex and gender-neutral fashion pieces to help you join in the movement.
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