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The Beauty of a Genderless Fashion Future    

The Beauty of a Genderless Fashion Future

Art by FISK

By Hannah Jackson

In early episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it isn’t uncommon to see male members of the Starfleet roaming the USS Enterprise rocking the hell out of a minidress. While it may have been shocking then (it premiered in 1987 and ran until 1994), the show is set in the 24th century, when society, the show presumes, will have progressed past gender constructs. The fashion wasn’t simply for shock value — it signified the achievement of total gender equity, aiming to link the long-fought battle for equality to fashion. The male mini, however, didn’t last long, and was eventually phased out of the show altogether after rumored disputes with the network. 

While Star Trek is obviously fantastical, its costume choices were a response to very real gender roles in our world, and its predictions about gender and fashion were spot-on. While we will never know for sure how fashion will evolve in the next 250 years — unless we really get crackin’ on the whole cryogenics thing — if the past few years serve as a litmus test, we appear to be on a high-speed train barrelling towards androgyny. Today, we are able to wear clothes that many people in the LGBTQ+ community were ostracized, attacked, and even killed for wearing, but that didn’t stop them from fighting for decades for the right to be themselves. The result of that long-fought battle is a growing acceptance of genderless clothing in mainstream culture, allowing us all to more comfortably be ourselves, in whatever clothes we want.

When we think of androgynous or unisex fashion, we tend to think of women choosing to wear more traditionally masculine styles of dress. Grace Jones, Annie Lennox, and Joan Jett are all women who rocked the boat with their boundary-breaking style back when Star Trek was nixing the male minidress. However, in the years that followed, the shock of women in suits and pants faded quickly, and it was the men who wore traditionally feminine clothing that really made waves. A man in a dress became a form of anarchic social currency. David Bowie and Prince were renowned for their envelope-pushing femininity. Kurt Cobain famously donned dresses, from the “In Bloom'' music video, to his performance at Hampshire College, to that famous cover of The Face. Cobain possessed an innate understanding that life is much more exciting when freed from the boundaries of gendered clothes: “It just feels comfortable, sexy and free wearing a dress. It’s fun,” he told Melody Maker. These famous dissenters have modeled a new way forward, in which a man can wear traditionally feminine clothing without sacrificing his masculinity. 

Brands are also hopping on board, finally realizing that gender constructs are so passé. Within Gen Z, one in six people identify as LGBTQ+ and they’re also four times more likely to identify as non-binary than people over 40. As younger generations grow more and more dissatisfied with the limitations of labels, fashion houses have begun rethinking the way that clothing is modeled, advertised and sold. The change in thinking along binaries signifies a greater social shift, one in which self-expression is freer and less stigmatized. Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, put it best when he said: “My idea of masculinity is beauty, and if you want to be beautiful you can be beautiful the way you want.” This trajectory of gender fluidity has opened doors to more interesting fashion and more genuine self-expression: Harry Styles, a muse of Michele, recently turned heads when he wore a dress on the cover of Vogue.

In fact, as fluid fashion becomes more ubiquitous, many male celebrities who have long worn traditionally masculine clothes have started rocking more feminine pieces. Both Post Malone and Kid Kudi recently donned floral frocks in honor of the 27th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, while 2 Chainz, Diddy, and Kanye West have all worn skirts publicly. Jewelry has also become a gateway to gender-nonconforming fashion: A$AP Rocky, Bad Bunny, Machine Gun Kelly, and Jaden Smith have all been known to incorporate pearl necklaces, pendants, chokers, and a medley of rings into their accessory rotation. While none of these men are the first to wear traditionally feminine clothing — and saying so would be a disservice to those who came before them — seeing the über-famous shamelessly wearing skirts, dresses, and jewelry sends a message that dressing outside of the binary doesn’t have to be so taboo. 

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