Men in skirts: gender-fluid fashion is no longer a novelty

Experts reveal why the gender-neutral fashion movement continues to gain momentum

14 December 2017 - 12:19 By Staff reporter
Jerri Mokgofe.
Jerri Mokgofe.
Image: Supplied

The notion that men wearing anything other than trousers denotes homosexuality is weird.

The ancient Egyptians, Romans, Zulus, Scots and countless others didn't wear trousers and no one thought of them as effeminate. The same could be said of jewellery and many other fashion items.

We spoke to a couple of experts to find out why gender-fluid fashion is trending.


Mokgofe is a blogger (According to Jerri), stylist and trendsetter

Gender-neutral fashion is mainly influenced by the LGBTIQA community and the fact that we're going through a ''wokeness" period and radical social activism.

The basis of the gender-neutral movement is driven by the need to educate those who are not aware of the issues involved with navigating the gender spectrum.

We went through the phase of embracing and educating on various fashion lifestyle trends based on the intersection of gender and sexuality. Take for example in the 1990s when the hot topic was the metrosexual man. The underlying message was that metrosexual men like David Beckham are not necessarily homosexual because they care about how they look.

Currently, transgenderism is the hot topic in fashion which leads to a discussion of gender identity and sexuality.

By creating gender-neutral garments designers or retailers leave it to the consumer to decide what gender they identify as and in so doing try to dispel the generational societal notion of gender binaries
Jerri Mokgofe

By creating gender-neutral garments the fashion designers or retail chains leave it to the consumer to decide what gender they identify as and in so doing try to dispel the generational societal notion of gender binaries. For example, pink is for girls and blue is for boys. High-heeled shoes are for women and flat footwear is for men.

In one of his recent collections at SA Fashion Week, Jacques van der Watt, founder and creative director of Black Coffee, showed a gender-neutral collection in an attempt to appeal to both his strong female customer base while strengthening his male customer base.

Instead of dictating to individuals what they should wear to fit the preconceived societal notions of male and female, some labels are letting people choose for themselves.

Sandiso Ngubane.
Sandiso Ngubane.
Image: Supplied


Ngubane is a writer and trend analyst

Gender neutrality in fashion is about the freedom of self-expression beyond the gender binary, which we now know limits the freedom of many that society has outcast as weird. It's an acknowledgement that gender exists on a spectrum and can't be limited within a binary - man or woman, girl or boy.

Gender-neutral fashion is simply a reflection of a changing world, as far as our perceptions of gender and sexuality are concerned.

The two are mutually exclusive, even though they can overlap. For example, a person who identifies as non-binary, meaning they identify as neither a man or a woman, has a gender expression that might be androgynous.

In the past couple of years we've seen an increasing visibility of such individuals. Generation Z is demonstrating a far more liberal stance in acknowledging that gender exists on a spectrum. Fashion is a reflection of the times. Chanel was associated with women's suffrage and equality movements. Think Stoned Cherrie and Loxion Kulca, and the post-apartheid South African youth's quest to define identity.

Mahlatse James.
Mahlatse James.
Image: Supplied


James is a blogger (MJ & Stuff), fashion writer and creative consultant

It's almost 2018AD and, finally, gender fluidity in fashion has gone past novelty status.

Gender fluidity has existed since Egyptian times when men wore dresses and mascara, and in the French courts where men wore wigs, powder, ruffled shirts and high heels.

It has gained momentum. David Bowie's dress-up knew no bounds. Kristen Stewart flirts with menswear and Jaden Smith is the poster child of androgyny today.

Gender-fluid clothing is pretty normal these days, and its availability makes me happy, but then I have always shopped from both sides.

• This article was originally published in The Times