Let’s not skirt the trans issue
Jackie Burger calls it neotrans. When I looked online to see who else was using the term, all I found was a freight company.
The fashion community usually seizes the opportunity to spot and name a trend, but it’s been rather quiet about the dawn of gender-free fashion. Perhaps it’s because trans culture and queer culture aren’t passing trends. The past year has been one of sustained mainstream visibility for queer people, from trans men and women to gender-bending individuals and people who don’t subscribe to gender labels.
Love or loathe them, we can’t deny the effect of the positive response the Kardashian-Jenner clan received when Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself, not to mention the backing of mainstream, thought-shaping titles such as Vanity Fair, BuzzFeed and Time. But race and class dynamics continue to entrench the hierarchy regarding which bodies are represented and accepted.
I’m interested in the idea of gender-free fashion and whether this shift has resulted from increasing gender equality or a new form of one of fashion’s favourite trends: “the androgynous look”. Will it, like other trends, be gone in a year?
Women have been wearing menswear for decades, exemplified by now-forgotten items like boyfriend jeans and jackets. It seems it’s finally time for men wearing women’s clothes to be just as normal. The latest Louis Vuitton campaign features actor Jaden Smith wearing a skirt, standing casually among women. The latest Marc Jacobs campaign features trans director Lana Wachowski as the face of the brand. Menswear at Gucci has boldly transitioned into feminine luxe at the helm of Alessandro Michele, with delicate floral blouses, silk scarves and traditionally femme hues worn by men in girly bobs and oversized sunglasses.
Here at home, designers Jody Paulsen and Adriaan Kuiters’ clothing label AKJP has been making unisex clothing for some time, while online store Superbalist recently published an article by Sandiso Ngubane on his love for women’s clothing and how this has little to do with his homosexuality. The article features other individuals – some who identify as male and others as gender-blurring/bending – wearing women’s high-heeled shoes, dresses and feminine tops.
What does neotrans fashion mean? Are the leaps made by queer communities being used by the fashion industry for profit, as academic Mary Rizzo argues, or is gender-free fashion the beginning of the relaxation of rigid social norms when it comes to performing one’s gender? What of the fact that Pantone’s colours of 2016 are Rose Quartz and Serenity, a blended juxtaposition of what resembles pastel pink and baby blue? Will neotrans catapult us into doing away with pink for girls and blue for boys altogether?
BOYS IN SKIRTS
Sandiso Ngubane slays on Superbalist’s gender-free blog