Reviews | All clothing should be considered neutral | Opinion
Have you ever put on a piece of clothing and been told it looks too feminine or masculine? Unfortunately, you wouldn’t be the only one; it happens regularly to my friends and me.
A friend of mine had parents who wouldn’t let him wear a dress for Halloween. I know a girl who was ridiculed for wearing tennis shoes back to school, but why? Clothes have no gender.
Growing up, I had a difficult relationship with clothing. Until the eighth grade, my mother bought me clothes, so I didn’t have to think about what I was wearing. The clothes were nothing more than a tool to prevent me from having a dress code.
In high school, I used my newfound independence to start shopping for myself and started paying more attention to what I was wearing. Buying my own clothes gave me the freedom to present myself the way I wanted.
During my sophomore year of high school, I was in fashion; my junior year, I was a hipster; my last year, I was – well, all over the place. Either way, it was liberating to have a new sense of control over my clothes to change the way I expressed myself.
However, this freedom was followed by unexpected pressure. I could express myself, but only to a certain extent. I noticed that by defying gender norms people around me became uncomfortable. If the way I dress was not in keeping with what society expected, people would treat me differently. I received glances from the public and sarcastic comments. I was pushed around by a stranger.
What differentiates traditionally male and female clothing? As far as I know, the only thing that separates them is the area of the store in which they are displayed. Advertisers market different clothes for each gender, but the only thing stopping a man from buying a pair of heels is the odd look he can walk up to the women’s section.
I try to ignore it as best I can. At the start of my freshman year of college, I wore my first crop top one day at 90 degrees. Crop tops are considered women’s clothing, but I bought them anyway. After all, it’s just a shirt with half the fabric on it. I got some weird looks, but I also felt more confident than I had been in a while.
Once I stopped worrying about the perceived gender of my clothes, I had infinitely more options to improve my wardrobe. I focused on the clothes that appealed to me rather than what was marketed for my gender. This has led to eclectic pieces that bring joy to others and to me. Sometimes people can’t even tell which section they’re from.
Clothing is an extension of our emotions. When I wear something outside the box, I feel bold. When I wear something that I love, I feel at peace. Gender norms should not be a factor that limits our emotional expression through clothing.
It’s liberating to dress in a way that really expresses itself, so we should welcome people who break gender norms. No matter how you dress, opening your mind to the idea that clothing is genderless helps break down the stigma surrounding clothing. It benefits everyone in the long run from having less pressure on trivial things, like the way we dress.