“Blue is for boys” a father said to his daughter as they chose a t-shirt; the same father who bought the Frozen DVD shortly after, whose main character we never see dressed in pink.
“Pink is for girls!” a grandmother said to a boy who got wet, and could have avoided catching a cold by accepting a pair of pink socks.
I have often wondered, especially since my daughter Giulia came into the world, what this dichotomy is based on, as I insert dozens of shades between white and black into palettes for my clients, to suit the complexion and personality of each. Dichotomies that, if you go looking, are quite recent, as history often associates pink with the masculine (due to its proximity to red and its bloody and warlike connotations) and blue with the feminine (like the veil of the Virgin Mary). Basically, the meaning of colours is inherently genderless and mostly exploited for marketing reasons. Pink and its message linked to lightness, joie di vivre and hope for the future should not be the prerogative of a single gender, and in equal measure the calming, reassuring and introspective power of blue and its many hues should be a part of girls’ and women’s wardrobes from an early age.
Not only the colours but also shapes, fabrics and elements of costume are often associated with a specific gender or even a specific sexual orientation. What makes a garment masculine? What makes it feminine? What makes it neutral? We often hear about crossdressing, mistakenly assuming that those who wear clothing generally associated with the opposite sex are gay. Try telling that to Mark Bryan, a father (and grandfather) and robotics engineer, who in addition to wearing pencil skirts and very high-heeled Louboutins, does not believe in crossdressing “because (in fact) clothes have no gender!”. Or check out Stefano Ferri, a family man, as they say, who owns a 100% feminine wardrobe, and who in 2015 first brought the topic of crossdressing to the fore in Italy.
But if clothes have no gender, or rather, do not define the gender, or sexual orientation of the wearer, how can we dress freely and why are we not free to do so? Where do you buy outfits designed by fashion houses that firmly believe that imposed canons are obsolete and that freedom of stylistic expression is a beautiful new (open) frontier? Thanks also to the work of my team, I have met queer-friendly brands and platforms such as Qwearfashion.com which explores, for example, beauty through the eyes of LGBT+ plus-size influencers with an androgynous style. I fell in love with Rebirth Garments, the brand that celebrates the freedom of expression of one’s gender and sexual identity, with a focus on adaptive garments that are also designed for people with disabilities.
I trust that if big companies like Zalando and Urban Decay have decided to become official sponsors of events like the London Queer Fashion Show in 2020, trends in the world of beauty in all its forms are moving in a more representative and less stereotyped direction for the whole LGBT + community; one in which pleated leather skirts and nail polish for men, and a military tank top or a pair of over-sized Bermuda shorts for women, do not necessarily determine their most intimate and personal preferences. Ever since there has been marketing and “buyer personas”, entrepreneurs have been asked who they will sell their products to; usually the answers start with “men between the ages of x and y” or “women between the ages of x and y”; but there is the whole rest of a world filled with people who do not recognise themselves in either of these, or who recognise themselves in both… and are not defined by their gender.
In any case, the best answer came from the founder of CheekyHats: “I saw that your hats are gender-neutral, is that right?” She (founder of CheekyHats): “Yes they are, I design for people, not genders.”