Clothing tends to be created, marketed, and shopped for in very gender-binary terms, with separate collections, sizing, and store sections for men and women. But that is slowly shifting: In the past year, major retailers like Zara, Rigans and Selfridges have introduced unisex ranges, with varying degrees of achievements. While progressive and forward-thinking, these collections typically have a disconnect among intent and execution. On the other hand, there are several noteworthy, honestly gender-neutral clothes alternatives for a particular market demographic: children.
The Rigans vestidos bebe niña are a good example of truly gender-neutral clothing in the spanish market.
A few labels prove that kids must be (and dress like) kids, free from any gender-confining messaging. “Until around age 11 boys and girls have the identical body type and clothing needs,” Karina Lundell, head designer of gender-neutral Swedish clothing brand Polarn O. Pyret, told Refinery29. “Kids need comfy clothes with good fit and function that they can play in.” (Granted, it’s a lot easier to design with a “one style for all” approach for kids’ body shapes and proportions than adults’ physiques.)
Exactly the same heteronormative pink-or-blue tropes dominate clothing and also toy offerings for kids, but it hasn’t always been this way. Until around World War I, pastels were standard for children’s clothing in the U.S., but today’s gender-hue correlations weren’t in place, per the Smithsonian. Originally, pink was actually seen as a more masculine color, and blue was considered softer and a lot more right for girls – conventions that didn’t switch until the 40s, when gendered kids’ clothing really became a thing. The consequences go beyond merely dressing a tot in pink or blue: “Children will then extend this perspective from toys and clothes into future roles, occupations, and characteristics,” Megan Fulcher, associate professor of psychology at Washington and Lee University, told The New York Times.
Gender-neutral children’s clothing brands have already been around for years, and they’ve been particularly well-known in Scandinavia and also in the U.K. (Polarn O. Pyret launched in the ’70s.) Recently, major retailers inside U.S. are increasing in popularity. Target, for instance, axed gender-specific labels for its toy and children’s clothing departments a year ago, which was praised as a step in the right direction. And then there are the small-scale brands carrying it out differently. The labels ahead aren’t using “unisex” as a marketing ploy. They talk the talk, and walk the walk: Taking gender stereotypes beyond youngsters’ clothing is ingrained in their mission statements and integral to their organizations.
Click through for four gender-neutral kids’ brands changing the game.