Are the days of buying blue and pink clothes, toys, and shoes for boys and girls changing? We are in a world where we are called "They" instead of "She" and "He". Ask whether a child is a boy or a girl, it should not be surprising if many people now answer that it is a Theybie. These words and thoughts are spreading in social media and society.
Considering our mindset is also changing, brands also need to change their thinking. Brands have also started competing among themselves to make clothing and shoes gender-neutral. How does the concept of separate products for men and women change marketing and advertising? What questions does this raise? Are we in for a drastic change? Let's check in detail.
Are men and women different?
Dividing society into 'two sexes' was a traditional and easy criterion. Marketing separate products for men and women played a major role in enforcing this. This also managed to carefully reinforce the distinctions around gender and perpetuate stereotyped ideas. Brands themselves also tried to reflect emerging cultures and ideas through advertisements.
Clothes, shoes, and jackets that can be worn by both men and women will only show size differences. It does not specify whether it is for women or men. It is something different from what society or generations have taught us. Slim girls should wear fitted clothes, boys shouldn’t wear pink, and plus-sized people should wear loose-fitting clothes are unwritten rules forced by society and family on individuals for years. Gender-neutral clothing will provide relief from such conditioning.
Another argument about gender neutrality is that it promotes sustainability. That’s precisely the reason why a company has named their unisex clothing as a ‘Feel-good collection.’ The tagline of that feel-good collection is ‘Your voice can change the world.’ Brands have also recognized that it is good to advertise gender-neutral products. Since you don’t need to invest in different ways of advertising, it also helps with cost cutting.
How we unknowingly follow certain things
Some feel that certain products need to be marketed based on the need of the gender. Some doctors may tell you that vitamins have to be sold separately based on gender requirements. The most number of products that are sold based on their gender are probably creams and shampoos. And pink razors for women and blue razors for men.
Of course, everyone knows that it’s the same product that’s being sold for both genders. Though not consciously, we pick the product according to the colours allotted to the gender. You can see this differentiation in shower gels and deodorants. This needless gender differentiation is there in the marketing of facewash, moisturizer, earphones, and kids' toys. In the US there are even marketing dish wash scrubbers and sleeping pills separately for men and women.
Now even Barbie has changed. Will things gradually change?
The behaviour and response of men and women to adverts are being studied and it is predicted that by 2028 gender stereotypes would fade and the concept of gender would become ambiguous. Some companies are already moving towards neutral advertising. Mattel, the company that manufactured Barbie dolls only for girls released an ad a few years ago. It showed boys and girls playing with dolls and it was well received.
But there has been no change in how women with long tresses are shown in shampoo ads. During the heyday of advertising, brands were clear about who their targeted audiences were. Cars, whiskey, cardigans, pipes, and fishing, or mountaineering equipment were bought by men. And beauty products, kitchen equipment, and washing machines were marketed keeping women as the target audience.
Gender does not indicate what you should do, where you should be seen, or who you are. An example of companies finding new ways to adapt to changing society and individuals is reflected in the increase in the number of products that can be used by both men and women. Sociologists say teenagers see it as a way to enjoy their identity and individuality.
One of the most significant changes in gender segregation can be seen in children’s toys and accessories. Toy manufacturers are increasingly wary of marketing items specifically for boys and girls and avoid gender labels and markings. Perhaps this shift came from widespread criticism that many toys and children’s clothing played a key role in reinforcing gender stereotypes.
Women's empowerment is one goal
Gender socialization begins in childhood. That's the time when we subconsciously absorb and learn the rights and wrongs in front of us. Therefore the first thing we should do to eliminate gender discrimination in society is to remove the discrimination from kids' products. This argument is put forward by many sociologists.
Here we should mention what the head of a leading brand firm said— “People are beginning to recognize the role gender marketing plays in shaping children’s upbringing, decision making and creating stereotypes.” The strategy of advertising different products for men and women in different ways to increase sales is also changing now. By 2028, unisex products market growth is predicted to reach double digits.
Since the products that can be used by both men and women are aiding women's empowerment many youngsters are now endorsing them. It’s believed that unisex products and adverts will help reduce discrimination against women. Earlier, perhaps people only took note of opinions made by famous people, today anyone making a sensible remark on social media is also taken seriously. That way social media is also encouraging people to approach things through a gender-neutral lens. And this is also indirectly expanding the market for unisex products.
Those who celebrate individuality
Ever since the rights of transgender people have been recognized, fashion industries have started promoting their brands, irrespective of gender. Through such clothing, brands support non-transgender and trans people to buy what they want. Arguments are also growing in this era that the gaps between men and women are closing with companies selling clothes that can be worn by anyone. Thus, through an authentic gender-neutral clothing culture, individuality is celebrated by promoting uniform clothing for both men and women. Companies are changing their strategies when it comes to products, ads, and markets.
Gender-neutral fashion also promotes healthy body image. This will move away from the concept of “what everyone needs” and make multi-size clothing very common in society. There are signs that the future will not have a specific style that promotes clothing only for approved body sizes as in India at present. But in the meantime, some brands are trying to break these perceptions based on their entire market in neutral and sustainable clothing.
Is gender-neutral clothing the future?
When we tell children that there are toys for boys and that girls should play with dolls, we are consciously introducing a gender bias in their minds. Parents must start raising their children without gender distinction. Many foreign countries have the provision to not even mark the gender on the birth certificate. Studies show that when children are raised with these concepts of equality it will help them to see everyone as equal.
Gender-neutral clothing doesn’t look at erasing gender and its significance. On the contrary, it aims to reduce gender inequalities, gender-based oppression, and violence. When we provide unisex products for our children today, we are indirectly preparing them for tomorrow. There is also an argument behind this that tomorrow, there will be no need to fear that everyone should be respected equally.
Not only are gender-neutral clothing trendy, but they are also the need of the hour. It is also a move towards the larger ideology that fashion is genderless and that it is neither masculine nor feminine. And that is for everyone. It promotes the idea of the same fit, size, or body. Gender neutrality is not just a fashion trend, but a fashion revolution that the world has been waiting for. Using the same clothes and products for men and women is a step towards a sustainable future.
It helps in sustainable development by using less natural resources to make products. If there is a girl and a boy in a household, the older child’s clothes cannot be used by the younger one if the gender is different. But unisex products indirectly help our pockets and the earth’s sustainability in many ways, starting from the small fact that the younger sibling (boy or girl) can use the clothes of older siblings if they were unisex.
As more youngsters are open to the concept of gender equality now, there is a growing interest in gender-neutral brands. Although the concept of unisex clothing was first introduced in 1968, even after all these years, it is still not accepted in many countries. Many self-proclaimed ultra-liberals are still hesitant to use gender-neutral tools.
According to fashion experts, such decisions are more a state of mind than the goods used, the use of which depends on the tastes and interests of the wearer. There are also arguments that the evolution of gender-neutral clothing will free modern society from the constraints and negative aspects of gender tags. Therefore companies are competing to launch gender-neutral products.