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  • Writer's pictureOrlando Ong & Miranda Sun

Gender Norms in Fashion

If you identify as a male, would you ever be open to expressing your true femininity? Some may see femininity in men as an attractive characteristic or a sign of confidence. Some may see femininity as a weakness or a sign of fragility. Gender norms within the fashion industry include toxic masculinity and masculine femininity, these are a topic of discussion, especially now more than ever as celebrities have been going against these subjects. Some students at Earl have spoken freely on the topic:

“I feel like most places people are pretty accepting of people wearing what they want so I don't think that toxic masculinity is an issue in society's view of fashion today.” - Anonymous

“You’re always gonna have the odd person that's unaccepting but that's probably never going away.”

- Anonymous

Believe it or not, Gender Norms within the fashion industry have gone way back. There were times where clothing was just clothing and fabric was just fabric, used for non-catorizational purposes. Here is a breakdown of the history of how gender norms were created within the fashion industry.

Originally there was no gender to clothing, in fact, did you know that high heels and tight fitting pants were originally made for men to wear rather than women. Then enters the beginning of patriarchy, gender divisions, sexism and capitalism, men were seen as the breadwinners (those who go to work and support the family financially) and women were put in the role of a stay at home mother, taking care of the children and cleaning up the house. Women who were enclosed in their homes began to wear dresses and skirts and men wore pants as it was more efficient for mobility (fun fact modern day pants were originally made for horse riding). That was the beginning of gender norms within clothing. Moving forward into the 19th century, feminists protested and fought for their rights to normalize wearing pants to allow for easier movement, this was known as the dress reform movement.

Nowadays women wearing pants is seen as quite normal. Men on the other hand, in the western society continue to stick to pants. Although this is true, men are still seen wearing dresses/skirts in many cultures, for example, Buddhist monks (robes), Arab men (throbs), Scottish and Irish men (kilts), just to name a few.


There are many celebrities from today’s society who have broken gender fashion norms with the use of fashion. By wearing pieces of clothing or colours that go against what has been stereotypically worn by their gender, celebrities have had a large impact in bringing back the fact that clothes have no gender. They have eased some of the stigma around wearing this type of clothing, while sparking conversations about whether or not they should be worn by the opposite gender, and inspiring the present youth to wear whatever they wish without worrying about its gender.

1. Harry Styles

Harry Styles, ex One Direction member and now solo artist, recently broke the internet and caused a controversy by wearing a dress for his cover photo on this month’s release of Vogue Magazine.

There were mixed reactions from the public, with some criticizing his look for being too feminine and others praising it for helping break gender fashion norms. Styles however, was not phased by the criticism, and replied back to it with an Instagram post sarcastically captioned “Bring back manly men.” During his interview with Vogue, Styles said “When you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play.”

2. Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X is a rapper, singer and songwriter who rose to stardom in 2019 with his debut single “Old Town Road.” Lil Nas X came out as gay early on in his career which was considered a risky move on his part due to to lack of LGBTQ+ artists who are apart of the rap and hip hop community. He received a ton of support from fans and other artists but was not entirely accepted by all his fellow rappers.

Even though he has haters, Lil Nas X stays unbothered and does not let them dictate how he carries himself and builds his career. He broke gender fashion norms last year on the red carpet of his first Grammy awards by wearing a full head to toe pink cowboy outfit. He clapped back at criticism for looking non masculine by promoting his new single and complimenting himself on how good he looked.

3. Zendaya

Zendaya is an actress and model, known for the characters she played on numerous Disney Channel shows, as well as her portrayal of the character Rue on the teen drama, Euphoria, which aired last summer. During her time with Disney Channel, she had to be cautious of what she would wear in public because of the closely-monitored nature of being a Disney Star and a role model to young girls.

After she graduated from the Disney Channel, Zendaya put an effort into wearing gender neutral clothing. She also helped push the women in suits trend by showing up to the Harper’s Bazaar ICONS party last year in the same exact suit as Michael B. Jordan, making a statement that women can wear the same clothes a man can and even pull it off better.

People breaking gender norms shouldn’t be accepted by society because they already have an influence or are viewed as attractive/popular.

The confidence and courage to break a gender norm

“It doesn’t matter what you wear; like seriously, I’m not gonna judge someone for wearing a dress,

it’s a piece of clothing. If that helps express you, then it helps express you.”

-Anthony Le (grade 11 student at earl)

“Fashion in many ways is interchangeable. You can do anything with your style and you can wear whatever you want, as long as it’s personalized for you” -Anonymous

Conclusion: Toxic Masculinity and Masculine Femininity in Society Today.


  • Overall statistics question: We asked over 150 Earl of March Students if they thought toxic masculinity is an issue in society’s view of fashion today and 81% said yes while 19% said no.

  • There was once a time where clothes had no gender…


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