Lawson: Gender bending starts at rack

Jaden Smith in 2009.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jaden Smith in 2009.

Angelica Lawson

Clothes don’t make the man or the woman, so why are we so hung up on men’s and women’s fashions being separate? I have a few men’s department favorites in my closet, and there are probably men who have a few women’s department pieces in their wardrobe. It’s not something I’m used to, but being exposed to things we aren’t used to is, in this case, positive.

The evolution of clothing and fashion brought about the associations of certain people with certain types of clothes. For example, people of royalty were easily distinguished from the commoners by the color and workmanship of their clothes. This same idea is seen today among the Hollywood elite and the high-end pieces they wear every day.

Over time, colors evolved into being associated with gender. Baby boys were sent home in blue outfits, and girls went home in pink. This change came about in the 1940s, and the baby boomers were the first generation to be raised with this kind of strict gender-based clothing. 

But this type of categorization may be going away with the help of few men and women who are not afraid to go against what has become the norm. One person who comes to mind immediately is Jaden Smith because he has been making some newsworthy buzz about the way he is choosing to dress these days.

Smith was announced as the face of the Louis Vuitton women’s collection.

This gender-bending campaign is a big career move for Smith. Being associated with such a strong brand at a young age isn’t unheard of in the fashion industry, but being a man and the face a major woman’s campaign is a rare résumé booster. Smith can be seen wearing skirts, mesh tops, skirt suits and other key pieces from the line in Louis Vuitton ads.

Gender roles are assumed and are learned through the observations of other people who identify as their sex. Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics, while gender refers to behaviors, roles, expectations and activities in society. Sex refers to male or female, while gender refers to masculine or feminine.

In fashion, sex does not always mean feminine or masculine. It can be as simple as a trend that takes on an identity of its own. For a long time, it was frowned upon for women to wear dress pants or a pant suit or anything that remotely resembled men’s fashion, but this thought was challenged in the ’70s and now is so common that no one blinks an eye at a woman wearing a blazer and pants.

Now the men are getting the opportunity to break down these walls, and Smith is among one of the faces that will be remembered during this period of men wearing women’s fashions. 

In 2012, designer Marc Jacobs made headlines after going around town in a pink T-shirt dress. Jacobs, who is well known for being the lead designer for Louis Vuitton from 1997-2014, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Marc Jacobs, was also known for pushing the limits of his audience on the runway. He is now known for pushing the limits off the runway. Jacobs brought a new light to what men’s fashion could be when he wore the T-shirt dress in 2012, and Smith is now doing something similar with a new audience.

Smith is actively participating in this breakdown of gender roles by making clothing gender fluid. 

For me, I’m used to seeing someone of the same gender wearing the same shirt as me, but I have to take a double take when seeing someone of the opposite gender wearing the same shirt. Smith has me doing a lot of double takes, which is both good and bad. It’s good because the more you’re exposed to something, the more the novelty wears off, but it’s also bad because it still causes a lot of discomfort for me to see a man in full woman’s apparel.

Maybe that’s the point: to bring attention to this discomfort of clothes not being fluid among genders and the fact that clothes and dresses can be worn by whomever. Bringing this discomfort to the forefront of discussion will allow us to knock down these outdated barriers and bring more equality between men and women.