Banishing the Binaries

Fashion is considered one of the most progressive and avant-garde industries and re-invention is one of its core principles. Developing and re-designing itself is what allows the machine to continue to thrive. So I find myself wondering how is it that such a forward-thinking industry can reinforce such old-fashioned ideals?

I’m talking, of course, about gender binaries. They’re everywhere in fashion. Who hasn’t read an article explaining what to wear “for him” or “for her?” But each time an article like this runs, or a department store segregates clothing by ‘male’ or ‘female,’ a large chunk of the population is ignored because if you don’t fit into either of those pronouns, you won’t even get a mention.

It’s so systematically inherent that it’s right here on our high streets. I’m a 20 year old trans woman and I love shoes. However I find the act of shopping for shoes soul destroying. The biggest size Topshop sells is an 8. One of the most mainstream, ‘popular’ shops thinks the biggest possible footsize of its clientele is an 8. This is only two sizes up from the national average footsize for women which is a size 6! And this is detrimental not just to trans or non-binary individuals, but to women and to all people with big feet who want to wear ‘cool’ shoes from ‘cool’ Topshop, because we all miss out. What Topshop and places like it are saying when they don’t sell anything higher than this is that we’re not welcome to their brand, they don’t want us to wear their clothing. And that is definitely not cool.

This heteronormativity feels especially banal when we consider how exciting fashion can be. It’s an industry that delights in keeping its audience on edge. This is the movement that is slowly liberating what women choose to put on their bodies. It loves being naughty and pushing boundaries and showing us things like side boob on the red carpet. But now it’s time to start liberating everyone, showing that anyone can wear whatever they want. Sideboob on a red carpet doesn’t really surprise me as much as say someone rocking a non-binary style on a red carpet would. That kind of medium-level representation would be so inspiring to a disillusioned androgynous person looking for a point of reference in popular culture. Any representation would be better than nothing, because it would get people talking. Cultural change requires the ‘generators of culture,’ in this corporate sense I mean both high-fashion brands and high-street retailers, to initiate the change. If we live in a spoon-fed society, then give us something that tastes a bit more of acceptance. By making products more diverse, by adding things like an “asexual fit” or larger shoe sizes, mingling traditional women’s clothing amongst the traditional men’s, people will begin to feel more comfortable experimenting. Then the alternative will become the norm.

You may say, so what, it is just fashion- it’s a vapid and meaningless industry that causes a whole heap of insecurities in a lot of people. And you may be right, there are many problems with society’s ideals of beauty and how it conveys them. But, right or wrong, fashion is as influential on our culture as it ever was. That’s the point of it. In the world we live in today we use visual media to understand ourselves and our other surroundings and by excluding androgynous people, trans people and intersex people from this discussion, the fashion sphere denies our existence. It denies our right to be a part of the beautiful regeneration of fashion, to be a voice in this conversation, even our right to wear fashion. It makes it that bit harder for us to understand ourselves in the modern world. It becomes another mirror for us to look at that doesn’t reflect us back. And that needs to change.


About Author


Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/wp_35pmrq/ on line 11

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/wp_35pmrq/ on line 26
November 2021
Latest Comments
About Us

The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

If you would like to get in touch, email the Editor on Follow us at @ConcreteUEA.