Breaking down the binary: Androgynous fashion

Alice Mottram 20 October 2014

It truly is the end of an era, the skinny jean epoch that has defined the youth of our generation. So dig out those embarrassing baggy jeans from your wardrobe, because androgyny is back. It’s a trend that returns every decade or so, having been pioneered by flapper girls who chose loose shapes that didn’t reveal their feminine figures. 

Reimagined by the likes of Katherine Hepburn and Patti Smith, even Rihanna was sporting Givenchy menswear last year. But whilst Armani and Celine are the flagships for androgyny on the pages of Vogue, a unisex student wardrobe can be achieved with little more than boyfriend jeans, loose fit tees and Dr Martens. 

Yet, there is something inherently masculine in this normcore uniform which promotes itself as being strictly unisex. Supposedly genderless jeans are labelled as ‘boyfriend’ cut: not so genderless after all. 

The androgyny trend seems to have become misdirected, mistranslated as ‘women wearing masculine clothes’. Rarely, if ever, in mainstream fashion do you see androgynous menswear (if that isn’t oxymoronic). McQueen showcased a kilt-over-trousers for A/W14 but I haven’t seen them in Topman. 

Androgynous models are also breaking away from the pack. Andreja Pejic has modelled in both men’s and women’s catwalk shows, including outings in Gaultier’s menswear and his bridal couture in 2011. The model has spoken of her pride in her ‘gender noncomforming career’ and has paved the way for other androgynous models. 

Yet, why is it that when designers are experimenting in the space between the binary, or trying to break down gender norms altogether, mainstream fashion still ends up with an aesthetic defined by its relativity to traditional masculinity? And what does that say about the state of equal rights, when unisex is still defined as something that is intrinsically masculine? 

There is still a way to go, until femininity isn’t considered inferior and more men are wearing skirts. All said and done though, I really do love my Dr Martens.