How Genderless Fashion Changed the 2010s — And Will Come to Dominate the Next Decade

The last decade has been one of seismic change for the fashion industry. But of the myriad reasons why (shifting consumer habits, the “retail apocalypse”, even Instagram culture), none question — and reflect — the even bigger shift in self-identity more than the genderless fashion movement.

In 2019 alone, gender identity has played a major role in cultural conversation. Transgender stars like Indya Moore of “Pose,” Hunter Schafter of “Euphoria,” and Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black” are pioneers in television, lawmakers in six U.S. states have introduced bills to add non-binary markers to driver’s licenses, and the Gen Z generation is less inclined to identify as cisgender than earlier generations. Earlier this month, Merriam-Webster  announced that its “Word of the Year” would be the non-binary pronoun “they,” which they added to the dictionary in September.

hunter, schafter, euphoria, hbo, genderless, fashion, 2010s
Actress Hunter Schafter at the Golden Globes in January.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Fashion has been eager to play mirror to this movement, and over the past decade, it has been instrumental in reflecting the gender revolution both in grand scale runway moments all the way down to the way individuals dress on a daily basis.

A quick look back at the decade reveals two major designers whose influence on gender will be remembered above all others. The first is Hedi Slimane, whose collections for Saint Laurent will undoubtedly define much of the look that we will remember from the 2010s.

saint, laurent, hedi, slimane, genderless, fashion, 2010s, 2015
A gender neutral look from Saint Laurent’s spring ’16 men’s collection.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

From 2012 to 2016, the already well-known men’s designer was creative director for both the brand’s men’s and women’s collections. The result was Slimane’s DNA of L.A. rock star chic, and the uniform of leather jackets, skinny jeans, ankle boots (with heels for both the guys and girls) was implicitly gender neutral; the kinds of pieces a woman might borrow from her boyfriend or vice versa. Under Slimane’s tenure (and borrowing from the gender fluid tradition of founding designer Yves Saint Laurent’s “Le Smoking” tuxedos for women, the brand began to sell these core collection pieces in neutral silhouettes.

saint, laurent, le smoking, tuxedo, genderless, fashion
A model in a tuxedo at Saint Laurent’s spring ’14 women’s collection.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

The second designer is Alessandro Michele. In 2016, Gucci promoted their accessories director to the top role, and his creations were an instant jolt to the brand. Michele’s “fashion magpie” looks were decadent and progressed to become more gender-bending with each new collection. In 2017, Michele began to show the men’s and women’s collections together; and each collection became increasingly fluid in gender.

gucci, alessandro, michele, genderless, fashion, 2010s
A look from Gucci fall ’17, the first to be shown as a “co-ed” collection of looks.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
Harry Styles, 2019 met gala, red carpet, celebrity style
Harry Styles in a Gucci lace jumpsuit and pearl earring as co-host of the 2019 Met Gala.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Elsewhere throughout the decade, fashion ushered modern gender identity through its nascency. In 2011, transgender model Andreja Pejic walked the runway for Jean-Paul Gaultier and Jeremy Scott. Thom Browne had a penchant for showing his men’s collections with high heels. Lately, stars like Bella Hadid and Rihanna have been wearing looks straight off the men’s runway; the former from Dior Homme, the latter from Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton.

rihanna, louis, vuitton, genderless, men's collection, genderless, fashion, 2010s
Rihanna in a Louis Vuitton men’s look at Virgil Abloh’s debut for the brand in 2018.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
bella, hadid, dior, homme, genderless, fashion, 2010s
Bella Hadid at a Dior Beauty dinner during Paris Fashion Week in September wearing a men’s look from Dior.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

But off the runway, there was no bigger movement than normcore to suggest genderless fashion to the mainstream. What started out to many as a reaction to the endless and newfound availability of fashion via social media and e-commerce — the desire to just be normal — also became, in a way, an aesthetic expression for the non-binary preferences of Millennial and Gen Z generations.

genderless, fashion, 2010s, normcore,
Street style at Tokyo Fashion Week, October 2015.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Patagonia fleeces, Uniqlo khakis, Levi’s denim, New Balance sneakers, Birkenstocks and Crocs were just some of the ubiquitous, universal pieces that came to define the movement, but it also extended to anything that felt pedestrian, plain, uniform or any combination of those things, especially in irony. In 2011, normcore pioneer Phoebe Philo wore a plain turtleneck, slacks and a dirty pair of Stan Smiths on the Céline runway. By early 2014, the look went mainstream. It’s no wonder that the sneaker movement followed shortly thereafter.

phoebe philo, celine, 2011, stan smith, adidas, sneakers
Designer Phoebe Philo at the finale of the Céline fall ’12 show in October 2011.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Normcore’s aftershocks may still be felt today, especially in the adjacent “gorpcore” outdoor-inspired fashion that has kept brands like Teva and Keen in the fashion mix. Streetwear, sneaker culture and the new definitions of “his and hers” fashion have also informed the conversation of what genderless fashion looks like. Consider the looks that Hailey and Justin Bieber wear when they’re out together.

justin, bieber, hailey, baldwin, genderless, fashion, 2010s
Hailey and Justin Bieber in London, September 2018.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
hailey, justin, bieber, genderless, fashion, 2010s
Hailey and Justin Bieber in L.A. in September.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

In the coming decade, the conversation may turn to a more cross-gender approach — and maybe even just plain cross-dressing. From the drag culture that RuPaul brought to the mainstream with his hit show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” to the highly stylized masculine or feminine looks worn by gender fluid individuals like Billy Porter, Harry Styles and Tilda Swinton, it’s clear that the possibilities of genderless fashion — like those of gender and sex themselves — truly are endless.

Billy Porter, christian siriano, red carpet, celebrity style, gown, 91st Annual Academy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019
Billy Porter in Christian Siriano at the 2019 Oscars.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Access exclusive content