Singer-songwriter Harry Styles on Sunday wowed the audience of the 2023 Grammy Awards red carpet event when he appeared with his gender-fluid, rainbow harlequin-pattern jumpsuit adorned with Swarovski crystals.
Gender fluid, genderless, agender, unisex -- these words have all been sweeping the fashion sector.
South Korean fashion icons and TV stars, although not as daring as Styles, are gradually embracing this latest fashion concept as well, widely impacting the local retail scene.
Actor Lee Jung-jae’s fashion choice of an enormous pearl necklace and a pink tweed jacket grabbed attention last year when he appeared on a local TV variety show. Soccer player Hwang Hee-chan, also known as fashion lover, can frequently be seen casually wearing a pearl necklace with a sweatshirt or padded jacket.
“I heard that it’s a trend. I thought it would be fun to try on, so I just tried it,” Hwang answered when reporters asked him why he would wear a women’s necklace.
Genderless fashion refers to clothing designed to fit a variety of body types with a style that is fluid -- not inherently masculine nor feminine.
The trend isn't new. Androgynous styles were popular in the 20th century, worn by celebrities and championed by design houses from Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent.
The trend is simply going beyond style, experts say.
“The gender lines are blurring. Only sizing and small details make the difference. From unisex collections to men-wearing-women’s clothes fashion shows, the industry is experiencing a revolution. Genderless is redefining the rules,” a fashion industry insider told The Korea Herald.
And the new attitude is not eschewed by major fashion powerhouses.
Male models rocked the latest Milan menswear fashion week in cropped tops, with Dolce & Gabbana showing off multiple looks such as a three-piece suit of a tailored coat and trousers paired with an unconventionally cropped vest top. Dsquared2 showed a bubblegum pink cropped T-shirt that created a unique silhouette while Prada went for a more conservative adaptation of the cropped top trend with its bomber jacket.
These are just a few examples of how a fashion trend that has long been making waves in female fashion is now showing up on men, too.
Etro and Gucci also showed a variety pieces on a purple gradient, a versatile, refreshing color that was least expected to be seen in the men’s collection, as earth tones and dark neutrals have been the unspoken norm for men’s clothes.
Shinsegae International’s women’s fashion brand Studio Tomboy has unveiled a menswear collection for the first time, some 45 years after the brand’s launch. Beginning in the second half of last year, the brand opened a shop-in-shop section for menswear at Studio Tomboy stores across the country, citing the popularity of the brand’s genderless, gender-neutral design among both men and women customers as a reason.
“Men seems like they are having fun with fashion. That doesn’t mean that all men should buy women’s clothes, but the sheer joy of choosing from a variety of options is something we should all aim for,” said a public relations manager at a global luxury brand in Seoul.
Abroad, department stores like Selfridges in London have also created agender sections where customers can dress as they like, unfettered by constraints or stereotypes.
“Today, masculine taboos have fallen away. To wear a floral blouse and a pearl necklace isn’t shocking for a man anymore. With a softening in the man and a toughening of the woman, both are dressing in a similar manner,” said trend analyst Lee Jung-min, who heads Trend Lab 506.