Columns, Opinion

CARIKER: Clothing isn’t gender specific

This weekend, Jaden Smith was spotted by paparazzi wearing a dress in public. The pictures circulated the Internet, and people exploded. They were attacking Smith for his fashion choices, targeting Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith for their parenting skills and basically making a huge deal over something as insignificant as a dress. Granted, Jaden Smith has created a weird persona for himself through his social media presence, tweeting cryptic phrases with the first letter of each word capitalized, such as “How Can Mirrors Be Real If Our Eyes Aren’t Real” and “Most Trees Are Blue.” However, I think Smith is onto something here, and I think he’s making a good point.

Smith posted the picture on Instagram with the caption “Went To TopShop To Buy Some Girl Clothes, I Mean ‘Clothes.'” This was a really powerful statement to his 1.8 million followers, even if he didn’t realize he was making it. Societal gender labels on clothing are harshly enforced for basically no other reason than to keep things the way they’ve always been. What’s so bad about a guy in a dress?

Girls can and have been wearing pants with no objections for decades now. The last few years of award shows and red carpets have brought in a new and sweeping trend of women in suits, which people have praised. This trend has spread to “normal” society outside of Hollywood as well. I’ve seen multiple girls wear suits to their high school proms. Meanwhile, if a boy wears a skirt or a dress, it’s seen as out of the ordinary and strange. If a boy wore a dress to prom, it would be a huge deal. Why the double standard? Why can girls wear typically masculine clothes and receive compliments while boys get ridiculed if they wear stereotypically feminine clothes?

This stems from the idea that men are looked down upon for doing anything that would portray them as feminine. By wearing a dress, they’re “destroying” their masculinity. I don’t think, though, that clothing and masculinity necessarily have to match up or have to be mutually exclusive. Someone can still wear a dress and be masculine, and when it comes down to it, a “loss” of masculinity isn’t the worst thing in the world. We are throwing ourselves into these restrictive gender categories for virtually no reason with gender specific colors, clothes and ideas. Gender fluidity exists, but many people like to pretend it doesn’t and silence those who try to express it.

Boys can’t wear makeup because it’s seen as unnatural. Meanwhile, it’s seen as odd if girls don’t wear makeup. Baby boys are surrounded with blue clothing, while girls are wrapped in pink. Young boys who like pink, or more “feminine” colors or clothes, tend to be bullied. There have been stories on the news about boys being kicked out of class for wearing makeup, skirts or high heels. We have these pre-set gender expectations for boys and girls as they grow that society enforces without really stopping to think about why.

This weekend I was hanging out with some friends and for whatever reason some people decided to switch outfits, regardless of their genders and what the items of clothing were. The boys were in spaghetti-strap tank tops and girls were in baggy jeans and sweaters, with no criticism whatsoever. Everything kept going on normally, just with everyone in gender-swapped clothes. My friend Conner ended up in my floor-length floral dress and honestly, he rocked it. He got so many compliments and he looked better in it than I did. I don’t think this attitude should exist just at college parties. Men and women should be able to wear whatever clothing they want, no matter what color or pattern it is. People get so angry about it, but if it’s not negatively affecting them, why should they care?

I’m completely on board with this new wave of fashion. Although it is a small step, I think it’s an important motion in the move for gender equality. Just a few decades ago, women couldn’t wear pants without being looked down upon, and I think the new movement of men wearing “female” clothing without facing harsh criticism is up next. There’s no need to conform to these gender limitations, and using clothing to push gender boundaries shouldn’t be frowned upon. I see this as progress, and the people pushing for it shouldn’t have their voices stifled.


  1. You make excellent points here. What is it we fear about “losing ” masculinity? I believe that the fear is based in ignorance and concerns about losing peer respect. Those words say more than they may appear. I have found myself among men who criticize my feminine “characteristics” from my emotions to how I cross my legs. The comments and criticizm reflect those people, not me or who I am. I am a man. There is no question in my mind about that, and I don’t care who knows it, accepts it, or rejects it or me.
    Kudos, otherwise cryptic and mysterious young Mr. Smith, for inciting comment.
    Masculinity, to me, is exemplified in accepting, protecting, nurturing others, and projecting those same qualities to demonstrate personal confidence in who we are as people.

  2. It is about time for someone to take a stand for men’s rights. We are all flesh and blood. We are the same creatures, just a different gender; thus, we suppose to be treated equally. Men 400 years ago use to wear flamboyant clothing. In fact Christopher Columbus and his crew wore dresses and skirts when they arrived to the North American shore. Trousers only been around for about 200 years, the rest of the time men wore dresses. Yet people cannot comprehend that. They are brain washed believing males have to wear trousers and it has always been that way; henceforth, men refuse to wear anything else.
    One women in 1851 named Elizabeth Smith Miller was the first women, in 1851, to break society rules and wear trousers and look what he stance achieved today.
    It is written in history that men was the first to wear high heels, which is condemned today.
    Men wore tights, roses, purples etc., through history, yet through brain washing, people would condemn a men to wear it now.

    So this stance he is making today is what our society needs, real gender equality, and not the only that only benefits females.

    Men’s Dress Reformation Movement Facebook page:

  3. Masculinity and clothing do match. Jaden Smith is subtly coming out of the closet. Nothing wrong with that.

  4. Thank you for this article. I am a man and wear skirts and kilts. It is really no big deal.
    Besides men use to wear these type of clothing in the past!