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gender neutral clothing

Nov 16, 2023

Discover the World of Gender Neutral Clothing: How Does It Work?

Finnegan Shepard Founder of Both&

Understanding Gender Neutral Clothing: A Style For Every Individual

In the last decade, the fashion industry has undergone some major changes. After a hundred years of clothing being made with a very specific (and limited) range of bodies in mind, new brands on the block are pushing back against the status quo. We see this with adaptive fashion, plus size clothing, and perhaps most significantly in the shift away from a binary understanding of gender towards more of a gender neutral future. But what does gender neutral even mean, in the context of clothing?

In this article, we will explore the definition of gender neutral clothing and how it is embodied in different kinds of fashion and style. We will discuss how it fits (or doesn’t) fit the needs of different groups, including people who identify as trans, non binary, gender non conforming, and gender queer.

So to begin…


What is Gender Neutral Clothing?

If you google this, you will find all sorts of different answers. That in and of itself is an interesting thing to think about, but for now let’s avoid going down a philosophical rabbit hole. The most common denominator seen throughout all the definitions is that gender neutral clothing is clothing that “can be worn by men or women, or non binary people.” Essentially, the argument is that gender neutral clothing can be worn by anyone, regardless of body shape or gender identity.

If we take this as the definition, then there is something inherently political about the term. People who wear gender neutral clothing are often making a statement about their view of gender, and that statement tends to take the philosophical position that gender is constructed and problematically divides us into different categories when really we are all human. People who subscribe to gender neutral clothing are likely to say things like “a t shirt isn’t gendered,” or “what I wear has nothing to do with defining my gender.”

nonbinary person in brown both& longsleeve shirt


How Does Gender Neutral Clothing Work?

The interesting complexity behind gender neutral clothing and this concept of democratizing gender is that at the end of the day, clothing needs to be cut into some kind of a pattern. Traditionally, the proportions of patterns are defined by whether they are for a cisgender man or a cisgender woman. The proportions are based on average measurements for cisgender men and women at different places on the body (shoulders, chest, hips, inseam, etc.) plus a preconceived notion of what shape or silhouette the ‘average’ person wants. For instance, there is an assumption that men want a boxy, square shape that emphasizes their muscles and women want a form fitting shape that accentuates their curves.

So what do you do when making gender neutral clothing?

To date, there has been one dominant approach. That approach is to make clothes that are baggy and advertise them as gender neutral. On a basic level, the baggy approach is a utilitarian one: the baggier the clothing, the more likely that more body types and shapes will fit into it. However, there are also understandable complaints about this approach. For one thing, it favors a kind of tomboy/streetwear/athleisure look that isn’t everyone’s style. A crude way of putting it is that it is basically just making oversized men’s clothes and arguing that this is gender neutral.

If that image doesn’t quite click for you yet, try to imagine the opposite. What if gender neutral clothing today was cisgender women’s clothing (let’s imagine form fitting low rise jeans and a mid drift blouse) simply made in larger sizes, so that people who were assigned male at birth could try to squeeze their way into it? The ridiculousness of the image points to some core tensions in the gender neutral clothing movement.


The Importance of Gender Neutral Clothing

While there are some tricky questions to answer about how to make gender neutral clothing something that is inclusive and impactful in an innovative way, it is also important to note that the emergence of this space points to a much bigger, global trend. People all over the world are rejecting a binary world view. They do not agree that people are neatly slotted into the category of cisgender women and cisgender men, and they are demanding that industries adapt to better serve the diversity of human experience. That is an amazing and important step towards a more inclusive and open world, and while gender neutral clothing may not be the final answer, it is a critical stepping stone on the way.


Finding Your Style in Gender Neutral Clothing

All that being said, let’s now talk about how you can navigate the world of gender neutral clothing and find a style that feels right for you.

One of the key questions we always like to ask people when they are beginning this journey is: 

If it were possible for clothing to fit you in exactly the way you’d want, what would that look like?

This may seem like a simple or silly question, but it’s actually a profound one. It’s profound because so many of us as trans or enby or gender queer people have never actually experienced clothing that fits the way we want it to. Because we have never experienced that, we have learned to ‘settle’ for less than ideal fits. Many AFAB, masc of center people have ended up wearing very oversized clothing simply because it’s the only clothing that doesn’t trigger dysphoria, rather than because it’s clothing that brings gender euphoria.

Now, if wearing more traditional gender neutral clothing in baggy fits is genuinely your ideal fit, the way that you imagine your best self dressed, then there is nothing wrong with that! There are plenty of options for this kind of clothing available, from Pangaia to TomboyX. However, it’s super important that you don’t limit yourself in this imaginative exercise, because you deserve clothing that makes you feel fantastic, not just clothing that makes you feel okay.

As you begin to picture and sketch out what that ideal kind of silhouette or style would be (Pinterest boards can be a fun way to visualize this) you will come to understand more about yourself and about what empowering gender identity expression looks like for you (it’s different for everyone).

If you are AFAB and find yourself wishing that you could have those classic masculine shapes (broad shoulders, muscle definition in the arm, a boxy torso, no curve around hips and thighs), then we recommend you explore brands that have changed the fit and sizing system to serve masc AFAB people, like Both&. These garments aren’t traditional gender neutral garments that are simply oversized–instead, their dimensions have been changed to achieve the very specific masc silhouette that many transmasc and masc of center people are looking for.

Finnegan transmasc tee shirt black
Romeo grey tank top
Jo denim jeans


The future of gender neutral clothing

As the world moves more and more towards a nonbinary understanding of gender, fashion will continue to evolve alongside it. Fashion is one of the core ways that people express their identity, and so it serves as a kind of frontier for society’s thinking. It is becoming more and more commonplace to see gender ‘bent’ and played with, from the classroom to the red carpet. As you explore what it looks like for you, remember one thing: this journey is entirely your own, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Find clothing that sparks gender joy and know that you 100% deserve it!