How “Genderless” Sweats Might Be Missing The Point

Sweatpants are indeed for everyone. But to see them as representing a meaningful step forward for gender inclusivity is wrong.

2/26/2021 10:05:00 PM

Sweatpants are indeed for everyone. But to see them as representing a meaningful step forward for gender inclusivity is wrong.

Sweatpants are indeed for everyone. But to see them as representing a meaningful step forward for gender inclusivity is wrong.

launched its “For Everyone” collection: a range of outerwear and loungewear made up of baggy joggers and matching sweatshirts, boxy tees, ultra-stretchy leggings (a signature for the label), and retro fleeces — all in an inviting autumnal color palette. The collection, available in sizes XXS to 7XL, is a perfect distillation of the pandemic aesthetic: It’s sofa-friendly, ethically made, simple and unadorned, and its main selling point is that the line works for all people, regardless and inclusive of any gender expression.

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The gender-neutral aspect of sweats isn’t the only driving force behind their popularity, but it’s certainly been used as a marketing tool for brands to impressive results. As one of thetop-selling fashionitems during a time where corporate and commercial spaces rushed to signal their diversity and inclusivity efforts, sweatpant sellers found it useful to highlight all the ways in which their garments may also promote social justice; after all, what's more inclusive than a product that's for everyone? Even before 2020, popular brands like

and PANGAIA used universality as a reason to buy their product (it's baked into their names). It’s thelackof gender inherent in sweats that is constantly invoked as a reason to shop: The sweats are “to be used as decided by the wearer, regardless of their gender,” PANGAIA said in a statement to Refinery29. headtopics.com

AdvertisementBut seeing sweats as representative of a meaningful step forward for gender inclusivity is missing the point. For one, even the most well-meaning companies divide their assortment of products into male and female categories, which defeats the purpose of gender-neutral fashion. But more importantly, in some key ways, this kind of “genderless” aesthetic actually makes it more difficult to achieve real progress for the non-binary fashion movement.

According to Anita Dolce Vita, the editor in chief of queer style magazine DapperQ, choosing to describe sweatsuits as “non-binary” or “genderless” can be damaging for the queer community from which these terms originated because, by associating them with a basic pair of sweats, it implies the absence of any gender signifiers as defined by society. But non-binary fashion isn’t about stripping clothes of the details we’ve been conditioned to understand as either masculine or feminine; it’s about removing the labels that suggest certain clothes can only be worn by certain individuals. 

“This [current moment] is about clothing [upon which] we can’t project any of our traditional notions about gender, when really the conversation should be about whyanythingis gendered,” Dolce Vita explains. “It’s taking us further away from thinking about a skirt or pearls or heels being genderless, and it’s also reverting to the idea that masculinity is the default for neutral.” Associating genderlessness with apparel that is typically made for men has long been, and still is, common practice in fashion. As recently as last week, Everlane launched its Track Collection, a certified-organic range of “

” hoodies, joggers, and zip-ups that is divided into two categories: women’s and men’s/unisex. Advertisement Read more: Refinery29 »

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“masculinity is the default for neutral” Girlfriend, you’ve never been in a department store where the women’s section takes up two floors at the entrance and the men’s section is hidden behind the elevator in a corner on the top floor.