What does GENDER NEUTRAL mean?
In clothing, the most basic definition is “suitable for girls and boys” but its not a phrase we use often. Its pretty confusing and tends to get thrown about by tabloids. On its own, it conjures up an image of beige beige beige, and kids looking miserable in identikit potato sacks. What we're challenging is why are clothes so heavily gendered to begin with - after all, we want more choice, not less.
We believe children are individuals, and that biological sex (and ideas about male and female, ie, gender) have no baring on what colours children are drawn to, what interests they should have or what clothes they may want to wear.
Why do you want to ban skirts in schools?
We don't want to ban any type of clothing.
Let Clothes Be Clothes advocates a unisex school uniform policy. Comfortable and practical clothing is paramount, and although some question if skirts (for example) are practical in terms of movement, they are popular in Summer and warmer weathers, so a choice of clothing types is really important.
Whats stopping you buying from both sections?
Nothing. Most of us are more than capable of doing so. For children though, having to buy from the ‘wrong’ department can be less than ideal.
Children are keenly aware of ‘rules’. It’s how they learn how to be part of society. They know what they ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ wear. Even if they’re prepared to cross the divide and wear a style or colour from the ‘wrong’ department, this often leads to negative comments and in some cases bullying from peers.
The added problem is you are still facing a set of stereotypes, regardless of which section you shop in. For parents who want their daughters to have the choice of Star Wars motifs, Dinosaurs and Cars, the clothing available under the overhead boys sign will be less colourful and baggier by design. For boys who love unicorns and flowers, the clothing is more likely to be of thinner material, cut slimmer and of less practical design.
Surely there are more important things to worry about?
Yes, but we can be concerned about more than one thing, right? Stereotyping in children's clothing is part of a much bigger picture, with long-term concerns. Check out the NUT report Stereotypes stop you doing stuff or The Samaritans Men, suicide and society.
We've even created a whole section on
Why This Matters
What's wrong with pink and blue?
Absolutely nothing. Its a really strange assumption that just because you don't want all clothes aimed at girls to be pink, you naturely must not like that colour (I acutally love pink, but also navy blue, matte silver, deep purple and neon yellow - possibly not all at once)
What we want is for designers to tear up the rule book on designing for girls, or designing for boys, and just design for children. Get creative! There is an enitre spectrum of colours available.
Pink and blue have become a classic gender-code go-to for retailers, so the choice of those specific colours is no coincidence and come loaded with all sorts of associations related to gender stereotyping.
Why do you want boys and girls to dress exactly the same?
Up until puberty, girls and boys are pretty much child shaped - so why do we need seperate girls clothes and boys clothes? In the 1970's it was pretty common for girls and boys to wear clothes of a similar design, pattern and colour, but in 2021 we have a market so rigidly designed that there is much less choice.
For example, its is really hard to find shorts for girls in a range of lengths - the stereotypical design being that girls have shorter shorts to boys. Why? We once asked a high street retailer this very question, and the reply was that it helps girls to cartwheel more easily!
Since sizing charts are the same for girls and boys across the high street (up to about age 11) why not sell clothing by type, colour, size, motif or character instead?
What is wrong with being a typical girl/boy?
What is a typical girl or boy? There are more differences between individuals of the same sex, than can be defined between the sexes themselves.
A gendered society creates a gendered mind" Gina Rippon, Neuroscientist
Girls like pink and boys like blue, its nature!
In the early 20th century blue was considered a "dainty" girls colour, and pink a "strong" boys colour. Culture changes, and these social norm's are no exception because there is no scientific basis to say a child's interests or favourite colour is informed by their sex.
What do you have against being girly?
First of all, we hate labels, they’re not helpful but regrettably pretty common. Secondly, we believe there is more than one way to be a girl, and that isn’t defined by one colour or being a Princess or a Fairy.
Playing with trains and liking Dinosaurs too won’t make girls LESS girls. Dressing in a princess gown or a kitten t-shirt won’t make a boy LESS of a boy.
Children should be able to choose their own interests, explore and engage with lots of different ideas, colours and themes.
Its just a t-shirt - aren't they unisex anyway?
A T-Shirt is defined as a garment in the shape of a ‘T’ … they’re commonplace and something both children and adults wear casually.
Increasingly we’re seeing examples of T-shirts aimed at girls where that ‘T’ shape looks like its holding it’s breath, cut slimmer and fitted, shorter with cap sleeves and frills.
We’re concerned that girls in particular are being made to feel they should dress and look a certain way, despite sizing guides for both girls and boys being identical up until puberty.
Why should retailers care about this?
Retailers who make and sell products aimed at children must behave responsibly.
The Childrenswear "Responsible Retailing" guide was published by the BRC (British Retail Consortium) in 2013 and was approved by the UK government. Many of the biggest names in retail signed up to this code of practice which made clear that childrenswear must not "unduly stereotype." Unfortunately, despite praise from MP's, the code is purely voluntary and although it pleads "listen to your customers if you want to succeed" we know that that is often not the case.
Marketing groups who work for the big retailers call this current cultural epoch the "fashionising of childhood" - and are well aware of the money that can be made in mirroring the fast fashion rules we see in adult clothing. What we want to ensure is that profits don't come before basic equality, and ensure retailers are responsible in how they design and market to young audiences.
The Advertising Standards Authority has also extended it's rules to include gender stereotyping on grounds of social responsibility. After all, children are considered more vulnerable to media and advertising, and there is a weight of evidence to suggest "gender stereotypes can lead to mental, physical and social harm which can limit the potential of groups and individuals." (ASA, Report on Gender Stereotyping)
Cut and fit is also a concern for parents who shop online, and many feel short changed. Despite sizing guides being the same for girls and boys up until puberty, you are much more likely to receive a much smaller, fitted, product if you buy from girlswear. Likewise some found boyswear sizing too baggy - again fitting a specific stereotype, and consequently misleading shoppers.
Do you support Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) children?
We support all children. Every child is special and important (and I truly mean that, its not sentimental tosh)
Gender stereotypes are based on outdated ideas about men and women, and their roles in society. If your child rejects these stereotypes (for example, your son heads for the dolls, or your daughter likes playing with cars) well, good, because to say those things are just for girls or just for boys is incorrect to start with.
Everyone has the right to lead the kind of lives that they want to - that is the sort of society we are fighting for. Children should be able to wear the kind of styles, colours and motifs that they like, and not be coerced into a very rigid dichotomy of pink or blue, pretty or adventurous, loving or troublesome. Afterall, you can love pink AND blue, or neither. You can be loving and adventurous.
"Gender non-conforming" feels a bit like a new label, and with it, its own new set of stereotypes. As a child, I don't believe the label would have given me any new meaning or understanding - similar to labels like Tomboy or Girly, which again pigeonhole children as being one thing or another. We don't believe people work that way, and that these labels only bolster division and create new ways of segmenting the market.