Why Millennials Love Unisex Minimalism
Unisex brands. Gender neutral garments. Androgynous models.
The unisex fashion trend became widespread in the 1960s corresponding with the youth, hippie, and women's movements that defied the social and political norms of that decade. Over the past few years, it seems to be making an epic comeback, particularly within minimalist and street style design.
Try to do a search for minimalist menswear and see how many men's only brands you are able to find. Instead, you'll uncover no shortage of apparel and accessories designers – emerging and established – who are embracing a certain type of aesthetic uniformity that swings masculine but is available for both male and females.
From Public School to Margaret Howell, many have jumped on the dual gender bandwagon and the only recognizable division between male and female looks seems to be sizing.
At first glance, it may appear to be a one-sided trend with women doing more of the adopting of traditionally male looks – but it's starting to go both ways. In just one afternoon meandering up and down the streets of Kreuzberg in Berlin you will surely come across "manly looking men" decked out in kilts, culottes, and harem pants.
The Baby Boomer generation spearheaded it but Millennials have picked up the mantle and may be responsible for bringing about a more permanent cultural shift in the way we approach grooming and dressing. But what's the underlying cause, these days, of the blur between femininity and masculinity that's rapidly becoming more mainstream? And why does minimalism seem to be gender-neutral's partner in crime?
Millennials (specifically within the US) happen to be the most diverse generation – by demographic characteristics such as race and sexual orientation but also by their psychographics and relatively more inclusive mindset. Tearing down conventions, even within style, that are exclusive is an understandable offshoot of this generation's rich physical and psychological makeup.
Nonconformity could arguably be a keyword that defines the millennial generation. In addition to the crack down on outdated demographic and psychographic paradigms, millennials are often associated with a deep set aversion to just about anything that imposes limitations on how they choose to define themselves. The binary categories of Male/Female are simply not broad or accommodating enough to fully encompass the different ways in which an individual perceives him/her/itself.
Minimalism has always seemed like a niche subculture within the broader fashion world. However, subjectively speaking, it now seems to be one of the most dominant aesthetics – on the runway and in the street. A potential rationale behind this could be a change in how this generation perceives the role of the designer. More and more, the brand or designer is expected to tackle the complexities around utility (fit, fabrication, etc.) while leaving the more nebulous interpretation of beauty (styling, etc.) to the wearer of the garment.
In summary, minimalist gender-neutral design could be to the millennial what a blank canvas is to an artist. Perhaps, it provides a foundation on which an individual can express themselves without overly influencing their imagination or dictating what they choose to communicate.