Who Says It's Only For The Boys?
Maybe you grew up ashamedly searching in the men’s section of the department store for that perfect graphic tee,
the one they didn't have in the women’s section. Maybe you just like the look and feel of a baggy pair of sweats with an oversize sweater rather than a tight-fitting dress--the truth is for women in streetwear the battle has always been between being feminine or masculine. As women who view fashion through a gender fluid lenses we can’t “have our cake and eat it too.”
Although today’s digital media is sprinkled with pieces about women in streetwear or starting their own brands, There were many trailblazers. Starting from the early days of hip hop and rap culture, artists like TLC, Aaliyah, and Missy Elliott were breaking gender roles in streetwear and wearing brands like Cross Colours, Starter, and Champion right alongside the guys. Album covers were peppered with female artists sporting baggy Levis with cinched belts and cropped hoodies. While these style choices may seem dated, we are seeing a surge of their influence in today’s leading ladies of streetwear. For some our faves, their creative choices are almost a nod to the trailblazers of the blast and a look towards the future of more women in streetwear.
Described as “downtown’s sweetheart,” Vashtie Kola, is the epitome of “a girl who can do both,” but really, is a girl who can do it all. DJ, director, model, and creative, she’s been making waves in the streetwear industry since 2005. Her website and Instagram, Vashtiedotcom, shows fashion inspiration from everyone from De La Soul, Biggie, and the Spice Girls. She as worked with brands and artists like Billionaire Boys Club, Nike, Def Jam, Puma, Solange and was the first female non-athlete to have a Jordan brand sneaker.
In one of her most recent Instagram post, Aleali May coupled the holy grail Air Jordan ‘Royals” with a Chanel Boy Bag. The LA raised fashion blogger and image consultant is no stranger to pair high fashion items with streetwear basics. Adidas, Louis Vuitton, Forever21 and RSVP Gallery are just some of the brand on her long resume of collaborations. Self-inspired by the likes of Aaliyah, her looks showcase how effortless the combination of men and womenswear should work together and not against each other.
Her brown lip liner and baby hair is iconic and so is her music. Princess Nokia, an up and coming R&B artist from New York City, is showing us that 90s trends are always in fashion. “That girl is a tomboy,” she explains her in track “Tomboy” Nokia, can be seen in baby tees and matching sweatshirt sets. Princess Nokia, whose real name is Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, lives the cozy lifestyle all while empowering women to embrace their roots, personal style and beauty through her lyrics.
Gender fluidity in street style certainly isn’t limited to trendsetters here in the U.S. Kitty Cowell and Jess Gee of The Unisex Mode, a streetwear website based in the U.K, features everything from sneakers and unisex fashion brands to good eats in their area. Cowell and Gee give international unisex brands a platform for their pieces and an arena to talk about what’s new in the world of street culture and how girls do it their own way.
They are a constant reminder to be myself in this “guy’s world” of streetwear and making a bold and loud statement for what women in streetwear have been asking for--comfortable and stylish pieces that we can add to our wardrobe without the hassle of ordering a size or two lower and tailoring jeans to fit our smaller frames. In 2016 Zara, released, Ungendered, a unisex clothing line that seemed forward thinking but might’ve missed the mark. Too often gender-fluid is equated being with unoriginal, shapeless or boring, resulting in one-dimensional silhouettes and color offerings. On the other hand, established names in fashion attempt to reel in a female audience by throwing a splatter of pink on a popular logo or making a popular boxy tee available with a v-neck, when really, we just want the same pick of the lot as the guys.Just last year, Bobby Kim, co-founder of The Hundreds launched ‘Jennifer,’ a women’s streetwear line featuring oversize hoodies. “How come it's okay - trendy, even - for girls to covet their guy's clothes, but not the other way around? Isn't it time for a women's label that men beg for,” Kim says on the line’s website. With a simple line of pieces available, we can only hope it will expand to feature of variety of silhouettes and pieces, reflective of the depth within women's streetwear culture.
Will we get to a point where department stores aren’t segregated by gender binaries? Who knows? What I do believe is that we will continue to see an influx of household names experimenting with creating lines for women that aren’t inspired by stereotypically feminine colors and shapes. Our close relationship with scrolling, liking, and reposting is one that encourages women to explore and to draw inspiration from trailblazers of streetwear in their area and abroad. Through the environment of social media, we have been able to create a limitless niche for ourselves and examine what it really means for clothing to be “gender-fluid.” I think confidence in personal style transcends any social construct that says which clothing items are for men and women.