A millennial’s disregard for gendered clothes
It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’m at the mall on the hunt for the perfect white cotton tee.
Just when I think my search is over, I see the word “slay” embroidered into the top right corner of the shirt; annoyed but not surprised, I continue my hunt. I wander over to the men’s section, knowing I’ll have better luck.
I’ve always felt comfortable shopping in the men’s department. Though I still can’t help but feel the gaze of the store associate follow me as I browse through the store before they ask, “are you shopping for your boyfriend?” or even worse — for your dad.
I realize the associate is probably just desperately trying to hit their sales quota and regardless, I’m not bothered by the question. The fact of the matter is, I’m five feet 11 inches tall and sometimes men’s clothing just fits better. Plus, I don’t have to sift through t-shirts plastered with quirky sayings like “grumpy till I’ve had my coffee” in the men’s section.
The following morning, I joined my mom in the kitchen for breakfast. As we simultaneously drank our coffee and checked our emails, I came across a jacket that caught my eye. I showed my mom to get her opinion — even though I’ve never been one to get style advice from my mother. She took one look at the male model and assumed the jacket was for men. When I told her that it was, in fact, unisex, she said that it was still too masculine. Nevertheless, her opinion of the garment didn’t change mine.
The conversation then took a 180-degree turn as she went on to explain that if I ever wanted to find a boyfriend, I would need to start dressing more ‘feminine.’ I immediately burst out laughing, unable to contain myself until I realized she was being serious. I sarcastically responded by saying, “it’s not a phase mom, this is who I am,” while swimming in my purposefully oversized tracksuit.
What surprised me about my mom’s remarks the most is that my mother, regardless of growing up in the Middle East, where gender and cultural norms are not as fluid as they are here, has never been a traditional woman. She even borrows my clothes on occasion.
On Monday morning, I was back at work when my boss came in and made a joke that I had a different tracksuit for every day of the week. (Obviously an exaggeration — I have four at most.) As the youngest person in my workplace and one of only five women, I guess my outfit choices stick out next to my older colleagues and the monochrome office walls.
Thankfully, there is no dress code where I work and clearly, I take advantage of that in my own way.
The next day while I’m standing in the food court waiting to grab some lunch, I see a man who looked to be in his forties, staring down at my feet. I look down to see what he could be staring at and then look back up at him. He approached me and asked where I got my sneakers.
“Footlocker,” I responded.
On this particular day, I was wearing cool grey Air Jordan 4 Retro’s. The man says he hasn’t seen them since he owned the same pair back in grade school.
I’m a bit of a sneaker connoisseur, so I already know the rarity of my shoes since they haven’t been re-released in 15 years. He says he didn’t know they made them for women. They don’t; I’m wearing men’s. The interaction was wholesome enough and I was happy to bring back some nostalgia for the man but it reminded me of a post I’d seen earlier that day.
Much like the last comment, I must remind people that the category of a shoe or piece of clothing simply refers to the sizing of the item. I should mention that a large majority of rare sneakers are only manufactured and released in men’s sizing because there is a larger market for them. Every so often, women get thrown a bone with a sneaker that isn’t hot pink or covered in glitter, and some people cannot seem to fathom that “radical” idea.
Forgive me if I have trouble sympathizing as I’m forced to double-up my socks just to fit into my Jordan’s. I refuse to give meaningless labels (or people) the power to restrict my self-expression. Don’t be afraid to shatter those imaginary retail barriers and explore what’s on the other side of the rack.