Forget fitted, loose unisex fashion is here to stay
Recent trends have shown that the “genderless” style is here to stay.
Earlier this month, Nike chose to “just do it” by launching a gender-fluid store, the first such store worldwide, in Hongdae.
Turns out fashion simply does not care what gender someone identifies as, and Korean fashion is no exception.
The clothes, sneakers and accessories in this store by the apparel and footwear company are arranged entirely by fit and size, rather than gender.
“Nike Style Hongdae,” which sits near the entrance of Hongik University in Mapo District, western Seoul, opened its doors on July 15. Nike Korea described the store as a “style studio” that “encourages customers to create their own creative styles,” which is why they got rid of gender divisions that could potentially limit their choices.
The store, which spans three floors, is indeed a hit. When the Korea JoongAng Daily visited last week, there were dozens of people lined up in front of the store, waiting to enter. Reservations are required, and only 60 people are allowed inside per time slot per day, at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
“The store was designed to allow customers to choose garments according to their taste,” an official in the PR department for Nike told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “The products on display focus more on casual style than the usual Nike sportswear.”
For example, the T-shirts have a boxier waistline and the pants are low-rise so that any gender can wear them.
The store also does not have models on display; rather, it has what it calls “digital mannequins,” or digital screens showing customers a glimpse of how to pair and style Nike outfits, regardless of gender.
More and more fashion-related companies have been jumping on the non-binary bandwagon, such as Ohora, a local gel nail brand best known for its nail stickers, which teamed up with domestic contemporary fashion brand Wooyoungmi to create an “androgynous” gel nail capsule collection in May.
Most gel nail products, as seen in health and beauty stores like Olive Young, tend to be designed with bright colors, crystals or glitter and are typically favored by female customers.
Ohora’s new nail strips, however, prove different with what it describes as a “simple monotone unisex design.” With 40 pieces of black, white or clear stickers stamped with the Wooyoungmi logo that come in all sizes, Ohora made sure its male customers wouldn’t feel left out.
On its website, male customers left reviews saying that they liked how the nail pieces easily fit people with larger fingernails.
DK Homme, an all-men’s nail salon located in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, told local news outlets earlier this year that its male customers were primarily visitors in their 40’s to 50’s who had problems with athlete’s foot or ingrown toenails.
“Since two years ago, we’ve seen a huge increase, about six times, in younger men, particularly those in their 30s,” the shop’s director Choi Cho-rok said.
Other similar areas have seen the gender lines start to blur as well. Shinsegae International’s lifestyle brand Jaju and domestic underwear company SBW each launched a series of trunks for females. Last month, SBW said that sales from March to May this year increased by 43 percent compared to the same period last year.
Jewelry brand Monday Edition recently announced that male buyers make up 20 percent of those who purchased their pearl necklaces. Online shopping retailer Catch Fashion also saw 16 percent more male customers buy rings from May 2021 to May 2022 than females.
Of course, some of those male buyers may have purchased the jewelry as gifts, but one thing is certain: Jewelry is no longer taboo in the male fashion sphere, as shown by the many male celebrities commonly seen wearing such accessories.
Though it may still be a bit of a stretch to say that gender-inclusive fashion trends are all the rage among the general public, it is indeed commonplace for celebrities.
Late last month, BTS’s V and actor Park Bo-gum were seen leaving for Paris at the Incheon International Airport to attend Celine’s Spring/Summer 2023 menswear collection fashion show. V wore Celine boots with heels around 5 centimeters (2 inches) tall, and Park donned a Celine Teen Triomphe Bag, currently sold in the women’s category.
V isn’t the first male celebrity to be seen wearing heels. Singer Jo Kwon, a member of boy band 2AM, is frequently seen in the media posing, walking or even dancing around in stiletto heels. Jo had worn them while acting as the lead in the 2020 musical “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” as Jamie New, a character who dreams of becoming a drag queen, and he still wears them to this day.
On an episode of MBC’s “Radio Star” earlier this month, Jo did a short dance performance while wearing thigh-high black boots with 10-centimeter heels, receiving an applause from the other guest stars.
On the other hand, female celebrities like “Squid Game” star Hoyeon, whose real name is Jung Ho-yeon, strutted down the runway for the opening and finale of the Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2022 show last March. Her outfit was baggy overall — striped wide-leg pants, a brown leather jacket and a yellow floral tie — and at the time received attention for the masculine silhouette.
“Many traditional stereotypes, such as matching the color pink to girls and blue to boys, are disappearing,” Lee June-young, a consumer studies professor at Sangmyung University told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “Society as a whole is also putting a great deal more emphasis on diversity than it has before, which is where the concept of having multiple personas comes in, and the same goes for gender-fluid trends. As for fashion, it tends to be more initiating and progressive than other fields, including gender.”
Sa Seung-woo, 26, who lives in South Gyeongsang and posts pictures of his outfits on Instagram, favors boxier outfits matched with accessories like earrings or necklaces. Sometimes, the pants he wears are so wide that he says they get mistaken for skirts.
“It’s not really about the fashion; more like comfort, for me,” Sa said. “I guess my fashion style became gender neutral because I’ve been shopping mostly for roomy styles for about three years now. I don’t really keep up with trends, and I stick to my own style, but since the genderless look is all about letting any gender wear it, don’t you think it would last?”
BY SHIN MIN-HEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]