Will TikTok Fashion Trends End “Gendered Clothing?”

Melody Jiang, Reporter

Tiktok, the popular social media video sharing platform, has blown up in the past year, partly because of lockdown restrictions implemented nearly one year ago. Known for its iconic dances and satirical videos that particularly appeal to its largely Gen Z audience, fashion has risen to become an essential cornerstone of Tiktok entertainment. 


Over the past year, Tiktok has popularized trends such as sweater vests and the color dark brown, both of which have long existed outside the realm of popular and/or trendy clothing. But some of the most significant trends of the past year have directly challenged traditional Western gender norms (think “boys in skirts”) and have led many to wonder if the age of “gendered clothing” will finally come to an end.


Gendered clothing is a culmination of societal norms that dictates what certain groups of people can and can’t wear. This idea of gendered clothing has been around for centuries, and over time, “acceptable” styles for men and women have switched. (For example, it was not uncommon for men to wear high heels in the 17th century, as they signified power and money.) And even in just the past century, we have witnessed the adoption of “menswear” by women, and society’s general acceptance of this adoption. 


However, there has not been a mirroring movement of widespread adoption of “womenswear” by men, and has led to lots of cultural stigma around masculine persons wearing feminine clothing, a lot of which stems from homophobia and transphobia prevalent in most major societies today. The struggle to accept people who don’t conform to gender norms, either through self-expression or through fashion, is still very relevant, as seen in the conservative backlash in response to Harry Styles’ Vogue cover where he was wearing a dress


But with Tiktok, a mainstream platform has been created for proponents and supporters of genderless fashion, on a scale previously unseen with other social media platforms. This is largely in part due to its “communities,” a mix of content and creators that revolve around a certain niche, carefully curated by Tiktok’s advanced and (somewhat alarming) accurate algorithm. In particular, the fashion and LGBTQ+ communities have played the most important roles in helping to promote the normalization of genderless fashion and cross-dressing. But it’s probably Tiktok fashion trends that have had the most impact on this particular subject. These trends have made their way across the app, reaching nearly all of Tiktok’s multitude of communities, and even being donned by the app’s top creators (which include a number of A-list celebrities). 


Despite all this, it doesn’t necessarily mean Tiktok trends themselves are going to end this heavily-embedded idea of gendered clothing. In fact, many creators have taken advantage of such cross-dressing trends, like the “boys in skirts” trend mentioned above, to improve their own following by appealing to the fetizization of people who choose to cross-dress. Many, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community, see this appeal to fetizization as even more harmful to their community and people who choose to cross-dress as a form of self-expression. Also, because of Tiktok’s algorithm, people only see videos that reinforce their beliefs, meaning that people who feel strongly against genderless fashion and cross-dressing won’t ever come across videos and communities where these ideas have become normalized.


But overall, because of Tiktok, we are finally seeing a tangible societal and cultural shift away from traditional gender norms, something no other social media platform in recent years has been able to do. Especially because this change is happening amongst the younger generations, we might finally be able to look forward to a future where the stigma around people who choose to defy these gender norms is no more, and a future of more ever more fascinating and boundless fashion.