Streetwear has always been an area of fashion that is very male-dominated. Few mainstream streetwear brands currently accommodate clothing solely for women. Even when big brands supply female streetwear, the epicentre tends to be male clothing – this is reflected in both the styles of clothing and the unequal volumes of clothing produced. Evie Seal reports on why streetwear will remain dominated by men unless we start making substantial changes to get more female representation in the industry.
Male dominance in the industry can be partly attributed to streetwear’s influences. Based on research into the fashion style, we can see the majority (80%) of consumer respondents indicated that hip-hop/rap music was a major influence on streetwear, while almost half pointed to contemporary art (42%) and sports (40%) as influences.
The hip-hop/rap scene is another industry that is largely saturated with male dominance. Put simply, many areas of society, culture and entertainment are still male-dominated. This is an issue that needs to be addressed on a larger scale. If 80% of consumers look to rap and hip-hop for influence in clothing, we can assume that this has an unequal balance of representation too.
Despite the industry growing in popularity, with the rise of more casual wear and emphasis on celebrity street style, it remains dominated by men
Supporting this, research has shown that in the rap and hip hop industry from 2012 to 2017, women represented less than 23 percent of artists whose songs made Billboard’s Hot 100 list. Considering areas such as sports too – women make up 40% of sportspeople, however, as of 2020, they continue to only receive 4% of the total sports media coverage in print and broadcast devoted to them.
If consumers are looking to these industries for influence, there is evidently a huge lack of representation. Despite the industry growing in popularity, with the rise of more casual wear and emphasis on celebrity street style, it remains dominated by men. Whilst the industry doesn’t completely lack attention or appreciation for women, male dominance is still very prominent.
This is not to say that there isn’t a huge interest from women in wanting to wear streetwear, including myself, an avid lover of it. In my experience, the streetwear brands accessible to me are often mainly male accommodating. Brands that I often buy from such as Carhartt and Stüssy, have a very small outlet of clothing for women vs men. Often the clothing provided for women can just be adaptations of the male designs, so I often find myself having to alter clothing to fit my body. It also encourages me to look for second-hand clothing or even make my own due to the lack of exposure and production for the clothing I want.
Some may argue that the issue with having a male-dominated industry in streetwear is that it can encourage a conversation surrounding stereotypes in clothing. The lack of female clothing available may suggest that women should stick to clothing stereotypical of their gender.
Others may suggest that streetwear is unisex and actually encourages women to not wear clothing that is ‘conforming.’ Not all women want to wear high heels and tight dresses so a baggier and looser fit takes a shot at the beauty standard expected of what a woman ‘should wear’.
The issue doesn’t necessarily lie with streetwear itself
Despite the male dominance, there have been small steps in making the industry more inclusive. There are a lot of upcoming and growing female brands such as X-girl and Sorella. However, the overall lack of female-dominated brands can create a barrier against female entrepreneurs who are hoping to start up streetwear brands or sell products.
A positive development in the streetwear world is that there have been developments in creating gender-neutral clothing. Designers such as ‘Big Bud Press’ have advocated for clothing accessible to all. Yet when researching other brands that claim to accommodate all, they state things such as ‘Best for: Menswear-inspired apparel for all bodies’, which seems to slightly contradict the purpose of it.
The issue doesn’t necessarily lie with streetwear itself. It lies with the patriarchal standards within the working world and the lack of women in the upper levels of the workplace. Therefore, until we educate on the importance of equality, encourage women into reaching these important roles and eliminate female underrepresentation, nothing will change.
I would like to hope that we will get to a point where industries such as streetwear become more equally represented, yet I don’t see this happening in the near future unless there is a substantial change in society.
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