The other day on my way to a meeting, I passed a 20-something Hipster guy – you’ve seen his type – thin, wearing some sort of fleece button-up shirt, unstructured sport coat, unruly beard extending inches from his face, come-hither hair mussed in a way that could have only been styled intentionally. Clearly Hipster. And my immediate gut reaction was: “Oh, that look is so over.”
Wait? What? Really???
Yes. The Hipster’s time has come, just like the Yuppie before them. This once trendy look and attitude from 2005 has become commonplace. Look no further than the local barber shop with wait times in the hours because so many are lining up for a beard-shaping and high-and-tight. That doesn’t feel on trend anymore, it feels mass market.
Hipsters surfed in on the tidal wave of the “Authenticity” macro-trend. Offering a refreshing change from Grunge and the “whatever” look we had in the late 90s and early 00’s, Hipsters were embraced as arbiters of the authentic, the genuine, the throwback-made-new.
Hipsters drove many brand and category evolutions in the past ten years – from the reemergence of vinyl to selvedge denim to the 3rd wave of coffee houses. The Hipster has elevated new small businesses while confounding classic marketers who struggled to understand the trend’s deeper meaning.
Today, the Hipster is being replaced as arbiter of style by a fresher model. This up-and-coming style trend is much more fluid in its representation of gender. Neither boy nor girl, this distinctly new look is pushing Hipsters to the dumpster. Introducing what my partner, Charles, calls, the Gendstirs.
Unlike Hipsters, the Gendstir is not defined by being classically man or woman. It’s about being a bit of both simultaneously.
The Hipster hyper masculine/feminine edges are softened and faces are now cleanly shaven (no doubt great news for Gillette, Shick and the Dollar Shave Club). The Gendstir look is younger, fresh-faced, and often requires a serious double-take. Is that a boy or a girl? Hard to tell when there are elements of both blended seamlessly together.
First example: The young man with asymmetric hair romantically swooping down one side of his face, stylishly dressed with a cape. Without a gender identifier, you’d have to look twice to tell if it was a man or a woman.
Next example: The bartender in a white ribbed tank top confidently pouring drinks. Hair tightly shaved on the sides with a stylized pompadour. Discreet earrings, maybe a touch of mascara. Male or female? In this case, boyishly female. A look that stands out distinctly from where we’ve been the past 10+ years with Hipsters.
“Normcore” was part of the runway leading to the launch of Gendstir. You might recognize the asexual style from the 2013 movie “Her.” The same clothes were cut in a way that removed all sexual sensuousness and worked for both sexes. Pants high-waisted almost to the point that the men looked like they were wearing mom jeans or channeling Fred Mertz. At the same time, females like Casey Legler were signing exclusively as male models with Ford Models. You can see Legler in campaigns for Diesel and Alexander Wang as well as on the runway. Legler is quoted as saying "It would be a really beautiful thing if we could all just wear what we wanted without it meaning something."
Actor Jaden Smith proudly embraces the Gendstir aesthetic with his adventurous fashion combinations. He wore the look best in a spring prom outfit that included a long skirt under a tunic and coat. Another celebrity Gendstir inspiration, the inimitable Tilda Swinton.
Looking to wear something Gendstir? Nothing too femme or too masculine – no frills or ornately detailed, keep the cut flattering without billows of extra fabric. Don’t be afraid to stir up the shape of the collar (women’s tend to be more open than men’s), the shape on the torso, and the feel of the fabric.
Gendstir clothing is about retreating from the social mandates and bending traditional rules of gender without crossing over into drag or being sexually titillating. It’s about creating something new. Style that blends and stirs up the presentation of the two genders. The cape, the skirt (eg kilt), the tank top, the bow-tie, the neckerchief, all are appropriate. And guys, if you’ve been thinking about growing your hair out, now is the time to do it. It all starts with the man-bun.
In San Francisco, we’re seeing boys sporting skirts instead of stove pipe jeans as they traipse about the Hipster-epicenter of Valencia St. “Thanks,” said one Gendstir in reply to a compliment on his sporty, black mini-skirt, “I got it at Target!”
Retailers are already responding. This past winter, London-based department store Selfridge’s featured an Agender boutique with clothes that appeal to the Gendstir. This “free fashion,” as one Gendstir referred to this type of apparel, is cut in such a way that it isn’t overly feminine nor overtly masculine in nature.
In the U.S., mass-merchant Target recently decided to remove gender-based signs from its toy department. This subtle shift relieves superficial pressures of conformity to allow kids to engage with toys based on their own desires.
Are Gendstirs the start of a new macro trend like the Hipster was with Authenticity? Or is this another expression of Authentic self – one that goes beneath the persona to reveal the person? If clothes don’t “make the man”, then perhaps we have to look beyond that and relate with each other on a human level as opposed to a conforming gender stereotype. This is a deeper form of Authentic expression and has the power to change the way we engage with one another.
Hipsters are "authentic" on the surface with what they wear and how they look. You engage with Hipsters through "experiences" like cocktails and vinyl and coffee. Mixing up the gender facade as with Gendstir, you have the opportunity to engage with the actual person, taking us beyond male/female. Early Gendstirs are connecting their style to a sense of meaning. As the trend evolves it will no doubt be more as much about the facade as other expressions of self. For now let's move beyond listening to vinyl because the experience sounds more real and genuine, the Gendstir is interested in what the lyrics and melody of the song itself is saying.
Sounds like progress. Let’s stir it up!