How groves students break gender stereotypes through fashion

By Kate Silverman

Senior Itaimar Moltz styles a Champion hoodie with black joggers and colorful Fila sneakers on October 4th, photographed by Noah Nunn. “A lot of my style influence is from music artists. I like the style of indie and hip hop artists, as well as Duckworth. Aside from this I like a variety of brands, with my all time favorite being Champion,” Moltz said. Moltz accents his outfit with a silver chain, black nail polish, and earrings.

A student walks into school and immediately realizes something: every girl there is wearing a fancy dress. In 2021, this would be quite unusual but in the early 1900s, for example, this is what was considered normal.

Before trend breakers, even female students wore dresses or skirts, no matter the event. This slowly changed trend-setting women-- Zelda Fitzgerald, Audrey Hepburn, and Princess Diana--broke out of this stereotype and created for women a new fashion trend: Pants! When these iconic women started walking around town in pants and biker shorts, other women wanted to hop on the trend too. So, dresses were ditched and pants were the new thing.

Most girls now, including me, often wear pants or shorts. The only time we’ll throw a dress on is to formal events, such as school dances or a wedding. I actually admire those women who knew they were breaking social norms each morning, but now, I wake up and sometimes don’t even bother changing out of my pajamas. Over time, the usual dresses and skirts have changed to pants and shorts, which used to be considered masculine clothing. Obviously, fashion has changed drastically over the years.

Now these trends are changing for men too.

Why is the revolution in female fashion become the norm so long before it is acceptable for boys, those creative innovators, who wear stereotypical feminine pieces? Some boys even get bashed by their peers for this innovation. It doesn’t make sense for it to be acceptable for one gender and not the other.

Pretty much everybody knows artist Harry Styles, former member of One Direction and current solo artist. He was one of the first male celebrities to break out and express himself, experimenting with different kinds of styles, including more feminine ones. He posed for the cover of Vogue magazine in 2020, wearing a long, flowy, white gown with black ruffles and a black blazer over it. The rest of his photoshoot included articles skirts and more dresses. The release of this Vogue edition was a huge moment because Harry Styles expressed his true self to the whole world, wearing clothes that are deemed 'feminine'. Although Harry received great backlash following the publishing of the magazine, he also received support. . He was setting an example for others around the world who are scared to express themselves and dress outside of the norm. He was the Zelda of his day. He was the Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn of years ago. He was starting a new trend and breaking the stereotype our society clings to so much.

Not only is Harry Styles an influential person, wearing more feminine clothes, but also other celebrities such as Machine Gun Kelly, Timothee Chalamet, and Jaden Smith have shown that fashion has no gender by wearing clothes that can swing both ways. Timothee Chalamet has published photoshoots wearing satin blouses and floral suits. Jaden Smith is often seen wearing skirts and dresses when he performs or walks around town. It’s not only wearing clothes that help these people express themselves but wearing makeup, jewelry or nail polish. All of these traditional, feminine touches, but these celebrities show that it’s not just for women, and their influence has affected people everywhere. Males are more confident wearing what they want now that they’ve seen the positive response that celebrities receive when they wear non-gender stereotypical outfits.

Senior Itamar Moltz is someone confident enough to follow in their footsteps.

“Sometimes I just don’t feel comfortable dressing a certain way. Like I just feel more myself if I dress more andrognious sometimes. And sometimes I feel way more myself when I dress more masculine. It’s just like how your mood changes sometimes, and it’s not a conscious thing,” Moltz said.

Motz’s clothes are colorful and always accessorized with rings, necklaces, and earrings.

Moltz said that dressing like himself and expressing who he is through fashion is crucial. It’s a way to gain confidence and become more comfortable with himself. Today, Moltz doesn't know what he would do if he didn’t dress the way he wanted, dressing in a way that wasn’t how he truly felt, but he does know, firsthand, what this feels like not to do so.

“So, growing up I was more overweight, and I was really self conscious about myself. I would really try to hide what I looked like. As I grew older, I lost weight, and I realized that just weight loss doesn’t do anything for your confidence. How you view yourself and how you express yourself is so much more important,” Moltz said. “That’s when I really started wearing what I wanted to wear and buying new clothes for myself and expressing myself. It was, though, kind of rough. I would get ugly stares, but I look at the way I used to dress, and it’s like phew. I realize now that the power to be confident and to make yourself confident and the way you express yourself is bigger than what others think. Confidence, identity, It really does come from within,” Moltz said.

Moltz is living proof that there are people out there who struggle with finding the confidence in themselves to dress how they want, those who overcome hatred of what they don’t recognize as the norm, from those who don’t agree with men dressing in what is considered feminine even in such a modern age. Some people will never agree with men dressing feminine, but why contribute to the hate? Why not keep the comments to yourself instead of bringing people down for trying to express themselves?

Similar to the backlash Princess Diana received from the royal family for the way she dressed, Motz remembers the rude comments students and others hurled at him for his style.

“I remember someone was like, ‘You really must be bold for dressing like that,’ Just like letting everybody know,” Moltz said.

I support people such as Harry Styles and Motz for finding the courage to break out of their comfort zone. It’s upsetting to see so many people bash them for making the change that women made many years ago when they stopped wearing dresses and started wearing pants.

I remember, when I was a bit younger, I hated wearing dresses on the rare occasion that I’d have to wear one. I didn’t like to wear such girly outfits, I preferred shorts and t-shirts over skirts and sneakers over heels. I most definitely wouldn’t have survived in an era where women could only wear the fanciest of dresses. Wearing pants and shorts is way more comfortable for me than wearing skirts and dresses, and for some boys, wearing dresses and skirts is more comfortable. Luckily for me and people everywhere, it’s slowly becoming easier and more acceptable to dress how we want. This may silence those who are baffled by such changes.

With social media apps, such as TikTok, many have find their true fashion sense and develop themselves over the privacy of quarantine.

I had absolutely no fashion sense before Covid hit. So, when quarantine was forced upon us, I spent a lot of time scrolling through videos on TikTok, and I’m sure many people can relate to that. Quarantine was the perfect time for people to start wearing what they wanted, stepping out of their comfort zone and experimenting with different types of clothing that they wouldn’t normally wouldn't dare wear. On TikTok, I saw girls showing off the suits they’ll be wearing to prom and boys wearing skirts and nail polish. It’s amazing to see people break gender stereotypes, and I was so relieved to read comments of love and positivity, expressing how great these people look.

The first time I saw freshman Ethan Kalt wearing his homemade bustiers and skirts, I felt a sigh of relief. Kalt, unfortunately, faced backlash for such innovation and creative expression.

Freshman Ethan Kalt, displays the outfit that he made himself for the decades day of Groves Spirit Week on May 17. “I had an old purse from Five Below that I repurposed into a top. Then I shattered a mirror from goodwill and hot glued pieces of it to the top,” Kalt said. Kalt displayed the cropped shirt he made himself, covered by a blazer and a sparkly mask to match the outfit and makeup to match the 80’s theme.

“Once I had worn a pink hoodie, and some in my family got super pissed and wouldn't let me wear it. I was also wearing makeup, and they tried to force me take it off. Someone also tried to steal all of my cosmetics. Luckily, I don't live in that environment anymore,” Kalt said.

It’s hard to imagine your own family bashing you for expressing yourself. Family is supposed to be the people who support you the most, the people who are in the long-run with you and stand by the choices you make. For Ethan, it’s not only family though.

“I’ve been dress-coded because I was told I "wasn't wearing a shirt.” I disagree; I was wearing a top, I had just made it out of garbage,” Kalt said.

I’ve known girls getting dress-coded for wearing too short of shorts or tank tops that showed their shoulders. Our school made a major overhaul of the dress code a few years ago to make female students feel more comfortable about their bodies.

It’s time to do the same for male students wearing feminine clothing.

Ethan is one of the few boys who are bold enough and gained the courage to express himself through his clothing at school. The lack of dress code when students only learned virtually might be one of the reasons that people are afraid to step out of their comfort zone and express themselves through clothing at school. The confidence that was gained by many during quarantine has been constricted once again now that we have returned to school. Ethan’s courage to express his style at school is an inspiration to others who fear dressing the way they want to. Not only is Ethan breaking fashion gender stereotypes but also may help revise the dress code for males.

Over the years, the stereotypes that come with clothing have changed drastically. Men and women have started to wear clothes that they feel suits them. We see people breaking the norms that society has built around fashion for men and women in our own community. Dauntless students, such as Kalt and Kalt, who express themselves through their fashion, don't let opinions of others discourage them and they continue to inspire others by breaking gender stereotypes, so let’s revise the dress code again, and this time, embrace the inequity in the male dress code.

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