Clothing is not inherently gendered, but the way in which it is marketed and promoted typically is. As such, consumers tend to shop for clothing by gender before they consider size, color, or fit. Even for seemingly genderless items, such as t-shirts and socks, there are versions for men and versions for women. However, traditional menswear is finding its way to the female consumer. Items like well-cut suits are attracting women to high-end menswear, a trend propelled by blogs such as She’s a Gent and celebrities such as Janelle Monae.

As gender crossover gains popularity in fashion, menswear brands may have an opportunity to reach-out to women

Women opting to wear men’s clothing is an expression of the Mintel Trend, The Unfairer Sex, which discusses how women are challenging the status quo to close the gender gap. Although the current cultural spotlight on sexual identity may play some part in driving this fashion choice, it isn’t about women wanting to be men; it is about women wanting clothing that makes them feel comfortable, powerful, and sexy. This style choice isn’t necessarily new. Tastemakers such as Diane Keaton and Ellen DeGeneres have embraced menswear for decades. However, as gender crossover gains popularity in fashion, menswear brands may have an opportunity to reach-out to women, a formerly untapped audience. This may seem like a difficult charge, but in fact, high-fashion brands may find it easier to court stylish women than try to convert men uninterested in what they wear.

What we think

There is a niche audience of women interested in menswear, and they are likely individuals that are already engaged in the high-fashion world. This indicates that upscale and specialty retailers are the best poised to take advantage of this trend.

One tactic that can highlight how men’s suits can be worn by women is using both female and male models in advertising. Although some men’s brands have exploited similar tactics in the past, this type of advertising can oversexualize women. It is critical to note that to engage an audience of women, advertising must be developed from a female point-of-view, showing women in a powerful and positive light.

Women interested in men’s clothing can likely be reached through channels that cater to the high-fashion crowd, namely style blogs; magazines such as Vogue and GQ; fashion events such as New York Fashion Week and SXstyle (at South by Southwest); and social media platforms.

Menswear brands that pursue this core group of female fashionistas may find this to be a risky strategy. There is the possibility of alienating male consumers who are unenthusiastic about sharing a clothing label with women. Conversely, it may be difficult for a men’s line to meet women’s needs in terms of fit and function. However, brands that are able to walk this fine line between men’s and women’s clothing may find opportunity in a noncompetitive environment.

Dana Macke is a Senior Research Analyst, Lifestyles & Leisure at Mintel. Dana incorporates her background in strategic marketing to deliver actionable insights on a wide range of lifestyle and leisure topics.

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