“I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I am something that you’ll never understand.”
We’ve all sung along to the lyrics from Prince’s iconic 1984 hit, “I Would Die 4 U,” but public conversations about gender beyond a rigid male/female binary have tended to lag far behind the ones found in Prince’s catalogue.
Though non-binary, agender, gender non-conforming, and other gender-expansive people and identities have been documented globally since the dawn of recorded history, in much of the Western world, social permission to exist publicly in any form other than along rigid binary lines has been granted only infrequently.
However, the tide may be beginning to turn: Non-binary voices are beginning to have a significant role in our collective conversations around gender—and our expectations for how gender will be expressed through physical appearance.
There are non-binary and genderfluid actors like Ruby Rose, Amendla Stenberg, and Asia Kate Dillon (who holds the distinction of portraying the first non-binary lead role on North American television with their starring role in Billions). Not to mention musicians like Grimes, Angel Haze, and Miley Cyrus (who came out as genderfluid in a 2015 interview with Billboard magazine). And models like Sara Cummings, the gender-fluid face of hair care giant Redken, and Rain Dove, the supermodel (and key player in the recent Asia Argento sexual abuse Twitterstorm).
From fashion to hair care to cosmetics and beyond, sales and marketing trends indicate a sea change is on the horizon. Since 2015, market research giant Mintel has been predicting gender-neutral products to be a major international trend and notes in its Global Beauty Trends Report for 2018 that “consumers are moving away from traditional gender stereotypes and expectations. As such, they are going to expect brands to push a gender-neutral message to the fore of their new product marketing and development campaigns.”
As visibility increases, however, acceptance of non-binary persons is still lagging. All clothes, personal care products, jewelry, and everything else we put on our bodies to feel our absolute dopest should belong to anyone and everyone who cares to enjoy them. But shopping in a world where sales clerks, product packaging, and Instagram ads often make it clear that deviating from rigid binary rules is unacceptable can be challenging, demoralizing, and dangerous for non-gender binary individuals.
Brands, products, and influencers who specifically focus on inclusivity are desperately needed, so we’re highlighting a few who have been smashing boundaries at every turn.
An emerging sportswear and basics brand “designed for all genders, ages, and races,” this brand features clean lines, vibrant colors, geometric prints, and silhouettes suited to a wide variety of body types.
This brand rose to acclaim after being featured in Beyonce’s “Formation” video (and features Bey-level prices too—so expect to drop a minimum of $300 on most pieces). It proclaims itself a “non-demographic clothing line” and feature 80s and 90s-influenced throwback denim, utilitarian jumpsuits, and huuuuge jackets (seriously, think “Inspector Gadget, but make it fashion”).
This groundbreaking brand was started by friends and self-proclaimed “tomboys” who were seeking high-quality underwear that could be comfortable and accessible to people of all genders.
The line has expanded to include swimwear, hats, and activewear, and is gaining acclaim for its comfort, reasonable prices, and helpful customer service (I count myself among this company’s many fans—being able to find swimwear available in a huge range of sizes that allows me to cover as much of my body as I want while still looking cute as hell? #winning).
The O.G of gender-neutral skin, hair, and body-care products, Melbourne-based Aesop has been producing high-quality, plant-based products for people of all genders since 1987.
With apothecary-influenced packaging and product lines broken down only by specific concerns, Aesop’s line earns consistently glowing reviews for concentrated products packed with plant essences, widely accessible woodsy and citrus-based scents, and social media accounts that reach far beyond simple product peddling to cover topics like art, architecture, and history.
This back-to-basics skin care company has gained international buzz mostly because of the non-stop drama surrounding its controversial CEO, but The Ordinary has also generated attention because of its highly concentrated products with clean, medicinal-looking packaging, names based strictly on the ingredients they contain, and amazingly low prices, with most products clocking in at less than $15.
The products contain no added fragrance (and fair warning, the intensely concentrated ingredients can pack an olfactory punch too. You probably won’t smell like a field of daisies or a rugged pine forest, but you might catch a whiff of bacon-like scent from the active compounds in the Moroccan argan oil!).
Geared toward the specific skin and hair concerns of teens, this up-and-coming brand was founded by a father who was horrified by the aggressively gendered marketing and packaging of personal care products for his children and decided to do something about it. He obtained a degree in cosmetic science and got to work developing a line of products with the common needs of teens (acne, excess oil, inflammation) in mind.
He offers a single product in each category—there’s one shampoo, and it’s called “shampoo.” Same deal with the conditioner and deodorant and… well, you get it. Online, each product features an “education” tab that explains in clear and accessible language what each ingredient in the product is and how it functions.
The first “big-brand” retailer to release a line of gender-neutral cosmetics, ASOS’s “Design” line features bold and highly pigmented colors, easy-to-apply products, and simple, all-pink packaging. Reviews on the quality of the products vary pretty widely, but the price point is easily accessible to ASOS’s mostly teen clientele.
After realizing the lack of resources offered to the trans community, makeup artist Jessica Blackler founded Jecca. The company’s slogan, #MakeupHasNoGender, defines its goal of providing full-coverage, high-end products for people of all genders.
At present, Jecca offers only one product, a Correct and Conceal palette, featuring high-pigment concealers in a wide variety of shades suitable for covering beard shadow, providing acne coverage, and offering feminine and masculine-style contouring techniques.
Focused on high-impact liquid lipsticks, 7-free nail polishes, and loose glitters, Fluide grew out of a belief that “makeup is a tool of transformation and a powerful means of self-actualization.” Five percent of profits are donated to LGBTQ health and advocacy organizations, and reviews highlight products’ rich pigmentation and ease of application.
A website and Youtube channel run by genderqueer founder Mark Daniel Snyder, Weird for Beauty “celebrates all kinds of gorgeous” through product reviews, fashion tips, socio-political commentary, and more.
A gender non-conforming performance artist, poet, educator, and activist, Vaid-Menon’s trailblazing fashion and cosmetics looks have been featured on HBO, MTV, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, and they have developed their own fashion line, which debuted in 2017.
Jessica Davis is a makeup artist, nurse, and pastoral counselor (weird combo, but it works!) based in the Philadelphia area. You can see her beauty posts and contact her for mua services on Instagram or read her on Medium.