Soul Image Blog

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Do What Pleases You: How Gender Fluidity is Defining the Fashion and Beauty Industry

Nov 21, 2021

Pop music icon Harry Styles has ventured into the world of cosmetics. Styles has always made headlines with his eccentric red carpet looks and wearing dresses for Vogue. However, he has recently found a new way to wow fans with his new, non-binary beauty brand called Pleasing. The gender-fluid brand currently comprises a line of nail polish and skin serums, with more to be added soon. It’s already selling out. And it’s no wonder; the millennial market sees the idea of identity as a spectrum that is not confined by the boundaries of what products are marketed towards specific genders.

We live in a fantastic time where the boundaries of masculinity and femininity are simply a source of inspiration for expressing identity, and things like clothing, hair, and makeup are outlets for that expression. However, in makeup specifically, the boundaries of gender are transgressing even further, challenging the norms and re-imagining them among a masculine consumer base.

Even though it is still somewhat controversial, gender fluidity in terms of fashion and beauty is nothing new; historically, conventional gender markers like makeup and dress codes were not associated with gender. For example, in Ancient Egypt, the use of eyeliner and coloured powders and tinctures for the face and hair was a sign of wealth and usually one that men wore to signal their status in society.

If we look at ancient Greek art and history, we see examples of mythological figures such as Hermaphroditus and Daphne provide positive models of gender fluidity. There are far more examples of gender fluidity in global societies and cultures than most people realize, and they come from all four corners of the globe.

Styles is not the first to delve into the world of gender-fluid offerings. Many brands acknowledge the need for gender fluidity in cosmetics and not only because of the potential increase in sales to this new market. Products like serums, concealers, sunscreens, and cleansers that are usually packaged with warmer, traditionally soft, and feminine hues like pinks and pastels, are instead put in bottles that feature tones and colours that appeal to the male ego, keeping the idea of skincare and cosmetics familiar, rather than directly threatening masculinity.

In countries like Korea and Japan, men have been using skincare and makeup products regularly for decades. Eyeliner, concealer, and foundation are standard products used by both men and women in these Asian societies, regardless of packaging.

Gender-fluid fashion is still currently undefined. Fashion industry experts say a truly gender fluid outfit isn’t an outfit at all - it’s more a state of mind. Indeed, the notion that clothing, as an expression of personality, must belong to one gender or another is a social construct that still needs unravelling. Jessica Glasscock, a former researcher at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and lecturer at the Parsons School of Design, said: “Gender fluid dressing, like unisex dressing before it, is often self-fashioned and self-constructed.” Thus, staying true to your Soul’s authentic self and self-realization plays an essential role in constructing your fashion sense.

Fashion brands have increasingly produced gender-fluid collections to meet consumer demand over the past couple of decades. One of the most significant roles fashion plays in society is encouraging social change, which is also true for gender-fluid style. So when we see Jaden Smith wearing a Louis Vuitton embroidered skirt, there’s no denying that gender-fluid fashion is well and indeed in the mainstream.


These changes haven’t just appeared; they’ve been around for years. In 1966, Yves Saint Laurent debuted the iconic Le Smoking suit, hailed for being the first suit for women ever to be designed by a man. Shortly after, using synthetic fabrics, Pierre Cardin’s sleek and simple silhouettes and graphic patterns exhibited no associations with gender. He was famously quoted as saying: “For me, it was especially important that my creations, regardless of gender, require the body to adapt.”


From Gucci’s collection at Milan Men’s Fashion Week, which showcased male models in pussy bows and feminine silhouettes, to Billie Porter wearing a myriad of gender-bending gowns on the red carpet, gender fluidity as part of the fashion industry is here to stay.

Some of the most iconic figures in the music industry history have been instrumental in blurring gender lines. Prince and Madonna in the 80s, and even earlier, in the 60s and 70s, Jimi Hendrix’s iconic silk blouses and high heels, and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona were true reflections of sexual ambiguity.

And so it is with fashion-forward and confidently non-conformist pop star Harry Styles, who blurs gender lines, as seen on the cover of Dazed Magazine, wearing a custom-made pair of silk, purple pleat plants, ripped bodysuit, and GUCCI leather boots, donning his new Pleasing nail polish in Perfect Pearl, astride a decidedly manly looking motorbike.   

The easy success of Styles’ new product line is proof that the socially constructed, gender role breaking movement has not only been around for decades but is indeed very much a part of the evolution of fashion, concepts of beauty and creativity, and individual expressions of the true self, true Soul identity.


Much love,