Selfridges is about to launch the capital’s first gender-neutral shopping department. But can men and women really share a wardrobe? Time Out workmates Katie Dailey and Oliver Keens spend a week in matching outfits to find out.
Unisex clothing – what does it make you think of? ‘Star Trek’ tunics? CK One’s androgynous waifs? Not anymore. On March 1, Selfridges open the doors of ‘Agender’ – a huge new department of unisex fashion, stocked with more than 40 labels that have dispensed with the notion of his and hers. They’re not the only ones. This year, the trend has been picked up by mainstream designers as well as the high street – from Vivienne Westwood to Whistles. Time Out houses the perfect guinea pigs to test the look: dandyish Music editor Oliver Keens and dress-phobic Style editor Katie Dailey. They sit side by side and share a stapler, but can they have a joint closet without looking like the Chuckle Brothers?
Outfit 1 The day trip
Jumper by APC for men at Selfridges, £185. Winnie jeans by Bethnals, £125. Mac by Whistles x Stutterheim, £235. Bag by Whistles for men, £175. Shoes by Vans, £55.
KATIE ‘A striped sweater, jeans and trainers: this isn’t an unusual outfit for me, it’s my uniform. Buttoning up the jeans was odd since I’m used to a zip, but I loved the coat, which was cut wide enough for it not to matter which bits of you wobble, and was the first properly waterproof jacket I’ve ever tried that didn’t look like it came from Millets. The man bag was a find – ironically it’s the first tote big enough to house my book/makeup/ assorted litter collection. Not sure Oli is ready for one, though – he looked a bit like he was on a paper round.’
OLIVER ‘This mac ‘n’ jeans combo felt like a legitimately androgynous outfit. More than that, it felt like an anonymous outfit. I could have been anyone, be it a woman called Barbara en route to Snappy Snaps, or maybe a guy called Richard who has a huge collection of vintage hampers. Like I said: anyone. The sheer size of the bag made me feel a little lost and unworthy, like a boy prince walking aimlessly through the corridors of his new palace. But jumbo luggage issues aside, this look gets top marks for looking right at home pretty much anywhere.’
Outfit 2 In the office
Jacket by Selected at Asos, £120. Unisex T-shirt by Bethnals, £25. Trousers by Asos White for women, £55. Unisex shoes by Dr Martens, £175. Glasses by General Eyewear, POA.
KATIE ‘Strangely, considering it was mostly womenswear, this outfit felt the most uncomfortable. Probably because if I don’t have an appointment, my standard look at work hovers somewhere between Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, whereas this was quite smart. The ’70s-cut trousers had a touch of Gordon Gekko, and my shiny DMs looked like they’d clomped out of my dad’s wardrobe. The most feminine item, the velvet blazer, turned out to be a design for men. This look was definitely the least me – but that’s down to its formality, rather than its masculinity.’
OLIVER ‘There’s no earthly reason to dress smartly at Time Out. Our founder used to chide our last art director for wearing a tie. Despite that, it felt good to treat the very serious process of making a magazine with respect by donning some dapper attire. The velvet jacket was sleek and modern and not at all Austin Powers-like. The only snag was putting on women’s trousers – not in a ‘but I’m a dude, dude’ sense, but working out how to do up buttons the opposite way.’
Outfit 3 At the pub
Pullover sweatshirt by Raf Simons for men at Selfridges, £410. Unisex jeans by Bethnals, £125. Unisex Stan Smith shoes by Adidas, £90.
KATIE ‘The edgy Raf Simons longline sweater is a firm step into dress territory, and I’d normally wear a dress with tights. Wearing it over skinny jeans, I felt a bit like someone who should have a surprising undercut, or a showreel of conceptual film shorts. Or a different outfit on. Tights and black boots would fix it, though.’
OLIVER ‘The problem with this oversized top wasn’t that it was long enough to be a dress. I’d have preferred a dress – at least some of Grayson Perry’s charm might have rubbed off on me. Instead, this tabard looked as though postmodernism had vomited all over it. There was more incongruous imagery on the front than in an Adam Curtis documentary – a bit of carpet pattern, some Chinese writing and a couple of big ol’ marijuana leaves. I lay the blame squarely at Rihanna’s Instagram.’
SHE SAYS ‘I like well-cut, simple clothes that don’t scream ‘I like kittens!’ – so unisex dressing suits me fine. But it’s a trend that works best by day. I wouldn’t want to wear slacks and a tie to a party, or see Oliver in a mini-skirt.’
HE SAYS ‘I’m not totally sold. Good clothes should create an air of individuality, not be used to create uniformity. It’s not ideal, but men and women are different. Clothes should reflect that.’
Photography Rob Greig.