We all have that favorite thing we like to wear. Something that can be paired with almost anything and always makes us feel perfectly styled. For me, it’s a sun-faded chambray button-down shirt. What’s special about this shirt is that I took it from my husband, who frequently embarks on explorations throughout our house looking for lost clothes, only to find them in my closet. I’ve been “borrowing” his clothes since we started dating, and my experimentation with clothes outside of my gender identity is a larger trend taking hold in the fashion space. 

In an NPD survey conducted in partnership with CivicScience in September, about 40% of U.S. consumers said they purchased clothing or footwear items outside of their gender identity. The top reasons for these purchases were size and fit (22%), comfort (21%), and price (16%). The active and comfort movement that has gained momentum over the past few years is helping to broaden the gender-neutral trend. In addition, personal reasons are also involved, such as purchases that are actually “social statements” or “align with gender expression,” which applied to 5% of respondents. While this figure may seem small, this trend is gaining attention, as social movements have also been a catalyst for self-expression — breaking the mold of outdated concepts of gender identity.

Additionally, respondents who identified as women were more likely to purchase outside their gender identity than men were, with half claiming to do so. In fact, NPD Consumer Tracking data found that from January through August, women spent more than $3 billion on men’s apparel for themselves, which is 43% higher than last year and 74% higher than 2019. The top men’s categories women purchased for themselves were knit shirts, pants, and sweatshirts.

Men are far less likely to purchase clothes outside their gender identity but when they do, it is primarily due to size and fit, comfort, and price. Younger consumers are less concerned about conforming to a gender and show more interest in buying what they like, regardless of whether it’s sold in the men’s or women’s department of a store.  Three out of four 18- to 24-year-olds told us they have purchased clothing outside of their gender identity. Across all ages, the top reasons for purchase were size, fit and comfort.

From children’s toys, to the colors on product packaging, thinking in terms of male versus female, and pink versus blue, no longer applies. Gender fluidity is being demanded by some consumers, and brands and retailers are expanding their “genderless” offerings. While shopping online, I’m also noticing more brands and retailers offering “genderless” as an option right in the navigation bar, negating the need for filtering or searching for a collection. These are things I expect to see more of in the future. 

When all is said and done, I won’t stop “borrowing” my husband’s clothes. We share everything: a home, two kids … so why not a pair of sweatpants?