Here’s Why Unisex and Oversized Apparel Could Be Here to Stay
ver the past few years, streetwear has continued to influence our everyday fashion choices. “Streetwear-influenced designs will continue to trend,” says Rosie Myers, founder and owner of Los Angeles-based streetwear label Resistance Fashion.
“Streetwear is influenced by Black and Hip-Hop culture, so while silhouettes and shapes have transitioned, the core of this style movement remains. Younger generations understand comfort and style, and they continue to lead the charge.” Last year we began to see an influx of oversize sweatshirts and unisex styles popping up on the scene.
Let’s take a closer look at the staying power of oversize and unisex styles,’ in 2021 and beyond.
The new work-from-home ‘uniform.’
Oversize silhouettes have become the norm in streetwear. These roomier garments echo the rise of remote work, casual dress codes and the push toward 24/7 comfort. The pandemic pushed 62% of 65 million employed Americans to start working remotely, and this looks like it’s going to be the new norm, or a segue into hybrid schedules. A recent study conducted by MIT has shown that over half of workers are not going back to the office full-time, even after the pandemic ends.
"The prevalent work-from-home trend gave more people the confidence to or push to try oversize or unisex styles.” - Rosie Myers, founder and owner of Resistance Fashion
This WFH shift has solidified what consumers have wanted for years: comfort fashion with elevated details and soft fabrications. It’s important for those in the garment industry to stock these trendy at-home styles and pitch them to clients. For instance, T-shirts and hoodies are comfortable, functional, and great for any size or gender. That dovetails with a HYPEBEAST and strategy & streetwear report that says 70% of buyers like streetwear because it’s “cool,” while 57% consider “comfort” to be a key factor.
The rise of casual dress.
Since the pandemic began, even more brands have started to adjust their clothing lines to favor more casual and functional clothes. Over the past year, we’ve seen more minimal silhouettes, neutral colors, earth tones, head-to-toe tracksuits and hoodies more than ever before. This reflects the mood of wanting things to be simpler, especially while working from home.
Chad-Eric “ChadRico” Montgomery, founder of Los Angeles-based streetwear brand Gold & Gems, has been working on a 2022 collection that reflects these trends. “I like to mix fabrics, using my signature black-and-gold combination,” he says. “We’ve come up with some fantastic prints to complement those colors.”
It was the OG streetwear brands like adidas, Champion, Fila, Stüssy and Supreme, who brought oversize styling to a mainstream audience. Then high fashion companies took this style to the next level.
Fashion brands like Balenciaga, Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Polo Ralph Lauren started collaborations with well-known streetwear companies to offer their own lines at higher price points. In 2017, a big collab between Supreme and Louis Vuitton marked a turning point in how luxury brands viewed streetwear. Then in 2018, Louis Vuitton appointed Off-White founder Virgil Abloh as the new creative director of menswear, signaling a sea change in fashion.
Because ‘90s fashion is still heavily influencing current trends, tracksuits, along with matching tops and bottoms, and oversize coats are making a comeback. “Remember, there was a whole decade from the late ‘90s through 2000 where oversize coats were the trend,” Montgomery says. “In 2019, Louis Vuitton featured an oversized puffer coat. That trend was all over social media. As the world opens up, I see that being a part of fall and winter fashion again.”
Adding to the popularity of oversized style clothing is the fact that Gen Z and younger social media influencers embraced street-style pullovers and hoodies as fashion statements. Because these influencers reach such a wide swath of demographics, they have a huge impact on fashion and design, which leads us to unisex styling.
The appeal of unisex apparel.
Gender fluidity has also become a hallmark of younger consumers, not just culturally but also in fashion. According to a recent survey by Phluid Project, “56% of Gen Z consumers shop outside of their assigned gendered area.” In fact, market research has shown younger demographics are “less gendered” and will choose fashion styles that don’t pigeonhole a wearer into a certain gender identity.
Television costume designer Gersha Phillips shares why she chose unisex apparel for the latest hit sci-fi streaming show, Star Trek: Discovery. “I wanted to come up with something that was less sexist,” she says. “Coming up with something that was less sexist led to non-binary uniforms, which ended up being great.”
“This reminds me of the rapper, Cam’ron, wearing pink or other male artists rocking women’s designer belts,” Montgomery says.
“When you walk in a store, you want to grab what you feel looks best. Gender constructs, such as colors or styles, only hurt the business. Leaving unisex options open, allows us to see outfits work that maybe weren’t intended to.” - Chad-Eric “ChadRico” Montgomery, founder of Gold & Gems
Tap Into Must-Have Decorating & Detailing
Since streetwear-styled pullovers are an ultimate statement piece, it makes total sense to go big or go home on the decoration. On the runways, at retail and in your print shop, there’s a generous selection of techniques you can offer:
Twill and chenille appliqué
Vinyl patches or lettering
At Resistance Fashion, Myers and her team are doing a lot of screen prints with strong and powerful words and graphics. “Our customer loves the oversize fit, while also taking a stand for something important,” she says. “The statements on our apparel make it more than just an article of clothing. We give our customers an opportunity to show their style and leave their mark.”
Buyers also want unique artwork locations, so branch out into decoration on the sleeves, above the bottom hem and inside a hood. Offering personalization with vinyl or direct-to-garment printing gives you an extra edge over your competitors too. And for a higher-end look and price point, don’t forget embroidery name drops.
Also look for unique detailing in the latest crop of pullovers, which add that premium touch. These include raw seams and edges, hardware-like zippers and drawstring ends, colored drawstrings, oversized kangaroo pockets and color blocking. Ultimately, the time is perfect to keep showing your clients oversize and unisex styles, as they’ll only grow in popularity in the near future.