John Lewis is the first retailer in the country to remove gender labelling from its children’s clothing. The change comes as part of a wider effort to avoid “reinforc[ing] gender stereotypes”, so as to give consumers and their children more choice when it comes to what to wear.
Clothing for children aged 0-14 in the department store will now come with a “Girls & Boys” tag, or fall under its unisex range, which includes typically gendered designs like dinosaurs, spaceships and toy soldiers on dresses, trousers and jumpers.
John Lewis’ childrenswear head buyer, Caroline Bettis, said of the adjustment: “We do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes within our John Lewis collections and instead want to provide greater choice and variety to our customers, so that the parent or child can choose what they would like to wear.”
Let Clothes Be Clothes, a campaign group dedicated to encouraging UK retailers to abandon gendered clothing for children as well as gender stereotypes “in the design and marketing of children’s clothes”, consulted on John Lewis’ plans to change the labelling of children’s clothing.
A spokesperson from the group said that while it “still see[s] many of the supermarkets, for example, using stereotypical slogans on their clothing”, news of John Lewis’s move away from rigid gender norms in its children’s clothing was “fantastic news”.
Mothercare, Clarks and Asda have all been accused of perpetuating dated ideas about the ways that girls and boys are supposed to operate in society
The past few months in particular have seen a number of retailers embroiled in controversies over gender stereotyping, with Mothercare, Clarks and Asda all accused of perpetuating dated ideas about the ways that girls and boys are supposed to operate in society.
But, while many see moves towards the abandonment of gendered children’s clothing as a positive step, some believe that the changes will “confuse” children. Piers Morgan, who has made a habit of generally opposing anything socially progressive, tweeted: “Britain is officially going bonkers”, following news of the retailer’s decision.
Campaign for Real Education chairman Chris McGovern said: “By following this fashion to go genderless, I fear [John Lewis] are supporting a wider movement which risks confusing children and foists adult worries on to young people.”
Why slogans like “Hey Cutie” for girls and “Future Scientist” for boys (as seen in Asda) are thought to be less confusing than giving children and their parents the choice to embrace gender neutrality is beyond me. And as damaging as it may prove to be in the long run, those who wish to stick to heavily gendered clothing are just as free to do so as those who wish to take a different approach. Choice is the operative word in John Lewis’s statement and if there’s more of that for kids, isn’t that a good thing?