Celebrities Who Have Challenged Gender Norms

A list of 5 influential celebrities who used clothing to break gender barriers.

Celebrities Who Have Challenged Gender Norms

Lindsay B., Reporter

Celebrities are role models. We follow their trends, listen to their music, watch their movies, the list goes on. In the 20th and 21st centuries, many celebrities have chosen to challenge gender stereotypes, while also helping to break gender barriers, especially through clothing. Below is a list of celebrities who have shown the world that clothing has no gender.

  1. David Bowie

David Bowie, or as some have called him, Ziggy Stardust, was a musician who broke gender barriers in the 1970s. As one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, David Bowie showed the world that anyone could wear whatever they wanted. He was one of the most famous artists of the glam rock genre. This genre was popularized in the early 1970s. The musicians who performed this style of music, mostly men, wore extravagant clothing, makeup, and platform shoes. Other artists who performed this genre of rock include Marc Bolan, Mott the Hoople, and Slade. David Bowie’s legacy was not only shown through his music but also through his gender nonconformity.

  1. Elton John

Another one of the most influential singers of the 20th century, Elton John was famous for his songs “Rocketman,” “Tiny Dancer,” and “Benny and the Jets,” amongst others. He wowed audiences with his outfits at his performances. Elton John wore extravagant costumes as well as creative glasses, (which he still wears) while playing his songs at a piano. Some of his most famous outfits include his bedazzled Dodgers uniform, his feathered jackets, and his Marie Antoinette and Louis XIV inspired outfit that he wore during his 50th birthday. Elton John’s clothing style has helped challenge the gender norms placed into society.

  1. Billy Porter

An actor on Broadway and screen, Billy Porter bends gender norms through his fashion choices. Known for his roles in Grease, Kinky Boots, and Pose, Billy Porter amazes people at home with his astonishing red carpet looks. Here, Billy Porter is pictured wearing a green dress at the Critics’ Choice Awards. However, this is not his only famous outfit. Porter is also recognized for his outfit at the 2019 Met Gala where he wore an Egyptian sun god ensemble. This included a 24-karat gold headpiece along with 10-foot wings. When asked about the gender-bending casting for the new Cinderella film coming out in 2021, Porter explained that “magic has no gender.”


  1. Harry Styles

Of course, I could not make this list without including Harry Styles. Harry Styles is not only one of the most influential singers of our generation, but also is a style icon. From his outfit at the 2019 Met Gala to his dress in a Vogue cover, Harry Styles has shown that clothing is just clothing, and gender has no part in it. The dress he wore on the cover of Vogue sparked controversy from Candace Owens, who claimed, “There is no society that can survive without strong men…It is an outright attack”. In response, Styles rebutted that “when you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ you open up the arena in which you can play.” Harry Styles is inspiring a new generation of people that gender barriers should not exist.


  1. Zendaya

Zendaya, an actress many of us have grown up with, has recently been removing clothing barriers. Zendaya is pictured at the 2019 Harper’s Bazaar wearing a gray suit. This suit was also worn by Michael B Jordan a few months before this picture was taken. Zendaya not only wore more “masculine clothing” but also created her own gender-neutral clothing line in 2017 called Daya. All of the items in the clothing line are unisex and promote gender fluidity. When asked about her gender-neutral clothing line, Zendaya responded, “It’s the future of fashion, right?” This actress uses her popularity to challenge gender norms.


Although I only listed five here, there are many more people, not just celebrities, who have been breaking gender barriers through clothing.