Toronto unisex clothing store hopes to reduce gender stereotypes

Is it a boys' shirt, or a girls' shirt? The store manager at Muttonhead, a unisex store that recently opened in The Beach, says it doesn't matter. The store, she says, is part of a growing trend toward gender-neutral clothing in Toronto.

The rise of gender neutral clothing is being applauded by LGBT groups in Toronto

The store manager of Muttonhead hopes to see more unisex clothing stores pop up in the east end. (Martin Trainor/CBC News)

Is it a boys' shirt, or a girls' shirt? The store manager at Muttonhead, a unisex store that recently opened in The Beach, says it doesn't matter.

While the clothing at Muttonhead still comes in different sizes, there are no gender labels attached, and no men's or women's sections in the store.

Stephanie Cooke, the store manager, said it's a trend that's starting to grow in Toronto.

"It's nice that people can come in and be able to feel like they don't need to go to a designated section. Everything is for them in the shop," Cooke said.  

Muttonhead's clothing is made in Canada and the store also has a kids section without boys and girls labels. Cooke said it's the first unisex store in The Beach and she hopes to see more pop up in the east end— especially because it creates a safe place for anyone to shop without feeling judged.

"I think it takes a little bit of weight off their shoulders to know everything is fair game," Cooke said.

Cooke added that even when they're hiring staff they ask potential employees questions to ensure they will be respectful of people who may not conform to gender norms.

"Everyone who works here is very laid back. There's no judgement here."

Gender non-binary shoppers face challenges

Ezra Nanaste-Maiato identifies as gender non-binary and prefers to use the pronouns "they" and "them," instead of "he" and "him." The University of Toronto student says they simply wear clothing that makes them feel good.

"To me, it means something that is not constricted, more open, more free," Nanaste-Maiato said.

While Nanaste-Maiato is very comfortable wearing different types of clothing, there are also challenges that come with going against the grain.

"It can definitely be nerve-racking for some, and probably more detrimental for others. There are judgements and the comments that some people get." 

Ezra Nanaste-Maiato wears whatever they like, and doesn't pay much attention to labels. (Martin Trainor/CBC News)

'A really exciting trend'

Jacq Hixson-Vulple works with The 519 — a not for profit that works towards acceptance and awareness of the LGBT community — and is happy to see more places like Muttonhead popping up in the city.

"I think they're really important and a really exciting trend that we're starting to see more of." Hixson–Vulple said.

While there's progress being made with unisex stores opening in Toronto, Hixson–Vulple would like to see the concept taken a step further with more feminine clothes made available for everyone.

"We can also expand our idea of gender neutral clothing and think about how we can include dresses and skirts." 

Hixson–Vulple added that it's just as important to make options available for children, rather than just having pink clothing for girls and blue clothing for boys.

"Basically, everyone should be able to access whatever clothing they want."

About the Author

Talia Ricci

Talia Ricci is a CBC reporter based in Toronto. She's from Guelph and has also reported in London and Winnipeg. From the Middle East to West Africa, Talia has travelled around the globe volunteering and photographing. She enjoys covering offbeat human interest stories and exposing social justice issues. When she's not reporting, you can find Talia creating recipes for her plant based food blog.