John Lewis has become the first UK department store to combat gender stereotypes with its new 'genderless' clothing collection aimed at both boys and girls. All of the high street giant's own-brand children's clothing will feature labels saying either 'Girls & Boys' or 'Boys & Girls' and there will also be a new gender neutral collection for newborns up to age 14.
'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,' explained head of childrenswear at John Lewis, Caroline Bettis.
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Let Clothes Be Clothes, a campaign group of parents asking retailers to rethink how they design and market children's clothing, have praised the move, saying: 'It’s fantastic news and we hope other shops and online retailers will now move in the same direction. A T-shirt should be just a T-shirt – not a T-shirt just for girls or just for boys. Higher-end, independent clothing retailers have been more pro-active at creating gender-neutral collections, but we hope unisex ranges will filter down to all price points. We still see many of the supermarkets, for example, using stereotypical slogans on their clothing.'
While many welcomed the news, it has proved controversial in some quarters. In contrast to Let Clothes Be Clothes, the group Campaign For Real Education has predictably spoken out against it, claiming it will be potentially damaging to children.
'By following this fashion to go genderless, I fear they are supporting a wider movement which risks confusing children and foists adult worries on to young people,' said spokesman Chris McGovern. 'There is a dangerous social phenomenon occurring of gender identity theft, which says there is no difference between boys and girls when of course there is.'
Predictably, there has been some backlash on Twitter, with some users citing it as 'political correctness gone mad' with others were calling for a boycott of the high street favourite.
The most Tweeted comment came from Piers Morgan (who else), as he shared a picture of the collection with the a caption stating that 'Britain is going officially bonkers'.