Jaden Smith Wears a Dress and Becomes Unlikely Ambassador for Gender Equality

The 16-year-old son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith casually and confidently wears a dress, instantly putting on blast decades of lingering gender hypocrisy in fashion.

04.13.15 8:15 PM ET

It’s only April and there’s already another dress causing a controversy.

Last week, philosophical-tweeting Hollywood wonderkid Jaden Smith stepped out wearing a mesh white top, leopard print socks and a black sweater dress. Yes, a dress. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s fashion-forward son was out-and-about rocking the flowy garment.

And while Smith’s usual wacky wardrobe choices have garnered thousands of likes on his Instagram and have turned him from child actor into a teenage style icon, the dress has stirred up both the good and bad in people. Some have supported Smith’s disregard for gender norms, and what’s usually deemed as clothing for ladies. Others, perhaps expectedly, ridiculed the young star.

But this actually isn’t the first time Jaden has worn a dress. He’s tweeted in the past about feeling confident in the attire and posted a string of selfies on Instagram showing off his no-pants look.

The caption in his Insta-selfie calls out society’s hypocrisy when it comes to fashion and gender equality: “Went To TopShop To Buy Some Girl Clothes, I Mean ‘Clothes.’” There’s no value anymore of putting gender labels on clothes, he’s saying, when fashion—and society—should be past that. Putting on the dress, then, has become a gender-defying moment from one of young Hollywood’s most visible, if occasionally mocked, tastemakers.

Whether or not he was intentionally doing it, he expertly put on blast fashion’s biggest lingering double standard. The menswear trend for women has been vibrant for decades, evolving to the point of mainstream acceptability. So why can Ellen DeGeneres sport a tuxedo, but the moment a male celebrity wears something traditionally labeled as “girly,” the fashion choice is instantly controversial? More, Smith’s youth and style influence makes the move all the more progressive, and hopefully resonant. Facing a chorus of expected backlash, could we even call it brave?

But while there has been a flurry of Twitter hate, there has thankfully also been those advocating for breaking gender norms.

This isn’t the first time the famous Smith family has publicly given a middle finger to the stereotypes that our culture perpetuates. When sister Willow cut her hair short in 2012 (locks she was ever so famous for whipping), mother Jada slammed the haters with a heartfelt letter on Facebook.

She wrote, “Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.”

And the other Smith sibling shouldn’t be controlled by culture’s idea of what a young man should be, showing that off by “swerving around” in the garment. Style is fluid, and shouldn’t be defined or constrained by gender. So as strange as it sounds to call Jaden Smith a crucial ambassador for gender equality, he’s inadvertently become one.

Smith has definitely said yes to the dress and he looks fabulous.