The men’s wear shows, which kicked off in London at the start of the month and move on to Paris this week, have seen a seismic stylistic shift: Men and women are walking the runways together. Radical? Well, yes, for fashion at least, which has segregated the genders for decades, centuries even. But the coed notion in fashion has been bubbling up for a few seasons now: Gucci has been staging coed shows since Alessandro Michele became creative director in January 2015, and Miuccia Prada began mixing women’s looks with her men’s wear beginning with the spring 2014 season. But now, on the fall 2017 men’s runways, everything seems to be blurring into one. This season’s runways are a reflection of — and maybe even an active participant in — a wider cultural shift away from prescriptive gender norms.

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In Milan — home of red-blooded machismo (or as close as you can get in a men’s runway show) — there were almost as many looks for her as for him. Dsquared and Dolce and Gabbana brought women’s looks into their men’s shows for the first time — joining Prada, Moschino, Damir Doma and the behemoth of Giorgio Armani’s mainline and Emporio labels. But most telling, two of Milan’s biggest brands, Gucci and Bottega Veneta, were absent entirely. They have opted out of Milan’s men’s wear week, to show their male attire in what are otherwise women’s wear shows in February.

There’s an obvious monetary benefit to combining your men’s wear and women’s wear runways — it doesn’t take a genius to figure one fashion show is cheaper than two, although how much that figures into the thinking of brands like Gucci and Bottega Veneta (whose combined 2015 revenues were in excess of $5.5 billion) is debatable. But there’s a sizable creative payoff, too: The combined format places less time-pressure on designers to deliver. And for many houses today, the aesthetic for him and her is so close that it makes sense for the two to walk side by side. It reaffirms what the label is all about. It reinforces brand identity.

The latter is certainly true at Vetements, whose coed show is scheduled to take place next Tuesday, during the Paris haute couture shows. “We can’t do two shows, per season, men and women,” the Vetements creative director Demna Gvasalia said, citing pricing and time restraints. But there is also an ideological justification. “At Vetements, it really works,” he added. “It’s this street thing. You don’t see streets where there are just girls walking. It brings it more to reality.” And reality is key to Vetements, which street-casts nonprofessional models, designs clothes that look careworn and pre-loved and wants to reflect the real.

The reality of right now is what makes fashion’s current fixation with coed interesting. It’s syncing with the mood of society right now, where gender norms — from pronouns to established modes of behavior — are being challenged, debunked and frequently dismissed by new generations. That includes a new generation of fashion designers, leading a march where the rest of the industry seems set to follow.

Even if you don’t follow fashion closely, this could be affecting the way you dress. Or maybe the way you buy clothes. Last year, the Spanish mega-mass retailer Zara launched a product category it dubbed “Ungendered,” which sits halfway between men’s and women’s departments. And although it consists mostly of basics like T-shirts and sweats, it reflects a new willingness to challenge old boundaries. Bolder men have been sporting skirts — Jaden Smith wore one for a Louis Vuitton campaign last year. (It was women’s wear, but who cares?) And the influence of Alessandro Michele’s Gucci — which isn’t androgynous so much as what we’d traditionally preface with the adjective “feminine” (flowers and embroidery and such) — has been seeping, stealthily, into clothes at every level, that everyone will wind up wearing. And more important, coming from a brand of the stature of Gucci, it demonstrates how traditional men’s wear conventions are being challenged and debunked. After all, the runway is only the first step in the fashion story. Maybe we’ll see the men’s and women’s departments combining before long.

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