Truman’s Closet 'attacks' gender stereotyping with new label-free apparel

Truman’s Closet put their slogan ‘Find your strong suit’ into action with a new system that ensures all customers feel comfortable and safe in their environment.
Racks of clothes sit at Truman's Closet located in the MU Rock Quarry Facility in Columbia, Mo. The store reopens Sept. 9, 2015, and this time without any gender-defining labels on clothing. Maneater File Photo

Truman’s Closet is reopening its doors Sept. 9 with a twist. There will no longer be any gender-defined labels on clothing items available at the store.

Truman’s Closet has made it their mission to push for social and economic mobility by providing free professional attire to students and faculty, encouraging equality when it comes to career opportunities.

In order to provide a safe and comfortable environment for all customers, Truman’s Closet is now taking a gender-neutral approach to their business. The store’s typical inventory will remain the same but will no longer be separated into men and women’s attire.

Kevin Ackermann, director of operations at Truman’s Closet, said he hopes this change will help to eliminate society’s dependence on gender stereotypes.

“We’re an organization that deals with professionalism and how you should present yourself in the workplace, and if we perpetuate those stereotypes, that does a lot of harm,” Ackermann said.

The idea of gender neutrality is something that the Truman’s Closet staff has been considering since their start in 2013. It wasn’t until the opening of ThreadBare, the gender-neutral clothing store in the Student Center, that they decided to put it into action.

“Instead of wearing clothes because they’re assigned to your gender, it’s about wearing what you want because you feel good in it,” staff member India Simpson said. “Our mission is to make sure that going into your interview you look and feel as positive and prepared as you can. We want people to look good and feel good, regardless of the gender behind it.”

The staff at Truman’s Closet are making it their goal this year to avoid falling victim to the many stereotypes that exist in today’s world.

“We want people to not only subscribe to what society says looks good, but they have to feel good and confident,” Ackermann said. “Our slogan is ‘Find your strong suit,’ and maybe your strong suit isn’t what society says your strong suit should be.”

Freshman Zach Lahr sees the potential impact this movement could have.

“In terms of gender equality, I think it’s good,” Lahr said. “It knocks out a lot of discriminatory issues.”

On average, the store will have one to three people come in and check out clothes every time they are open. However, when there are campus-wide events requiring business apparel such as career fairs, these numbers tend to increase.

Ackermann doesn’t expect a large rush of people to come into the store now that they’re gender neutral, but rather he hopes their current customers will feel more at home with the new system.

“Having gender neutrality will make people more comfortable knowing that they don’t have to get a certain kind of professionalism look from us,” Ackermann said. “It might bring in more people who might have been turned off.”

With the removal of gender labels from their merchandise, the staff believes that more people will have the opportunity to be self-expressive without all the common restrictions.

“Now that we’re gender neutral, we’re making professional attire a little less stiff and confining,” Simpson said. “People might feel that they’re able to express themselves more.”

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