Fashion design is an occupation where women far outnumber men, yet there is a widespread perception that gay men are the most successful. Scholars, journalists, and industry insiders have all commented on how gay men (e.g. Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs) are “media darlings,” win more awards, and have more prestigious jobs. Why is this the case?
On the one hand, gay men’s successes in fashion design are cause for celebration. LGBTQ people have historically faced discrimination and disadvantages in the broader labor market, but fashion is one of a few creative fields considered more or less “gay friendly,” and it employs large numbers of gay men. However, recent research finds that even “gay friendly” workplaces can reproduce old stereotypes and inequalities between gay and straight, men and women. And since fashion design is numerically dominated by women, the success of men designers is suggestive of gender inequality.