UK Retailer John Lewis Removes Boys, Girls Clothing Labels to Fight 'Gender Stereotypes;' Faces Backlash

John Lewis store
Pedestrians walk past a John Lewis store on Oxford Street in central London in this December 15, 2013 file photo. |

John Lewis, a leading U.K. department store, has become the first in the nation to remove gender labels from children's clothing, sparking backlash from consumers, politicians, and education experts.

Caroline Bettis, the head of childrenswear at John Lewis, explained in a statement why the retailer will no longer be labeling clothes for "boys" or "girls:"

"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."

The Independent reported on Saturday that John Lewis' own-brand children clothing will now read "Girls & Boys" or "Boys & Girls."

The retailer will reportedly not be removing items such as floral dresses and skirts, and will be adding a unisex clothing line for children, featuring dinosaur print dresses and spaceship tops.

While some shoppers have praised the move, other consumers have taken to Twitter and other social media to slam the decision.

Chris McGovern of the Campaign for Real Education warned that a "dangerous social phenomenon" is rising,  where some are positioning that there is no difference between boys and girls.

"John Lewis is a reputable and admirable retailer and I have no doubt that getting rid of gender labels is well-intentioned. In isolation, one retailer introducing unisex clothing and labels would not be an issue," McGovern wrote.

"But 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," he added.

Campaign group Let Clothes Be Clothes, which John Lewis consulted before making the changes, urged other shops and online retailers to also remove their gender labels.

"A T-shirt should be just a T-shirt – not a T-shirt just for girls or just for boys," the group argued.

"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."

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said that he has "no idea what would possess John Lewis to do this," however.

"Boys and girls labels and signs are informative. I think removing them could be very confusing for the consumer. It appears political correctness continues to march and, whether it is going in the right direction, is a point for debate. I cannot see many customers buying a dress for their 6-year-old boy," Bridgen added.

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