Kid Cudi's dress raised a debate about statements around gender fluidity being made by people in positions of privilegetwitter/KIDCUDI

Kid Cudi is a rapper notorious for his transgression and ability not only to break the mould, but burst through it in a dazzling array of vision and honesty.

In a move well-calculated to promote both his latest release, Man on the Moon III: The Chosen and his burgeoning collaboration with Off-White legend Virgil Abloh, Cudi took to the SNL stage to perform his song “Sad People”. While fans expected Cudi’s usual streetwear-inspired attire, what graced the audience’s eyes was both unexpected and artistically visionary. A full-length white gown, adorned with a brightly-coloured floral pattern, even featuring a bodice to truly emulate a typically-feminine silhouette. In a song that advocates for introspection and persevering through the oftentimes challenging journey of finding yourself, breaking free from all fashion constraints is definitely felicitous.

“it displayed the far-reaching impact of our contemporary climate’s refusal to adhere to gendered stereotypes and boundaries”

Not only was his donning of such an outrageously bold garment paying homage to Nirvana’s angsty and non-conforming frontman Kurt Cobain – who has inspired a great deal of Cudi’s music, and was even sampled on 2018 release “Cudi Montage” – but it displayed the far-reaching impact of our contemporary climate’s refusal to adhere to gendered stereotypes and boundaries. While Cobain may have taken a similar stance in 1993 when he modelled a dress on the cover of Face magazine, Cudi has reignited the flame. It’s a typically Cudi-esque move: Virgil Abloh commented that “It’s Cudi knocking on your television screen saying, “Hey! Be yourself.” This is a mantra well-loved by Cudi, and is a point of compassion for his devoted fans. Utter self-acceptance, with no room for judgement: this perfectly pertains to Cudi’s entire catalogue.

Not without controversy, Cudi’s performance attire has sparked waves of criticism, particularly across the LGBTQ+ community. As summarised by model and activist Munroe Bergdorf, it is amazing to see “cis gender straight men embracing femininity through fashion”, however Cudi’s position means he “won’t face nearly as much hatred or the physical danger that visibly queer folk will when they do the exact same thing”. This sentiment undoubtedly rings true: Cudi’s celebrated position affords him the status and ability to be lauded as revolutionary and heroic, which in turn undermines the long-standing culture and fashion historically and continually embraced by the LGBTQ+ community. This double-standard is one that needs addressing: how can he enjoy the privilege of the internet extolling him, while the basic right of safety remains out of reach for so many who choose to express themselves in this way not just one novel time, but every single day?

Kurt Cobain performing in a dress in the 1990’sTwitter/PigsAndPlans

However, a broader effort to curb systemic gender norms in fashion is coming to fruition, and Virgl Abloh himself is keen to play an intrinsic part, using his Off-White brand to facilitate such awareness and change. In fact, Abloh is keen to alter the intrinsic link between masculinity and suits, instead replacing the latter with the choice to sport classically feminine silhouettes, whether dresses or skirts. Abloh noted to GQ that “Gender norms and racial freedoms are amongst the most important things in society that need to be updated. As a fashion designer, moments like this let me know that there is space for intellect and risk for the sake of expanding space”. Abloh certainly has the means to improve upon these factors: with a brand as successful and extensive as Off-White, and with such a cult following, he can go where no designer has gone before. It also prompts us as consumers to question such rigid boundaries and our means to overcome them, whether through unisex collections or runways.


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It is fundamental for Abloh to acknowledge that the “risk” he and Cudi are taking is a genuinely threatening risk for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and a more mindful approach to the rhapsodising of Kid Cudi is vital in instigating a wave of change. Acknowledging the roots of this mode of dressing is crucial. Although, Abloh’s overarching belief that “the beauty about now, is our generation, piece by piece, can dismantle norms” is an enduring one, and one that must be acted on. Cudi, in this way, has taken a bold stance, and at least has put his celebrity to good use. Ultimately, Cudi’s musical mission of inclusivity, advocating the importance of recognising mental health and substance abuse problems, places him in good stead to be ushering in a period of radical change.