women are paying way more than men for the same clothes

Turns out the "pink tax" doesn't just apply to razors and shampoo.

by Hannah Ongley
24 March 2016, 10:46pm

It's increasingly clear that being born without a Y chromosome can be damn expensive. The tampon tax alone makes many women angrier than actual PMS does. But it's not just a few days per month that ladies are encountering sexism at the cash register. Razors, shampoo, and emergency CVS socks all cost more if you opt for the pink version. And according to a new investigation by the Business of Fashion, the "pink tax" might be an even bigger problem in luxury fashion, with women often being charged $1,000 more than men for the female version of a particular style. 

Comparing the prices of men's and women's garments across a number of luxury brands, it was found that women generally pay more for simple high-end pieces including T-shirts and sweaters. The T-shirts were often priced at over $100 more for a women's version. Alexander Wang was the only brand to often feature higher price tags on its men's items, which the company puts down to men's garments often requiring a larger amount of fabric.

A spokesperson for Saint Laurent explained to BoF that price differences occur because women's garments require more workmanship than men's. Patricia Stensrud, the principal of New York-based investment and advisory firm Hudson River Partners, agrees that this is sometimes the case. She notes that brands often produce more styles and colors of women's garments than they do men's. This necessitates smaller (and therefore more expensive) production runs, plus the need to offset higher markdowns at the end of the season with higher price points to begin with.

Other experts say the "pink tax" can't always be pinpointed to a specific place in the supply chain. The issue might be psychological, with price points often correlating to desirability, and women being (on average) more willing to splurge on expensive fashion than men are. "It's discriminatory pricing that is the issue," says Michael Cone, New York-based trade lawyer who has covered gender pricing for 17 years. "Over and over again, prices for women's goods and services are higher than goods and services for men even though the service or the good looks to be materially the same." But even Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University, says that all these factors combined still don't account for such a $100 difference in simple cotton T-shirts. "Nothing makes sense to me in that except for opportunism," she says.

The pink tax may also just come down to actual tax. Echoing the days when blatant sexism was totally kosher, gender-based tariffs mean womenswear is often more expensive to import than men's. A 2015 study by the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics and Public Policy at the Bush School found that the tariff on women's silk shirts is six times higher than the tariff on men's ones. 

Whatever the justification, it's yet another reason to be excited about the future of genderless retail


Text Hannah Ongley
Photography Kate Owen, VFILES fall/winter 15 show

pink tax