The Pink Tax: Why Being A Woman May Just Cost You


April 19, 2016

What’s the difference between a black striped sweater for a man and a black striped sweater for a woman? Well, logic says, the male version may use more material based on length and size. There may be cut differentials to fit a man’s frame or additional seams so that the garment lays more evenly across a man’s shoulders. What’s the difference that can’t be seen by the naked eye? The price. The man’s sweater will cost a substantial amount less than the almost identical woman’s sweater. Consider this the high cost of the pink tax.

The pink tax is a subtle, barely noticeable (at first), price hike that occurs on women’s products that are identical to those made for men. The tax not only affects fashion, it also affects grooming products such as razors and shampoo.

The Cost of the Pink Tax

In the past few months, consumers have become more privy to the pink tax, sparking outcry amongst consumers. In February of 2016, Boots, a UK pharmacy, changed the prices on several products after customer’s launched a petition complaining about the price of items including razors, which cost $3.19 for an eight pack for women, compared to $2.11 for a pack of 10 for men.

According to a study released by the New York City Department of Consumer affairs conducted in December 2015, on average, female items cost 7 percent more than males. For similar items of clothing, women paid 8 percent more than men. The study compared apparel, shampoo, and even toys.

In fashion, it is unclear as to why the pink tax exist, with some designers lamenting that the price difference has everything to do with the quality and workmanship that goes into women’s clothing versus mens. Some insiders have tried to attribute the pink tax to the volume at which men’s and women’s clothing is sold, citing that women’s items can sometimes sell at a lower rate. However, there are discrepancies in that theory, especially in terms of fashion where women are the predominate consumers.

At a luxury level, some women’s garments do require more intricate work, which can incur higher costs in manufacturing. A brand will also typically produce more sizes, colors, and variations women’s items then men’s. This means that the brand is forced to divide manufacturing into smaller runs, which is less economical and leads to higher prices on those items. Of course these leads some to argue, that adjustments should still be made across the board in order to keep prices fair amongst both genders.

Stereotypes and Taxes

The commonly held stereotype is that men simply don’t like shopping. Buying clothing, especially in a physical space, has long been revered as a woman’s domain. Men buy “stuff” women buy “products.” However, in the last few years, a major shift has occurred in men’s shopping habits. The long held belief that men hate shopping is no longer true or even relevant. In a digital age where men are exposed to images and ideas at a much higher rate than in years past, men are becoming more fashion centric and sophisticated.

In 2014, menswear sales grew 1.9 percent to reach $408.4 billion, compare this to the 1.6 percent growth the market experienced in womenswear at the same time. While the price gap will eventually even out, as all things do, some retailers are taking advantage of this gap with the pink tax. Not only eking out profits in whatever way possible, but eschewing the belief that women are willing to pay more for fashion and products than their male counterparts.

When Will It End?

While consumers will remain outraged over the inequality that the pink tax inherently bears, they are ultimately at the mercy of the brands and retail outlets. Until there is a shift in the industry as a whole, women will be forced to pay the higher prices, or smartly buy male geared products when there is a suitable stand in for their feminine favorites.

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