The "pink tax" is something that most women are aware of these days, but the phenomenon is more problematic than we might have originally thought. While most complaints about women paying more than men for the same products are related to simple everyday items like razors and deodorants—relatively inexpensive items to begin with—a study by Business of Fashion has found that these price differences are much more apparent in the fashion industry.
BoF went through a number of luxury brands' current catalogs and found that in some cases, women are paying up to $1,000 more for the same products. Among the brands investigated were Gucci, Alexander Wang, Saint Laurent, and a few others. There is no clear explanation as to what is driving such big price differences, but they have found a number of different factors that could be playing a role.
Women's items often come in a wider range of sizes and colors, even when the style is similar or identical to that of a men's item. Ultimately, that means smaller production runs per size and color, which means higher costs overall. Additionally, women's garments at the luxury level require different level of craftsmanship when it comes to any embellishments or use of finer fabrics, which further boosts production costs.
Brand and individual product status also come into play when deciding on pricing for similar women's and men's items. BoF cites Saint Laurent's Le Smoking jacket as a prime example of a product's status affecting overall price. In the womenswear world, the jacket was seen as revolutionary when it was first introduced in the 1960s, and has remained a staple for the brand ever since. While it is also a part of the men's line, it holds less significance in the menswear world, and therefore boasts a less hefty price tag. The final difference? The women's version will run you $3,550, while the men's will cost you $2,550.
One other reason for these big differences, as BoF suggests, is that women simply are more willing to splurge on brand names and items that they perceive as high quality compared to men. Men's shopping habits tend to be more value-based, focusing on how useful they perceive the garment to be, whether it be in terms of wearability or construction quality.
Finally, the most common scapegoat for all our other big problems is at least partially to blame here as well. The government has a part in affecting prices on these items due to tariffs it places on imported goods. The average tariff rate for womenswear products comes in at 15.1 percent in the U.S. The menswear tariff rate is a bit lower, at 11.9 percent.
All of these factors combine to create a pricing problem with a root cause that is difficult to pinpoint. While flattening the tariff rate for both womenswear and menswear items would surely do a lot to adjust the prices, production costs and branding psychology will still affect that final price tag. Hopefully brands can find a way to account for these differences in the near future.
Head over to BoF to read their full investigation.