Non-binary TV characters, their outfits, hairstyle & makeup

Non-binary TV characters, their outfits, hairstyle & makeup

by Nikola Marković - May 2023

Unlike trans representation on TV which has undergone a gradual evolution in terms how they are portrayed, non binary representation has simply been absent for most of television history. However, in the last 7 years, “non binary” experiences that include a wide spectrum of identities and expressions that don’t conform to the gender binary have steadily been introduced in mainstream television. This article will explore non binary TV characters whose outfits, hairstyles, and makeup choices have paved the way for the vivid non-binary landscape in pop culture and fashion & beauty industry.

Taylor Mason (Billions)

Non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon’s seminal portrayal of Taylor in the second season of the finance drama “Billions” in 2017 is considered TV's first openly non-binary character. In the second episode, Taylor officially introduces themselves to the CEO of Axe Capital, a multibillion-dollar hedge fund, and confidently announces their gender neutral, singular pronoun “they”. Due to Taylor’s immense intelligence, efficiency, exceptional talent and outside-the-box way of thinking, they quickly climb the ladder from intern to CIO of the company and are offered an annual salary of $1 million. All of this marks Taylor as a fearless role model for non binary representation.

Talor’s sharp, masculine-presenting outfits reflect their respectability, but also “queer” the trope of the Wall Street alpha male (anti)hero, offering a new non binary paradigm. Taylor’s characteristic short buzz haircut contrasts their usual business attire consisting of dark blue suit jackets, trim gray vests, sweaters, and classic formal button-down and button-up shirts. Some describe Taylor’s gender presentation as conventionally “androgynous” or “gender neutral”. Others consider their more accessible style serving as a “trojan horse”, sneaking in a more demanding topic of their non-binary gender to the mainstream viewer.

Cal Bowman (Sex Education)

In the third season of Netflix’s award-winning series “Sex Education” which came up in 2021, non binary Sudanese-American singer and actor Dua Saleh joins the already diverse cast. The series follows the fictional Moordale Secondary School’s staff, students, and their parents with various dilemmas closely related to sexual intimacy. Apart from portraying the important and underrepresented topic of dating as a non-binary person, Saleh’s character Cal Bowman is immensely important in terms of fashion & beauty. Namely, they are fighting the school’s outdated extremely gendered dress codes.

When headteacher Hope implements gray school uniforms – which we now are historically gendered – Cal is forced into binary boxes. They are told off by the headteacher that they are in the wrong uniform when wearing the loosely fitted boys’ attire. Cal’s style includes fishbone braids, no makeup, baseball caps, loose-fitted and baggy clothing like hoodies. Their clothes remain an ongoing battle of resistance throughout the season and an example of how fashion & beauty are an integral part of one’s gender expression that should therefore not be limited. Throughout the season, Cal is becoming closer to another non binary character, a rather timid Layla, played by non binary actor Robyn Holdaway. Cal helps Layla to find a better, more comfortable solution to the bandages, and suggests a fitted binder "designed for safer breast compression." This, too, creates an honest and powerful moment for non binary representation highlighting issues and the challenges non-binary people face.

Uncle Clifford (P-Valley)

Premiering on Starz in 2020, Katori Hall’s P-Valley changed the rules of the game with the iconic character Uncle Clifford who identifies as non-binary and uses she/her pronouns. Given that black queer characters have historically mostly been peripheral and never the center of the narrative, Uncle Clifford as a nonbinary owner of the Mississippi Delta strip club The Pynk is a revolutionary lead full of depth, humanity, and definitely the heart of the show. Played by Nicco Annan, Uncle Clifford is a safe haven looking over strong women and holding her club together. Uncle Clifford’s fashion is, too, nothing less than trailblazing.

Closely working with Annan, costume designers Tiffany Hasbourne and Alita Bailey seem to have pushed the designs of the clothes creating Uncle Clifford’s famous “COVID couture”. Her style is vital to her character, from the signature perfectly-coiffed beard, bold-colored outfits, long acrylic nails, and glamourous lace-front wigs. One of the highlights of the show’s fashion is the lime green suit with its pointed shoulder pads inspired by a Ugandan traditional garment – the gomesi – in which Uncle Clifford goes to the post-funeral gathering to get some chitterlings for her grandmother. The other highlight includes the crimson ensemble she also wears in broad daylight, consisting of a brocade top with bell sleeves, white lace gloves, and a red lace parasol.

Mae Martin (Feel Good)

“I’m not a boy. I’m not even a girl. I’m like a failed version of both,” exclaims the protagonist Mae in Netflix and Channel 4’s dramedy Feel Good, released in early 2020. A nonbinary comedian Mae Martin created and wrote it based on their life experiences in contemporary Manchester, starring as a fictionalized version of themselves. Especially the second and final season earned universal acclaim and a momentous significance for non binary representation as it follows Mae’s journey of coming out as non binary and switching to they/them pronouns.

Just like her character, Mae’s style is witty and charming. Their closet comprises mostly comfortable and casual garments such as a black hooded Carhartt jacket, a white print St. Croix Tee, a cotton shirt with snap tab buttons, khaki pants, or an oversized Miami t-shirt. Their fair complexion with blue eyes and blonde androgynous short taper haircut with a textured fringe walks the line between femininity and masculinity.  Their overall look with a fondness for plain and gender-neutral plays into their relatable humor putting forth their unpretentious appeal.

Klaus Hargreeves (The Umbrella Academy)

With the ability to speak to the dead, Klaus Hargreeves of “The Umbrella Academy” who is one of seven adopted children of Sir Reginald Hargreeves with the intention of training them to save the world, is considered a non-binary pansexual character. Portrayed by Robert Sheehan who refers to his character by both he/him and they/them pronouns, Klaus is described in an interview as “not necessarily a man, he's kind of just this creature that's not bound by traditional societal norms like 'man', 'woman', 'masculinity', 'femininity'. He just, sort of… is.”

Klaus immediately became one of the most beloved characters due to his unapologetic style described as “casual goth”. Klaus is lanky with long sandy brown hair, green eyes, and the words ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ tattooed on his hands. Christopher Hargadon, the costume designer of the series, reported for Fashionista that the inspiration behind Klaus' wardrobe somewhat originated from Sheehan’s gender fluidity and his own clothing choices. Consequently, more than half of Klaus' wardrobe comprises what would traditionally be considered women's clothing. These are often vintage finds like a 50-year-old Edwardian skirt. The character development is also evident in a shift from Klaus primarily wearing gothic, drab black coats and boots in the first season to later on including more colorful, experimental, and free-spirited, clothes.

Adira Tal (Star Trek: Discovery)

Since its inception, the Star Trek franchise has discussed crucial social issues and had a massive legacy in popular culture. Particularly “Discovery” has been praised for its LGBTQIA+ representation, although storylines are sometimes negative and flawed. Amongst them is Adira Tal played by non-binary actor Blu del Barrio, the first non-binary character across the Star Trek universe introduced in season 3. In a heartfelt moment in episode 8 named “The Sanctuary” they come out as non binary, saying “I've never felt like a 'she' or– or a 'her,' so… I would prefer 'they' or 'them'.”  Del Barrio also used this moment to actually come out as non binary to their own family.

Adira has short, brown hair and their costume consists of a dark blue full-body catsuit with black leather straps, knee-high boots, fingerless gloves, and a belt. Being in the holographic environment aboard the KSF Khi'eth on Theta Zeta planet causes Adira to look like a Xahean. The Xaheans are mostly humanoid, with the ability to turn invisible, dark hands often ending in clawed fingers, sharp teeth, interior eyelids to the right and left of their eyes, and characteristic blue or dark line patterns, slightly raised on their faces. 


Non binary representation is setting its foundations, with self-assured actors, writers, directors, costume designers, and creatives gaining the power to tell stories and express themselves in mass media. Together, they are bringing into life characters with bold outfit, makeup, and hairstyle choices that echo, inspire, and determine the trajectory of non binary fashion & beauty.

Nikola Marković (they) is a non-binary Serbian artist, researcher, and writer currently based in Vienna. They are about to start their doctoral research at London College of Fashion. Previously they graduated in Fashion under the mentorship of Hussein Chalayan and Grace Wales Bonner. Their artistic practice and research aim at disrupting the binarities/hierarchies of gender, class, ability, and subject-object dualism.