Archive for the ‘fashion’ Tag

Me, in 3 socks

I love socks. The wilder the better. Bonus if they clash with my outfit. It’s my tiny rebellion against all the rules I live within.  A couple years ago, I stumbled on ‘statement socks’ and my fashion life was changed forever. 

Although I don’t believe a person can be 100% encapsulated by a few glib words, whether or not they’re written on socks, I think these three do a pretty good job of describing me in three quick words:


Ok, so “Jedi” is more aspirational at this point than I like to admit, but still a part of me. “Geek Butch” is my band name and spirit animal all in one. 

The fun thing about these socks is that I’m the only one who knows when I’m wearing them and they give me this secret boost, like a super power. Underneath my sharply creased jeans or chinos and button-down shirt with bow tie, there’s this secret message, like an altar ego, like Clark Kent’s “S” on his chest. And, at the end of the day when I pull them off my feet, there’s a faint outline of the word pressed into my skin from the different weave where the letters are. For a fleeting few minutes, I not only am feeling fine in my own skin, but my own skin names me perfectly. 

So…yay for goofy socks and finding philosophical meaning in textiles no one but me gets to see. 

I hope you have a great week ahead and find a little whimsy to spice up your imagination. 

Vanity, thy name is Butch

Ok, here’s a quick one…

I believe the old adage that confession is good for the soul –  it builds character to admit to weaknesses and foibles. So here’s my confession:  I froze my head today out of sheer vanity. 

The middle of January in the American Midwest means it’s coooooold outside. Not just chilly. Frigid. The kind of cold that goes bone-deep and stays there. Windy, cutting, painful cold. That’s why I normally bundle up, with a hat, scarf, gloves and leather coat. 

But I had a great hair day today! Most days the best I get is just ok hair. But today I had stylish, shapely, awesome, quintessentially butch hair. Paired with a crisply pressed dress shirt and a rockin’ bow tie and Levi’s that are just the right shade of blue and new leather boots…I had the rare experience of feeling truly dapper, authentically Butch. 

I just couldn’t bring myself to crush that great hair with my stocking cap. So my head and ears froze and ached most of the day. But, man! I totally nailed the dapper thing, so it was worth it. 

I’ll wear the vanity label if it means I get a chance at another great hair day. 😎

29 Days: Matchy-Matchy

Was a decent day. Really busy and, at times, a challenge to my patience. But overall, professionally satisfying. 

One of the best things about today was that I wore a new bow tie that I got for Christmas and have been trying to decide what to wear it with. It’s orange with navy and white polka dots. Cool, but a challenge to coordinate with a fairly conservative dress shirt and sweater/vest wardrobe. 

So I threw caution to the winds and decided to go full quirk. Added the loud bow tie to a white shirt with black checks, black cotton knit vest, faded jeans (natch), and my orange Polo dock-siders, cuz they match. My blue and cream chevron striped socks do not match, because I’m rebellious like that. 

In prose it sounds hideous. Lulu assures me that the look is dapper and I don’t look like a clown. I feel good, so I’m not fussed about the matchy-matchy (or lack there of). What do you think?

   
 

Thoughts on Appearances

I saw this quote recently, attributed to the late Australian activist/comedian Stella Young:

“To live unapologetically in a body you’re consistently told you should be ashamed of is the most political act of all.”

While her comment came in the context of her activism for disabled people, the sentiment struck a chord I my head. I’m blessed with a high degree of health and ability, yet I too am constantly bombarded with messages designed to shame many parts of me and my body as a whole. As I considered this quote and its underlying message, the following thoughts forced their way out of my head, and I wanted to share them.

—– —– —–

Appearance, outward presentation of a worldly image, representation of identity. What we look like, the choices we make in clothing, grooming, mannerisms–these are so closely tied in our minds and in the eyes of society with the very core of a person’s being and character that entire industries have grown up around the concept to cater to our perpetuation of ideals of personal appearance. For some of us, our appearance and presentation are inextricably linked to our sense of self and reflect not only the gender, sexual and personal identity we claim for ourselves, but also reflect how we feel about and relate to that identity.

Appearance matters on so many levels. Judgements are made and fates sealed, often based in nothing more than what a person looks like and how that appearance makes the observer feel. Right or wrong, this is fact.

Lately, we’ve seen the horror and tragedy that results when such appearance-based judgments are permitted to spiral in power to the point of becoming, quite literally, weaponized. Though racism and other forms of abuse and discrimination are much more than just reactions to appearances, it seems to start from there. The color of someone’s skin, the size and shape of their body, the style, cut, color and condition of their clothing and hair, all have formed the basis of more than one tragic narrative of suffering and loss.

Let’s also remember mannerisms, tone, timbre and moderation of voice, facial expressions and hand gestures. These too are crucial elements of a person’s presentation of themselves. And just as have race, skin color, and clothing, so have mannerisms become politicized and weaponized.

But it’s not all tragic. From some of these struggles has come a greater freedom of expression for many on the margins of society. Fashion has long been a critical component to social change. From the radical suffrage fighters in pants and bloomers, to turtle-necked beat-nicks, from “long-haired hippies” to grunge and indie hipsters, fashion and appearance have been used to polarize opinion and stimulate thought and acceptance leading to broader changes promoted by those whose style and appearance brought the spotlight to the issues.

That’s what fashion, style, and presentation mean to me. A means to facilitate change. But I’m not aiming for change beyond myself. I’ve spent the last several years, decades really, seeking to mold and improve myself, to make myself the best me I can be. Although I have not succeeded in certain aspects, I have at least found a presentation that coincides with the person I feel I am inside.

At the risk of oversimplifying a complex and multi-year process, I will just say that when I made the choice to forsake forever any attempt at achieving femininity and embrace the image of me that’s always lived in my head, I knew a moment of pure joy. I left behind me the crushing weight of perpetual failure to be what was foisted upon me. For that one moment I was nothing but truly me.

To be sure, there were ensuing years of doubt and struggle and denial and sadness. Doubts about who I was, if not the beautiful little princess my mother dreamed I would be. Struggles, within and without, raged on about whether I deserved to achieve my dreams, if I was unwilling to do so inside the confines of society’s box of expectations. Denial dogged me all along the way: others’ denial of my identity and autonomy, my own denial of my true self. There was a goodly amount of sadness as well, in the disappointment of my family’s vision for me and sadness at their inability to see the happy me that resulted from all that soul-searching & self determination.

But even through the dark of those consequences, the joy, the rightness of presenting in my outward appearance a true reflection of the inner me, brought a measure of peace. The comfort of my mind from putting my body into clothes and hair into a style that coincided with that inner certainty gave me confidence that I could never find in another presentation.

That struggle to throw off the burden of gender, peer, family, church and societal expectations regarding who and what I should and am permitted to be, to look like, has been all-consuming. To tear down every sign and symptom of who you have been told you are and to rebuild your own life and self in the image of your inner voice is a radical, sometimes desperate and violent act of rebellion. And it’s also the truest, most personal act of self determination.

For me, this is the political act that Stella Young referenced. Every time I don a crisply pressed dress shirt and bow tie, every time the shears clip away the excess growth of my graying faux-hawk, even when I’m “sirred” by an inattentive waiter or checkout clerk, a little zing of rightness, of validation surges through me.

My ‘political act’ is about freedom, really, on the individual scale. By choosing to flout the societal conventions of gender binary presentation and proudly wearing the outward appearance that fits my gender and personal identity, I’ve chosen freedom. I’ve accepted all the benefits of the power and privilege conferred through conformity to those arbitrary conventions, while simultaneously rejecting the burden of that conformity. What’s left is the freedom to be exactly me at any given moment, regardless of the “should” and “shouldn’t” messages society showers over us all the time.

That’s a lot of lofty, ideological meaning to stuff into the simple concept of outward appearance. But sometimes the meaning underlying the simplest things have complex, far-reaching impacts. That’s true for me when it comes to appearances.

Thankful for…fashion

I’m a big butch. I’ve always been butch, even as a kid, long before I’d ever heard the term or knew what it meant to me. Although, to me, “butch” isn’t all about outward presentation, the look is a big part of it. “Gender non-conforming” isn’t precise enough a term, in my opinion, for such a complex topic (after all, butch is my gender), but sometimes labels make communication easier. So butch it is.

And butch fashion is so much fun!

In my youth, my fashion sense consisted of grubby jeans and t-shirts. Dressing up was a nightmare I avoided like the plague. But, when forced to do so, my fashion stretched only so far as cords or twill slacks and a long sleeved mock neck or button-down Oxford. Woe betide the mom, aunt or cousin who suggested a skirt or dress! Although it did happen, it never really happened without a fight.

But with the independence of my adulthood and a more flexible budget, I’ve discovered the joy to be found in dressing sharply in clothes that feel good and which coincide with my gender identity.

I’ve dressed in exclusively masculine clothes for over fifteen years. Can’t even recall the last time I capitulated to the pressure and wore a skirt. The last semi/formal events I attended (a wedding, a professional presentation, and a business function) saw me sporting men’s dress slacks, a dress shirt and a blazer. Only recently though have I found the courage to wear ties and even bow ties. But I’ve discovered a real delight in them! In fact, last week marks the first time I’ve ever worn a tie to work every day of the week.

Special Femme likes to see me dressed sharply, too. We recently had a Skype-enabled shopping date (I know!) where she helped select some looks more suited to the season. Actually, she and the shop assistant ganged up on me and chose two ties that, but for their insistence, I’d never have bought. But, after wearing each, I admit they have a certain appeal…even the black and red paisley “mafia tie”. 🙂

Today, I’m wearing my first ever cut-to-measure dress shirt. It has French cuffs, so cuff links for the first time, too! I bought this one for an event in October, but it didn’t arrive in time. No matter, it’s here now. And I’m awaiting (barely patiently) for a few more custom shirts from Tomboy Tailors (one of the hot new fashion houses for masculine-presenting women that hit the ground this year–I think they’re actually the first with an IRL store, located in San Francisco). Can’t wait to get them!!

What I like most about fashion now is the way it makes me feel. With a well-fitting masculine dress shirt and tie, whether over jeans or slacks, and a pair of wing tips or boots, I feel more real, more authentic than ever before. When I dress consistent with my gender identity, in a fashionably cut outfit, I’m finally comfortable in my skin, so to speak. It feels as if the world can now see the closest thing to my inner image of myself. That feeling of being genuine, fully transparent, is amazing.

So, today I’m thankful for butch fashion…and my growing collection of ties! 😉

Here are a few recent chin-pics of my forays into butch fashion.

20131118-122026.jpg

20131118-122101.jpg

20131118-122214.jpg

20131118-122243.jpg

20131118-122319.jpg

20131118-122332.jpg

%d bloggers like this: