The first time I remember seeing myself on screen was in 2018 when Lena Waithe delivered the Thanksgiving episode of Master of None that depicted her character, Denise, over the course of decades as she works through her understanding of her sexuality. The image of a young Denise walking down the stairs in slow motion to the remix of Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear” in her freshest Cross Colors drip to eat dinner with her family is forever etched in my brain.
There was never a more accurate depiction of a budding tomboy.
How did Lena Waithe know my childhood? I was always being told to wear one thing while really wanting to wear something else. This idea of gender nonconformity is fresh in the cultural consciousness and while we struggle to redefine gender for the general public, this inclination to blend the masculine and feminine, to exist outside the margins has always existed for some.
It’s a challenge to dress a “feminine” body in masculine clothing. When it comes to finding what fits best and what we feel comfortable in, it seems impossible. Dressing for a business or professional setting? First instinct is to go with a button-down and slacks. Now, a new problem emerges: men’s cut or women’s cut button down? With clothing tailored to a masculine body, you stand the risk of the clothing being oversized and boxy looking on a feminine frame. While the goal is to not draw attention to curves, thus making a boxier/baggier fit preferable, it’s also quite easy to look shapeless and not as put-together when dealing with men’s cuts. But clothing cut and tailored for women, while more fitting and usually having cleaner lines, takes away from the masculine presentation of the outfit.
Buttons pull more easily and usually cinch at the waist a bit giving a more tailored yet feminine presentation. Not what we’re going for.
As a young stud/stem, navigating the pitfalls that straddle the line between masculine and feminine was a solo battle. It wasn’t until I discovered Tumblr in high school that I finally started to find people who dressed the way I did. Finding folks that presented the way I did and who lived life outside of the norm was so liberating. Even if it was only through a screen, I felt that someone out there understood. Other people were engaging in the same experiment.
Danielle Cooper (@danielle.a.cooper)
I came across Danielle Cooper in my early Tumblr days. Her blog She’s A Gent was created to show that women could dawn men’s wear and make it their own. As a masculine of center queer woman, it was Danielle’s mission to amplify gender-non conforming fashion in a way that was true to her.
Like many young masculine of center presenting women, it took me a long time to find my personal style. While my options for styling myself as a teenager were more limited than they are now, Danielle was a role model that gave me some style guides to aspire to.
Ari Fitz (@itsarifitz)
Not only is Ari a content creator, they’re also a style icon. Her YouTube channel is as funny as it is insightful. Tomboyish, their style YouTube channel, features Look Books, FOTDs, and style tips for dressing feminine bodies in masculine clothing. One of their most recent film projects, “My Mama Wears Timbs,” was an amazing documentary about a Frankie and Tina — couple’s, journey in starting a family and the misconceptions that people have about bringing a child into a same-sex household.
Ari Fitz not only pushes the envelope when it comes to style. They are also pushing the bounds of what it means to be genderqueer and fully one’s self by talking about issues specific to the GNC community regarding everything from self-esteem to the art of thirst trapping.
Airin Yung (@airinyung)
Your favorite “Dapper Daddy,” Airin Yung is queer style blogger and model. They ambassador for some really cool queer/androgynous style brands like Kirrin Finch. Airin’s modelling actually introduced me to Kirrin Finch, a brand that is specifically tailored to androgynous style. With custom tailoring that takes into account a variety of body types, Kirrin Finch is one brand that uniqely caters to androgynous and genderqueer style sensibilities.
Knowing that you’re not alone is half the battle. In a world where gender roles are so strict, those of us who dare to blur those lines are so important. As we each come into our own personal styles, it’s important to find role models, especially when that sense of personal style is not the norm. These are just a few influencers that are normalizing and making androgynous and gender non conforming styling attainable and visible.