This post is going to be tragic and I apologize. Yes, there are pictures. (Part 2/6. Read part 1 here.)
I stayed in the dark about my own identity until moving away for college, so that means I remained straight and stupid all through middle and high school. Tragically, my style suffered just as much as I did. Funny how “in the closet” is the saying, right? When you’re spending so much time there, you’d think it’d give you some styling pointers. I have yet to meet a gay who learned a thing about style from their closeted period. Without further ado, my closet years included fedoras.
As I grew into my preteen and teen years, my favorite color stayed pink, which reflected in a lot of my clothes, and automatically colored most of my choices as feminine. Most of the time though, this style staple of my past concluded the extent of the “girly” recurring cast from my closet.
When my peers hit puberty, the girls got very into makeup, something I avoided until the last year or two of high school, and even then, only venturing into mascara. Something about makeup was nerve-inducing for me. Other girls knew how to use it, all powdered cheeks and glossy lips. Lots of liner and color if you were edgy enough. None of it felt like me back then. I liked playing with it, and did sometimes at home with my sister, where I could play the role of a girl four years younger instead of the age of someone who’s likely already gone through phases of style experimentation, when, really, I hadn’t cared enough to experiment much at all.
Puberty-wise, I fell way behind my peers. I’d been completely flat-chested up until around sophomore year. All through high school I could only get bras in the children’s section—nothing else ever fit me; I really only needed one to keep my nipples from popping through my shirt on cold winter days when the school’s heating wasn’t up high enough. Still, only being able to buy bras with stars and hearts on them had been pretty belittling.
My body failed to reach a bar that suddenly existed by the time we all turned 16. I wasn’t really “girly” when I compared myself to other girls; I hadn’t really felt like a tomboy either. I’d been years delayed when it came to wanting to try makeup and managing my hair more so than brushing it every morning. Part of the reason might’ve been down to just being physically behind. If I wasn’t going to “look” girly anyway, why bother being interested in girly things?
The other reason wasn’t so obvious at the time. When my friends starting using makeup and doing their hair, it partly resulted from their desire to get boys’ attention—something I never found particularly desirable. By the time high school hit, my lack of interest in style at all likely stemmed from a lack of interest in boys, not realizing my interest strayed somewhere else entirely.
During my first year of high school, we had a “block schedule,” meaning that we had two class schedules, A days and B days. The schedules alternated every other day, to where I only had certain classes every other day. Or in other words, I only saw certain people (girls) (a specific girl) every other day. Suddenly, B day schedules became much more important than A day schedules when it came to my personal dress code.
On B days, I started wearing skinny jeans and branded shoes. I thought high tops brought out one of the coolest shoe statements one could make. (I still do.) I wore hats on every hat day, and it took me years to get the hat game right. My hair left me clueless. People always prided me on the color, so I usually shrugged at the management of it. Desperate to tame it on B days, I often opted for braids when hats weren’t permitted. (Or even worse: braided it and wore a hat.) I swapped out noiseless half-rim frames for glasses with striking, black borders. I decorated plain shirts with patterned scarves. I still never dived into makeup, but I wanted her to notice me.
I loved patterns and wore a lot of bright colors. The girl from B days left my school by the second year, but the style shift stuck, and I used it to speak for myself when I remained silent. I owned a lot of patterned pants. Bright, floral designs. Galaxy blooms, freckled with stars. Bleach tie-dye striking against dark denim. Some of the patterns bled into new style phases, some I left in high school. As a shy kid, I let the patterns say more than I did. Bright colors, I found, tended to be more fem-coded. And with the swap for baggy pants to skinny jeans, scarves, and hats, the wardrobe fell back to the feminine side.
As a bonus to all the bright colors, I had some unnecessary urge to present myself as someone very artistic and creative back then. I strained myself to be “””kewl”””” and unique, and apparently doing so meant that I would make my own necklace beads out of tiny rolled and glued magazine strips and transform soda can tabs into bracelets. I suppose it made me feel like Luna Lovegood, and three of the final Harry Potter films came out when I was in high school. I also drew on my clothes a lot, colored on them, used fabric paints, and never had enough tie-dye. I’m not too sure why I felt the need to turn my clothes into personal art projects, but I did, often, and literally brought clothes into art class so I could color on them using sharpies.
My adolescence combined many tragic phases, seemingly more tragic than those around me, but I assume we all might cringe at that past. I’m glad to report I stopped wearing trash-made jewelry before I shipped off to uni, where the real identity crisis finally hit. Thankfully, it marked the start of an upward style journey. Just a few more years of awkwardness first.