The Gay Dress Code wasn’t working as obviously as I’d wanted at the time, so I resorted to some obvious, but still lowkey additions to my wardrobe. (Part 5/6. Start from the beginning here.)
Into my two final years of college, I’d been really fond of freckling my backpack with a few buttons. One of which included iconic colored buildings that stated, “London Pride.” And—at the time—the backpack also fashioned a bow of ribbons in bisexual pride colors. A lot of the gay hints I incorporated into a staple look followed this theme: small, yet unmistakable for other gays. I really wanted them to find me. At this point, I had one bi friend in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend. And while she and the online queer community helped me find more of a home, I really just wanted more queer friends.
Anytime I saw graphic t-shirts that had anything to do with girls or women, I bought it. I’ve always been one of those kids growing up with pop culture t-shirts, letting everyone else know what I loved with print on my chest. So, why stop with Harry Potter? Soon my dresser lined with slightly oversized tees that capitalized on third-wave feminism. And they were perfect. Subtle enough for homophobes to eyeroll at my love for women in a girl-power feminist way, but loud enough for gays to see the cuffed sleeves and some version of “women” across my tits and know I loved them in a gay way too.
Enter my very last semester of college where I just became good friends with my film partner. We spent hours locked away in editing suits until the wee morning hours working together, laughing together, crying together, etc. We bonded quickly over The Gay Experience because I had slipped in a story about “my girlfriend” and noticed one of the buttons on her bag was a pink triangle. Not long into the semester, she gave me a shirt that didn’t fit her, also known as the gayest shirt I now owned: a tortilla chip mid-submerged into a rainbow-colored dip bowl with the caption “Pico De Gayo.”
I wore this shirt to my classes often without any sense of fear. In fact, I think I possibly wore it a little too much around campus. As it became more of a regular cast member, boys didn’t approach me anymore. A win-win.
The shirt draped pride over my skin, and I wore it while eating lunch at the buffet hall between classes, where I chatted with a work friend as I took a plate. She glanced at the shirt and read it aloud back to me, clearly before first reading it in her head. “Pico de G…ay—oh.” I laughed and nodded. She blushed and smiled. I prided myself on not being embarrassed and ate my lunch beaming.
I bought my first blazer this year for a panel presentation on LGBTQ representation in TV and film. I felt power for the first time. A good look exudes and brings confidence! I’ve been a shy kid all my life, especially in school, and especially, especially during presentations. But let me tell you kids, being exceptionally knowledgeable in my topic area and finding A Look that felt that right made the nerves dissolve once I started talking. It was like my own personal CBD remedy.
During this period, I received my first baseball cap. My dad (naturally) owns a million, and he gave me one of his. I started wearing it to keep the sun off my face while being outside (sunburn-prone ginger here) and grew into just liking the laidback, tomboyish look it gave me. I also veered away from skinny jeans for the first time since high school, purchasing a couple pairs of lighter-colored denim pants with more of a bootcut end and leg room. When I put on one pair of these (that I still own, please God let them keep lasting), I felt like me. I cuffed the ankles and I felt like me. I tucked in the front of my t-shirt and I felt like me. These jeans said: you’re visible and invisible. You’re comfortable because you’re confident. They say: you’re a lesbian and you’re happy being one.
I got a haircut the first winter after graduation and the haircut said the same thing the jeans did. After months of contemplation (and somewhat negative feedback from my girlfriend during this period of consideration), I told my mom to give me an undercut. I’ve never felt more myself in my life! (And thankfully, my girlfriend loved it too.) All through my teen years and young adult life, I’ve never had the right haircut. My hair is very, very thick. It’s wavy some days, curly some days, straight some days. Frizzy every day. The thickness of it made every hairdresser I’ve ever seen not know how to cut it in a way that lets me feel confident and lazy on the same day. And wow was I lazy with my hair. But never lazy enough to want a full lesbian haircut. The undercut found my perfect medium and I never look back to those pre-2017 days.
And while I embraced more “butch” looks during this phase, I also got very into makeup. And for the first time in my life, I loved that too. My girlfriend is very femme, very into makeup, and very good at it. I like a good competition (but I will have to admit, she still wins this one). For a long time, I’d been pretty hooked on doing full-face makeup, complete with rainbow highlighter and all. I did it more so when my girlfriend and I were together, mostly just because I saw how much more confidence she had because of it, and it I wanted some more of that.
During this period, I bought more button-up shirts but became more selective about my purchases. I fell in love with a pair of high-top Nikes and stopped wearing earrings. My single baseball cap became my summer staple until I bought more at some souvenir shops in 2017, marking the start of my collection. I bought a pair of Adidas joggers and swapped contacts for glasses exclusively. A pair of knock-off timberlands made my Favorite Jeans give the energy I wanted to give. I pulled off muscle shirts in the summertime as quickly as I could wash them, despite not having any muscles to show off.
I found so much more of myself in the clothing I surrounded myself with. During this phase, I found a confidence that I’d finally begun honing in. And soon, I’d find an even truer version.
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