Shopping at thrift stores is an art, a science, and a great way to try out new styles without busting the bank. I shop at thrift stores regularly, and have found some awesome deals there (highlights include a brand-new Banana Republic jacket for $20 and some Docs for $5).The prospect, however, can be kind of daunting. The dressing rooms are often sketchy and dimly lit, the
clothes aren't hyper-organized like they are at Macy's, and the salespeople are there to ring stuff up, not to help you find a shirt with French cuffs and a 15.5 collar.Here are my top ten tips for making the most of your next thrift store visit:
There is zero shame in buying stuff secondhand. Whether you have to do it for financial reasons or not, stand proud in the line at Goodwill!. If anyone gives you a hard time about shopping at a thrift store, just be like: BAM!
- Shirts will usually be arranged in S, M, L, XL, XXL. Usually, S = 14-14.5, M = 15-15.5, L = 16-16.5, XL = 17-17.5, and XL = 18-18.5. (If you don't know what these numbers mean, read my guide to buying shirts.) Don't confine your search to one section--e.g., if you're usually a 17, look in L and XL.
- If you have time, look through all the sizes. Thrift stores often don't have enough staff to keep everything organized, so sizes and styles end up mixed together.
- Try everything on before you buy it. Sometimes a piece of clothing is at Goodwill because the sizing is slightly "off."
- Examine everything carefully for rips and stains. Many (in my experience, most) items there will be good as new... but not all of 'em.
- Don't buy anything with a frayed collar or frayed cuffs. Shopping at a thrift store doesn't mean you have to look sloppy. Similarly,
Don't compromise fit. You still want to look good.
- Wash everything before you wear it. 'Cause you just never know.
- Be mindful of prices. Yes, sometimes you'll get killer deals. But I've seen brand-name shirts for $30 at a Goodwill! Puh-lease! For that, I could just go to Ross or Marshall's or TJ Max and buy it brand new.
- Sometimes you can buy a quality piece for next to nothing and have it tailored. I once paid $12 for jeans that would have been $150 new. I had them hemmed, which cost $8, but for $20 total, it was still a bargain.
- Be patient! Some days you'll hit the thrift store jackpot; other days, you'll come home empty-handed. Thrift stores are not a great place to shop for something specific and urgent ("I need a blue long-sleeved shirt for a presentation I'm giving in two days.")
- Learn when the new stuff comes in. Sundays? Mondays? You want to dive in when the items are the least picked over. Off-season items tend not to be picked over, either. You can find some great sweaters in July when no one else is shopping for them.
So go forth and bargain-hunt! I'd love to hear your other tips in the comments, and would also love to hear stories about great stuff you've bought secondhand.
Recently I was talking to someone I respect a great deal, and she said something I've often thought as well: many people are more uncomfortable with gender nonconformity than with homosexuality. Of course, the two often go hand in hand. But let's assume, for a moment, that we can disaggregate them.
In my work circles, which mostly comprise upper-middle-class NPR listeners, few people care if your partner is male or female. Same-sex partnership is still noteworthy, interesting, and a titillating gossip source to some
people, but for the most part, it's not a big issue. Homos abound at high levels in my profession, and most are pretty open. But I have trouble coming up with examples of high-powered women in my profession who wear mostly men's clothing. If you're a woman giving a conference talk, it's not that big a deal to mention your same-sex partner. It is
a big deal to wear a necktie. No one else does it, and you're likely to be seen as "making a statement."For me, this begs two questions: (1) Why?; (2) What implications does this have for my own self-presentation? Today, I'll write about the former.Here's my guess: looking gender-conforming still adheres to people's ideas and assumptions about gender--the idea that men "are" and "look"
a certain way, and that women "are" and "look" a different way. If we define homosexuality narrowly (as I think most people do, particularly non-queers), it only challenges one aspect of gender typicality: whom you sleep with.
It's as if are only two kinds of ice cream, and ice cream always comes in double scoops: one vanilla, one chocolate. This is what most people always order, then later they learn that some
people order two scoops of vanilla or two scoops of chocolate. "Fine," they think. "Some people like two scoops of the same thing. But there are still just two kinds of ice cream."
In contrast, if someone orders vanilla with chocolate swirls and says, "It's still vanilla--it just has chocolate swirls in it," (or if, God forbid, they order strawberry) this challenges people's fundamental ideas about the kinds of ice cream that exist
. In this way, gender nonconformists
mess with people's categories. A woman in a tie, when only men are wearing ties,
is like chocolate chip ice cream. "What IS that?" people think. "No flavor I've
ever seen." This is probably why, as Kristen Schilt writes in One of the Guys, when people go from identifying as butch women to identifying as trans men, they become more accepted in the workplace. As butch women, people viewed them as gender atypical. When they become trans men, people can say, "Oh, I kind of understand--you were really chocolate all along!"
As more states adopt legal protections based on sexual orientation, I think gender conformity will be one of the next frontiers. This is closely tied--though not identical--to the fight for trans rights, providing another reason to help fight for the rights of all
other queers, not just your personal subset.
For now, I'll leave the conversation there. What do you think, dear readers? In your everyday work lives, what's people's reaction to sexual orientation versus gender nonconformity?
One of my favorite newish bloggers, A Lesbian in Pensacola, contacted me and said she'd like to post on BW about suitable butch beach gear. I agreed; it's hard to get more beach-experty than Pensacola, after all! Here she is:
Memorial Day Weekend is almost here, and tens of thousands of queers will head down to Pensacola Beach for a massive party. Whether Pensacola is your destination or you choose another beautiful beach this summer, a few essentials will keep you happy and healthy while enjoying your vacation.
[BW note: Pics like this make me rethink my resolution never to live in Florida...]
The first rule of beachy butchness: nobody likes the boiled lobster look. Wear sunscreen (regardless of your natural skin color)! The beach is a lot more fun if you can go back the next day instead of lying in bed with ice packs and Ibuprofen.
[BW note: Not all tankinis suck. See?]
If you're a softer butch, your style options have expanded in the past few years. Tankinis
that used to consist of generic-looking shorts and squared off tank tops now run the gamut of triathlon-ready to super femme. Athleta
offers tons of sizes, and while a lot of them might be too femme
for some, I love the running-ready variety
. The tops fit like sports bras, and solid colors abound. [BW note: what do you wear under that for a bra? 'Cuz my girls aren't gonna be tamed by that tankini alone.] What we call the "
classic Pensacola dyke" look is easily achieved with a women's bra-style top and men's boardshorts.
[BW note: I have this one.]
Rashguards will keep your skin burn-free and scrape-free. If you’ll be surfing, snorkeling, or on a boat, a good rashguard will be your friend. Rashguards are also a stylish way to cover your upper half, if you’re not excited about any of the bathing suit tops.
[BW note: Non-pastel colors!]
For butches who hate wearing women's swimsuit bottoms, the ever-present boardshorts are still ragingly popular. Women's boardshorts
are often short, fitted, and involve pink
. But there's been a lot of color and style progress recently, though most men's boardshorts
will do just fine, as long as they're not so
long as to inhibit your knees when you're playing in the water. It's maddening to try to stand on a surfboard and get stuck in a squat because your knees are locked in your shorts.
Other beach necessities include:
- Any of the Dykes to Watch Out For books make great beach reading. The comic compilation books are fairly small and easily tucked into a beach bag. Dykes to Watch Out For is like an illustrated soap opera, and strikes a good balance of humor and activism—just the right mix for a long day in the warm sand.
- Sunglasses are a must. Oakley Frogskins have made the rounds back to popularity, and there are myriad color combinations. I remember begging my parents for a pair in middle school, and now I can buy my own if I want to represent my 7th grade self (I'm tempted, minus the braces and long hair). These days, I prefer Oakley Bottle Rocket. They're lightweight and reasonably durable, plus, they wrap around the sides of the eyes, providing extra protection from glare off the sand.
- Flip-flops! Butch styles abound. I've had the best luck with Teva and Reef. Plain black flops complement every type of swimsuit, but plenty of cool designs are out there to give you a little extra color.
- A good beach towel goes a long way. Since your towel is likely what you’ll be intimately familiar with at the beach, don’t skimp. I have yet to find a rainbow towel of any decent quality, but I know they’re out there somewhere.
- Frisbees are perfect for the beach. They don't weigh much or take up a lot of room in a bag, and water and sand won’t ruin them. There’s not much hotter than a beach butch doing something sporty.
- A waterproof case for your phone is a great asset. As long as your phone has a decent camera, you'll probably want to leave your heavy photographic equipment at home. I'm too nervous to dunk my phone regardless of the case, but waterproof protection will definitely come in handy if you get splashed while documenting favorite beach memories.
- Most beach towns don't allow glass near the sand. But one bonus of a developed beachfront is bars. A local drink in a to-go cup—in Pensacola, we chug Bushwhackers—will be fresh, cold, and readily available. For the sober butch, coconut water makes a nice alternative to plain water, and it's available in plastic, cardboard, or aluminum containers.
- If you'll be hitting the sand for more than a couple of hours, you'll want a cooler. All are bulky, so a small, manageable one is your best bet. In addition to drinks, snacks will help you play longer. Even though everything will be on ice, pick something that has a low likelihood of spoiling or melting. Mixed nuts, oranges, and granola bars should hold you until it's time to explore the local restaurants.
Safe travels, and see you on the beach!
[BW note: Thanks for those awesome recs, Pensacola Lesbian! You've not only inspired me to consider putting a "beach" section in the Butch Store, but you've made me want to visit Pensacola!]
Too many queer women steer clear of wrist adornments because they think bracelets are inconsistent with a masculine fashion aesthetic. I say: no way. It's totally butch to add pops of color and glitz to your outfit (see some basic guidelines
). If you're rocking a fauxhawk, guys' shoes and jeans, and a plaid shirt with a white undershirt (I know I just described at least one in three readers), no one will take you for femme just because there's a string of beads around your wrist.
In fact, your willingness to embrace a little flare can actually underscore
your butchness (note to my buddy C: I dare ya). Ah, but where to start? Well, I've put a bunch of bracelets in the Butch Store, so check those out (I just added a bunch of new ones yesterday). But even better, I wanted to share some of my favorite Etsy sellers. I love all of the bracelets I'm describing here and I wear them all myself (yeah, that's my albino wrist in most of the pics). [Disclaimer: these sellers gifted me a bracelet to review. But per usual, I've refused to review anything I don't like, and none of these are paid endorsements.]
| |Existential Ella
Not only is Ella one of the very sweetest, kindest sellers I've ever met online, but she's also a big supporter of the gay community. Her quality, color combos, and variety of styles are way fun, and I wear the bracelet pictured here a lot (and it hasn't started to fray even a little). Great for layering with other bracelets, too! Prices vary depending on number of colors, design, etc. Totally customizable!
| |Beaded Graffiti
When I got this in the mail, I may have stopped breathing for a second. Seriously, this thing is gorgeous. It's also my DGF's favorite of all of these. The individual beads are delicate, but in a thick row like this, it's definitely butch. The craftsmanship is stellar. While this exact one isn't currently being sold, this one
and this one
are just as awesome. They run in the $40 neighborhood for single-wrap.
| || |GS Jewelry
If you want to spoil yourself or a butch loved one with a high-quality wraparound, GS Jewelry is a fabulous place to look. I've included a pic of my personal favorite
, which I love wearing with anything brown or (admittedly rarely) pink. $30. I want this one
| |Fauve Bleu HazelwoodSupposedly, hazelwood is good for a large number of maladies: arthritis, osteoporosis, migranes, and more. Though I can't attest to this, I can attest to the
excellent versatility of the bracelets made by Fauve Bleu Hazelwood. The wood's hue will lighten over time, but it still looks good. The one pictured here
is $12.95, and there are scores of colors available, too--plus anklets and bracelet/anklet sets.
| || |Ida EstelleAt first glance, the stop might look a little glitzy for butches, but it's worth looking closer. Ida Estelle has some real gems, including this number (pictured left
), which has just the right amount of bling. $36.
| |Wink & BaubleI've misplaced my Wink & Bauble bracelet (gr!), so you don't get the joy of seeing my pasty white wrist in this photo. Their shop is chock full of any bright color you want
--orange, bright blue, etc. Single, double, and triple wraps are available. The nifty one I've pictured
will set you back $42.50, but it'll certainly last.
| || |Son of a Sailor
Though their stuff doesn't really fit my style, I wanted to include these guys in my review because their bracelets are cool, well-made, and I can think of lots of people on whom they'd look rockin'. Don't you love the androgynous pink + blue
? I want to gift mine to one of my favorite trans* bloggers. $28. Keep yours from getting wet (it'll stain).
BTW, if you're not sure how to layer your scores of excellent bracelets, here's an example of how to rock the layered look. Basically, everything goes with everything as long as there's no egregious clashing happening. (If you can't decide whether it's okay, you should probably assume it's fine. The standard rules of matching don't apply to casual jewelry.) You should probably skip loading up on bracelets for a job interview, but pretty much everywhere else, you're set. Especially great for the summer, if you're like me and tend to rock plain T-shirts and shorts whenever possible. A pop o' color is totally--even hella--butch.
As you know, I enjoy wearing queer themed t-shirts
. And I'm not the only one! Two awesome BW fans in SF (who contributed to this entry, btw) have created this "JUDGE ME" T-shirt
to help keep the DOMA and Prop 8 Marriage Equality debates centered on the LGBTQ community and our allies. They're donating all proceeds to
a combo of important charities: the Human Rights Campaign, SF's LGBTQ Community Center, and Lyric
, a Queer youth empowerment program. (Check out the video
.) There are only TWO DAYS left in their campaign
and, with your help, I think we can push them over their goal. Whaddaya say?
Several weeks ago, I featured three new butch-centered clothing companies
, Saint Harridan
, and Tomboy Tailors
. Since then, I've heard about many related companies--some focused on masculine women, some not--but all
geared toward queer women, and all worth knowing about.
- Androgynous: Their lookbook boasts cool, modern styles. Not totally masculine... but not that girly, either. Keep an eye on these guys.
- Focx: A super cool butch/boi underwear company I've seen. I have a few boxcers from them and love 'em.
- Marimacho: Based in Brooklyn, it offers "classic clothing for the unconventionally masculine," including swimwear and steampunk gear.
- Original Tomboy: A rare lesbian from the world of (Project) runway fashion, Alicia Hardesty wants to redefine the phrase "dress like a girl."
- The Butch Clothing Company: This British company offers lots of different suit styles, all for fairly formal occasions.
- Studville: A source for casual lesbian-themed clothing, particularly hats, tees, and accessories.
- Kreuzbach10: This newly-funded Australian company will make men's shirts to fit women's bodies. I look forward to seeing more from them.
- Let's Be Brief: Ah, but what do you wear under your vests and bow ties? LBB has you covered: underwear designed for LGBTQ folks.
- Seven Even Clothing: Currently limited to tees, hats, sweatpants, and hoodies, but definitely some cool designs for casual wear.
And of course, there's my own pet project, the Butch Store
, which isn't my own line of stuff, just a bunch of links to things I think butches will love.
(At left is a sample of the Marimacho look from their website. Cool, no?)
Do you know of any other companies I should add to this list? What do you think of these guys? Are there any big gaps you'd still like to see filled?
Happy Valentine's Day, dear readers! As promised, here's a wee gallery of butches in their boxers (and boxer briefs), modeling some great butch underthings
(some of which are men's, some of which are women's). For some of you, I'm sure this will be eye candy--for others, fashion inspiration. Many thanks to the brave readers who bared themselves for the glory of the Internet, butch-style.
Whether you're single, coupled, tripled, looking for love, or loving the bachelor life, I hope you have a terrific V-day!
With Valentine's Day around the corner, it's a good time to think about your intimate apparel. If my Facebook fans are an indication, most butches wear boxer briefs or regular briefs (men's or women's) during the day and regular boxers to sleep in at night. Some favorite brands: Fruit of the Loom
, and Champion
These are fine go-tos, but I wondered what interesting options were out there, so I did some research, contacted companies and Etsy shops, and got some wares to inspect. Here--in no particular order--are some awesome choices that will let you look great, have some cool style options, and support small businesses. (These make wonderful gifts, too.)
Bonus Pants is a little company out of Portland
that offers a ton of fun, loud choices for cotton boxers (including mustaches, donuts, bananas, potatoes, skulls, bacon strips, motorcycles, and more. The owner, Dagny, will make any style with or without an open fly (I tried both and prefer without). They're baggy, plenty long, and don't ride up. Around $18.
is a relatively new company, queer-owned and made in Canada! Their boxer briefs are a little short for my taste and have a bit of a pouch in the front, but they come in a range of terrific colors, their customer service is awesome, and their undies are super soft. If you're pale, unskinny, or don't have much of a butt, these aren't likely to be as attractive on you as they are on Gripped's hot male models. But if you want to show off your stuff and support a queer business, this is an awesome choice. $30.
Though they only have one style to choose from, Ohganix
boxer briefs are also worth a look. They're expensive as heck ($60), but the softest boxer briefs I've ever tried on. Made in California, organic, and probably macrobiotic and gluten-free as well. Mine are 96% hemp and 4% spandex, and have the perfect amount of stretch. (They make "ladies'" stuff, too.)
is an incredibly hot British brand, and if you've never checked them out, now's the time (even if it's just for the hot pics on their website... yowza!). It's made for women, by women, and has tons of fabrics and two styles: boi shorts (left), and bocxers, which are a little longer. I've tried both. Although I wanted to like the boi shorts best, my torso bears an insufficient resemblance to the models' for it to look great on me. Still, awesome quality at a decent price (£16.99, or about $26). The bocxers, on the other hand, are totally comfy and hot. Try both!
Oh, and did I mention that the Focx models are ridiculously hot?
I thought these were a little cheesy at first, but I admit that I totally love my tie-dyed boxer briefs from 2 Tie Dye 4
. They're a steal at $16, come in boxer briefs (Champion) or boxers (Merona), and add some really fun color to your boring ol' underwear drawer. They're also pre-washed, so despite my worries, they didn't dye my other clothing. Maybe best of all, they come from Hawaii's Big Island. Aloha, butches!
makes boxers in fabrics that include football logos, seasonal prints, and two John Deere tractor prints (yes, really). They're made for men, so there's extra material up front, but they're a deal at $16 for such cool fabrics (and if they don't have a fabric you want, be sure to ask!).
offers a similar style to EX Designs and Bonus Pants, also with a broad range of fabrics (check out these paw prints), not all of which are pictured in the store. The fit is wider and shorter than others I've tried. Since I like my boxers on the long side, I didn't love the fit, but plenty of butches complain about too-long boxers, and would find these perfect. Good quality, steep price. $72.
If Fruit of the Looms fit you well but you're interested in something with a little more spice, check out Sexy Delights
. Being a fan of the bookish ladies, I chose their reading mudflap girl (left), but in lime green. I think they're super fun, but my DGF maintains that they're tacky. We're probably both right. Tons
of print options. $20.
Last, but decidedly not least, are these great boxers from AmiElisah
. They're especially
well made (even my hard-to-impress DGF was impressed!), come from Britain, and have little tiny elephants printed all over them. Very cute and wearable both under pants and
to bed. £15.00 = $24.
I hope these great boxers and boxer briefs inspire you to spice up your underthings. When I told them about Butch Wonders, the owners of all of these businesses were super enthusiastic about having butch customers. Yay for queer-friendly small businesses!
In addition to the boxers I descibed here, I've also got some awesome, never-worn pairs of boxers and boxer-briefs to give away (including ones from Focx and LKeonardDesigns), as well as some hot greeting cards and a pair of cufflinks from Focx! Send me
a picture of yourself in boxers or boxer briefs and a tank or T-shirt and I'll enter you to win schwag! Pics may be posted on butchwonders.com, so keep it PG-13 and SFW. ;)
Bracelets have been trendy on men for a couple of years now. But many butches have been slow to embrace the trend--partly because it's not always obvious how to do it right without looking like: (1) you plucked something at random from your little sister's jewelry box, or (2) you are under the mistaken impression that you're a famous rock star.
Plus, for a long time, go-to butch wristwear has been limited to huge leather cuffs. Sure, these can be cool, but the look has kinda been done to death--at this point it doesn't add a lot of spice to your outfit. So how do you rock a bracelet? Here are three simple tips to get you started.
1. Don't be afraid of color. There was a time when only girly-girls wore bracelets that weren't brown or black. Thankfully, that time has passed. Mosaic, multi-colored creations are not only acceptable--they're hot.
2. You'll have to spend more than $3. Bracelets are no longer accessories that you buy from a basket near the cash register. They're more like watches or rings. A light, durable metal (like titanium) can set you back $50 or more--but the quality will be solid.
3. Bracelets aren't just for casual wear. After years of association with surfers and hippies, you might still think bracelets can only be worn with tees and jeans. Nope! A high-quality versatile bracelet like the one pictured, left, can be worn just about anywhere.
Bracelets can be every bit as much of a fashion statement as a watch or a necktie. It might take a bit of looking to settle on some that fit with your personal style. I've put 12 great, butch-worthy bracelet selections
in the Butch Store to get you started.
I am sooo stoked! The "Pets & Their Butches" calendar--inspired by YOU all, is finally here. It took, oh, 20 times longer than I expected to make it, but I think it was worth it, and I hope you do, too.
I received hundreds of submissions for the calendar--far more than I expected! I couldn't use them all, but congrats to the butches whose photos were chosen (as a monthly photo, or for the front/back cover, or for May or December, which are photo collages)! Special thanks goes to my awesome DGF for making some of these photos much better and higher-res with her amazing Photoshop skills.
This is such a cool example of butches coming together to create something awesome. I hope you'll consider getting one
. They come in three different sizes. Order two or more and get 50% off with the code 2CALDEALFREE
.Alas, Zazzle makes 75% of the profit (if I do this again, I'll look into better options!). But 25% goes to support Butch Wonders
--yay!--and after I cover my own costs, I'll be donating 100% of the profits
to a local animal shelter.So, what are you waiting for? Go check out the calendar(!), and while you're at it, see if you like any of the other goodies I've created.