Last week, I returned to the age-old question of what butches should wear to interviews. In a short poll, I posed the following hypothetical:
Imagine helping a butch lesbian decide what to wear for an entry-level professional interview (e.g., lawyer, consultant, finance, manager, gov't, professor, etc.). She usually wears men's clothes, but identifies and presents as female, though people sometimes accidentally call her "sir." She tells you, "I know the employers are kind of conservative, though I also know things are slowly changing. I'm a solid candidate but not a shoe-in. What should I wear?
I gave six choices and asked how to advise our butch professional wannabe:
#1: Fit in first, THEN change the system. Wear what other women there wear: makeup, heels, whatever you have to.
#2: Be yourself, but show you're willing to play the game. Wear only the women's stuff you're most comfortable in--skip the makeup and heels!
#3: Wear a combo to help you fit in a little--e.g., a plain women's suit, collared shirt, men's shoes.
#4: You like men's clothes; wear a men's suit and shirt and shoes, but no tie or other uber-masculine gear that'd alienate you from your interviewers.
#5: Men's clothes, including a tie. If they don't want you, you don't want to work there. If you can't get a job in the industry, it's not for you!
#6: As long as you wear something nice, clean, etc., it doesn't matter. People judge you for who you are, not what you wear.
Here are the results:
As you can see, I also calculated the average age for each response. For a small survey, these age differences don't matter much, and goodness knows this isn't anything close to a representative sample (of the population overall, of butches, or even of BW readers), but it's interesting to think about.
A few numbers that caught my eye, and possible explanations:
And finally, here's a sampling of the write-in comments:
Thanks for these great thoughts. If you're trying to figure out how to break into the profession you want without compromising who you are, you are certainly not alone.
A few months ago, I put this question to readers: What is your butch "style?" How is it different (if it's different) from being a man?
One reader emailed me such a thorough answer that I've decided to feature it as its own post. If you have a take on butch style that you think is blog-worthy and you want to share with the world, email me and I just might feature it here!
This answer comes from BT:
I have been trying to define my butch style or what it means to be butch for me for awhile now. This is what I’ve come up with.
Once I came out and finally felt comfortable in my own skin I really started having this desire to be dapper. Which I guess I always had it because I realize now I projected it onto my ex-husband, dressing him how I really wanted to but didn’t feel like I could. I love ties. Regular ties, bow ties, ties with intricate knots. Vests, suspenders, wingtips, cufflinks, 40’s style hats and pinstripes…love them. Some day when I can afford it, I will have a suit made by Saint Harridan. To me, being dapper is butch.
2. Ruggedness (Country)
This could be seen as the opposite of dapper but it’s totally possible to be both. For me, ruggedness is butch.I am country at heart and to me these things are country and butch. 1) Working hard. I know you can work hard at a lot of things but I mean the being outside in 115 degree weather, digging irrigation trenches, putting up fences, plowing fields kind of working hard. 2) Trucks. That is, liking trucks, fixing trucks, and 4-wheeling in trucks. 3) Hunting, Fishing, Camping. There’s something about being out in the wilderness that really seems to bring out the butch. In addition, gutting and skinning animals, playing with fire and whittling. Along with those things… 4) Guns, knives, weapons of any sort. 5) Flannel, thermal, and big boots. Butch lumberjack without a beard. 6) Tools. Knowing what more than your basic tools are and how to use them. 7) Coors Light.
3. Other Stuff
Some other things that I feel are butch: 1) Smoking pipe tobacco and cigars. 2) Epic war movies. 3) Demonstrating gentlemanly behavior like opening doors and pulling out chairs. 4) Death metal. 5) Leather working. 6) Wood working. 7) My LazyBoy. 8) Being a romancer.
4. Butch Femininity
With all the masculine butch stuff aside, butch femininity. For me (and my lady) this is the most important ingredient. Without the butch femininity I’d just be a man. 1) Feminine intuition. Because of this I better know what’s going on with my lady. I see what she wants, know how to meet her needs, and can quickly tell when something is off or wrong. 2) My lady heart. All rough and tough on the outside but inside is a tender feminine heart with a great capacity to love in a way that only a woman can. 3) Sensitivity. 4) In a lot of ways I still think and feel like a woman so really being butch is the best of both worlds combined.
So there it is as best as I can describe at this juncture.
...Do you agree with all of this, dear readers?
What defines your butch style?
What's even hotter than a bunch of Butch Wonders readers? A bunch of Butch Wonders readers in ties! You can click on most of them for a larger pic. Oh--and when you're looking at these, don't forget to breathe.
Whew! Thanks for these wonderful photos, and keep rocking those ties, butches. You look terrific!
I thought I'd lay out some crucial, basic tie-wearing tips I've been asked about. Even if you know nothing else about ties, you need to know this stuff:
Q: Where should my tie end?
A: At the middle of your belt. Most people know not to let it land too far above the belt, but letting it land a couple inches below is just as bad.
Q: But then I have to re-tie my tie about 20 times to get it right.
A: Yeah, at first--eventually you'll get good at it, though. This is the price we pay for looking dapper. Just be glad no one's making you wear high heels.
Q: How wide should my tie be?
A: If the tie is between 2.5 inches and 3 inches at the widest point, you're good. This is a "narrow" tie. A skinny tie is about 2 inches wide at the widest point. I'm not against skinny ties per se, though I think some caution is prudent.
Q: What's the most common butch faux pas you see re: neckties?
A: Okay, admittedly no one actually asked me this, but I feel compelled to share. At fancy events, I often see butches in too-wide ties that land a couple inches below their belts. This makes a butch look like she's raided her father's closet. Please stop.
Q: I never know what knot to wear.
A: A four-in-hand is the easiest to learn, and safe for all except the most formal occasions. If you're going to learn only one knot, this is the one. Have a friend teach you, or watch this British guy, whom I find amusing. And: practice, practice, practice!
Q: What's the deal with the "dimple?" Do I need one?
A: Yup, you do. A "dimple" just means that if your knot doesn't do it naturally, you push in the fabric right below the knot. Here's a picture.
Q: Do I need fancy shoes?
A: Absolutely not. As long as your look is pulled together, there are all kinds of different ways to dress down a tie.
Q: You've suggested wearing a loosened tie. How loose is too loose?
A: I undo the top button of the shirt, then pull gently at either side of the collar. You're going for this or this, not for this.
Q: Is it okay to wear a tie bar? Where do I put it?
A: Sure. Just make sure it's not wider than your tie, and wear it between the third and fourth buttons of your shirt, clipping the whole tie to the shirt.
If you have any more questions about tie-wearing, just let me know. Meanwhile, I'd love it if you'd send me pictures of yourself in a tie. I'll post a bunch of my favorites as fashion examples for BW readers!
In response to my last post, a reader named Tessa asked:
[W]hat are good ways to dress down a tie? I really enjoy wearing ties, especially at gay bars, where a woman in a tie isn't necessarily out of place. But I don't want to look like I'm trying to be formal when I'm just out dancing with my friends.
Great question! I can certainly sympathize: I'm rarely in formal settings, yet leap at any semi-plausible opportunity to don neckwear. Two key things to remember: (1) inject some whimsy and/or color and/or self-awareness; (2) keep the pants casual. Let's check out a few approaches.
1. Throw on a colorful or super-casual jacket or sweater. Check out the picture at left. A white shirt and black tie alone would be way too formal. The sweater with a T-shirt, too casual. Combine 'em both, and the look is bold, fun, and colorful. The two looks below illustrate the same idea. A denim jacket (left), varsity-jacket (right; must be worn ironically), or even a black leather jacket are great ways to say, "Yeah, I'm wearing a tie. And I'm having a freakin' blast doing it."
2. Pull a hat trick. A casual hat, like the driver's cap this model is wearing (right), is dapper and does a nice job dressing down the tie. The pants aren't super casual, but see how they're dressed down with a pair of Vans and a casual watch? That ensures that you know she's going for a look, not just randomly throwing on the first hat she found in her closet. (That watch is good for dressing down. I got one on Amazon last year and it's held up great. A steal for $14.96. This calculator watch for $14.99 would do the trick, too.)
By the way, it helps to know thyself. Be aware of your own look. If you have a mohawk, or wear ear gauges/tunnels/plugs, or sport a bunch of visible tattoos, your look will likely be easier to dress down, since you already look less formal. On the other hand, if you're like me and have none of the above, you're going to have to add one or two additional accouterments to dress down a tie to the same degree.
6. Cultivate the "self-aware nerd" look. This is a close enough cousin of the un-self-aware nerd look that it can be a little risky, but it's definitely worth a shot. Note the throwback glasses and rolled up sleeves? The two butches below are totally stealing my fashion moves.
7. Mix prints. Click on the pic at right if you can't see it well on your screen. (This guy is apparently a famous actor, but I'm not always clued in on the culture loop--e.g., my recent introduction to the concept of "jeggings.") He has on a red gingham print under a vest with a much larger pattern in beiges and browns. His skin tone and musculature no doubt help, but the match works because he's mixed a small print with a large one (so the two don't compete), plus there's no color clash happening. He's mixed prints, but only one color is poised to "pop." If his vest was a green plaid, I'm not sure anyone could pull it off (well, except maybe Rachel Maddow).
Have a blast dressing down your ties, #teambutch! And send in your pics--I want to see you rocking these looks.