Here are some tips to help you look awesome, dressed-up, and season appropriate all at the same time. (I also put a bunch in the Butch Store).
Check out the Butch Store for a bunch more great ties. There's linen, cotton, orange madras, and plenty more. Have another summer fashion questions? Just drop me a line.
In the past 24 hours, I have received some emails, comments, and Facebook messages alerting me that my boots post didn't mention Dr. Martens. (There are, of course, Docs in the Butch Store, and I'll add more tonight.)
I've been less of a Docs fan since they moved production from the UK to China, but still, they are undeniably and iconically butch. So I thought I'd add a little follow-up list of my favorite Docs styles and colors. Enjoy!
...So what are your favorite Docs?
Everyone knows that butches love boots. It's one of those iconic accouterments that make us feel kickass. So today, I'm giving you a quick guide to casual boots (e.g., boots that can be worn with jeans, khakis, Kuhls... basically anything besides dress pants).
There are several types of casual boots. I'll list some, and then you should check out my favorite picks from my new casual boots section in the Butch Store. My choices were mostly about style, but in part about size, since I know that many butches have trouble finding men's styles in small sizes. (If that's a problem for you, you might also check out this site.)
Frye Dakota Boot
It's been a long time since work boots were just used for work. Work boots look great with jeans, and can even be worn to most non-physical-labor workplaces on casual days. Many come with steel toes, which are super cool, but not really necessary (and actually pretty heavy) unless you work in construction or in a machine shop or something. I especially like Frye Dakotas (pictured), but there are tons of great work boot options from many other brands, including Caterpillar, Thorogood (often made in the USA), and Wolverine.
I'm going to lump Australian work boots in with Chelseas, since they look so similar. The basic point is that they fit like a glove and are easy to pull on and off because of the elastic sides. For the quality, it's hard to beat these Blundstones (pictured)--but if you want something dressier, get a pair that looks more like these (the big differences are the polish/shininess and what the sole looks like viewed from the side). Fun fact: according to Wikipedia (which is never wrong), the Stormtroopers' boots in Star Wars were plain ol' black Chelsea boots, painted white.
To Boot New York Crosby
I used to hate chukkas, but I have to admit that they've grown on me. They're stylish, come in great colors, and work in all seasons. Chukkas are ankle-height (the equivalent of mid-tops in tennis shoe terms) and usually have just 2-3 eyelets. I like this To Boot New York pair (pictured, also comes in a dark chocolate brown), and Timberland and Johnston & Murphy make nice ones, too, including these and these.
I don't usually think of engineers and motorcyclists as heavily overlapping categories, but boot names are the exception. Made of heavy leather, these are usually taller than average boots and have a strap at the ankle and/or the calf for adjusting the fit. Unsurprisingly, Harley-Davidson has some cool styles.
BED: STU Culture Boots
This is a catch-all category that basically encompasses boots that look cool and don't serve a specific purpose or fall into a specific style (neither the ones I've listed here, nor hiking, Western, etc.). Many of them have features that emphasize form over function--for example, white soles instead of tan or
Wolverine 1883 Mayall DGs
brown or black rubber ones. There are bunches of great-looking ones to suit every butch's personality, including these "Culture Boots" (eh?) by BED:STU (the blue ones, pictured above), and these Wolverine 1883 Mayall DGs (pictured right).
It probably goes without saying that all of the boots I've written about here, as well as most of the ones in The Butch Store, are "men's," so it may be harder for you to find the right fit; if you're like most women, your feet are smaller and/or narrower than the average man's. But with patience, you'll find brands that work for you. (And here's a hint: using these insoles will increase your shoe size by a half to a full size!). Hope you enjoy the new Butch Store additions.
_Last week, I received an email that brings up some self-presentation issues many of you have asked about. This version of the email is slightly edited (for length, and--at her request--to protect this person's anonymity). Androgynous Advocate writes:
A few times per week, I'm mistaken for a child. Since becoming a lawyer, the situation has gotten worse, especially in court. Today, in preparation for my first upcoming trial, I decided to go to court to see what a trial is actually like. I asked the court officer (a fairly strapping butch) for permission to observe and she granted it. But I guess she never informed the judge, because the judge made attempts to figure out who I was, including: "I see we have a 'little person' over there waiting. Does HE belong to any of you?"
I pretended I didn't know she was talking about me. After all, I am not a small boy so why should I answer? But to add salt to the wound, the court officer got up and ambled across the courtroom to whisper to me: "Not only did the judge think you were a kid, but she called you a boy!" At this, I turned bright red and almost broke down into tears (but held it together).
Later, the judge inquired again and I told her I was an attorney observing (I was wearing a suit, pink button down, and even some makeup). She apologized for the mistake about my age but omitted the whole gender error. This leads me to my question: I recently got a pixie cut. I love my super short hair; it's easy to deal with and feels totally freeing. But I've had to take a bit of shit about it. My grandmother gave me a long talk about how long hair is more "becoming" and "feminine." An ex and I even had a huge fight over my short hair, in part, because she felt it was unfeminine (though she later clarified that the fight was about more than just the hair).
Even though I love short hair, it bothers me when people lament my not being feminine enough. It's not like I want to be perceived as super feminine (I feel very androgynous on a personality level) but I don't like when people see my lack of femininity as a liability. For whatever reason, being mistaken for a pre-adolescent male distresses me, and I wonder if it might be less likely to happen if i suck it up and grow my hair out a bit. Or should I embrace this characterization? If someone thought I was a man it might not be so bad but regressing to age 10-12 is tough when you're trying to prove yourself in court. Have you ever been tempted to change something about yourself so you fit more easily into "the institution" (for me, the courtroom)?
Dear Androgynous Advocate:
First of all, I feel your pain! Yes, I think most of us butchy/andro types have felt pressured to change something about ourselves to blend in with some kind of institution: school, work, family, etc. I've written about the wisdom of doing this at various times, and it's never an easy balance. As I see it, you've got multiple questions, so I'll try to break my answer into parts.
Professional life first. Re: the little person comment: OMG wow. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. If I was in your shoes, I'd have been just as flustered as you were! Good for you for keeping it together. The judge was probably mortified (I sure hope so), and I suspect that the butch court officer was trying to commiserate, not to make you feel bad, since she probably knows all too well how irritating those kinds of mistakes can be.
In your professional life, you need to be respected as a professional. Once you get established, people won't make these mistakes anymore (and they'll correct each other). But in the meantime, you need t to be taken seriously. So on first impression, it would be nice if they didn't think you were a boy-child. If I were you, I'd take measures to minimize this. You could always dye your hair grey and go to court as a little old woman--that would be kind of awesome. But here are some better ideas:
I hope one or two of these approaches won't be too odious for you. Yes, I've been tempted to change for an institution. I finally started wearing ties, but it took a long time before I felt like I wasn't being stared at. And just walking around my workplace, I still get stared at sometimes. At one of my old jobs, I wore a girl-suit and hated it. Basically I'm now convinced that as long as it doesn't compromise my reputation or clients or anything, the institution has to tolerate ME, not the other way around. But it's incredibly situation-dependent.
As for your more personal dilemma regarding short hair... so many butches deal with this at some point! Don't all our grandmothers think we look more feminine (and thus, better) with short hair? I think that most people are so steeped in gender norms that they don't know what they believe. They just think girls are supposed to have long hair. And you are a girl. And when you have long hair you more closely match their idea of what a girl is "supposed" to be. So they say things about how long hair "frames your face" or whatever. But you know what, Androgynous Advocate? Screw their opinions. It's your head, not theirs, and they don't get to choose. They'll get used to it and eventually stop bothering you (or you'll stop caring). But it's a big deal that you find short hair "freeing." Even if you decide to make some compromises about your professional appearance, in your personal life, you get to be you.
Satin-finished silver, $25
_I've heard some of you say that compared to our more traditionally feminine counterparts, there aren't many ways for butches to show off our style. That's why one of my many missions is to debunk this myth and show you how awesome butch fashion can be.
Cufflinks are a fun, underused part of men's "jewelry" that butches can totally rock. Like watches, they can add a bit of class, a splash of color, or a touch of whimsy to your outfit.
It helps, of course, to know what you're doing, which is where I come in. Follow a few easy guidelines and you'll be sporting cufflinks like a pro.
_First, only wear cufflinks with French cuff shirts--aka "double cuff" shirts. Instead of buttoning normally, they have cuffs that fold back and are secured by your cufflinks (as pictured, right).
Historically, French cuffs were only worn with suits. This rule is a relic, and no longer holds true. Sure, you can wear French cuffs and cufflinks with a suit. But you can also wear them with jeans and no jacket for a night of dancing. The key is to match the formality of the cufflinks to the rest of your outfit. Fuzzy dice cufflinks + a tuxedo is a no-no (unless it's Halloween and you're going as Irony).
Cufflinks are supposed to add a touch of style, not function like a neon sign. There's no need to be flashy or gimmicky. That said, have fun with them. Assuming that you are a non-male-presenting butch, it will take a truly huge fashion offense to make you look like an arrogant tool. Guys have less leeway. Unfair, maybe, but a fact nonetheless.
Finally, wear your cufflinks with confidence! Yeah, some people say that you shouldn't wear French cuffs if you're under the age of 40. But I say: critics be damned! And Frank Sinatra and the Sartorial Butch both agree with me.
Cherry wood 'links? Yes, please!
_Check out this excellent GQ video, in which the "Style Guy" shows off his cufflink collection and says a little more about how to wear them. Tomorrow I'll write Part 2, in which I'll tell you some great places to buy cufflinks. For a preview, check out my new Butch Store Cufflink page!)