Today's blog post is a guest post written by Kayla Layne Crawford a.k.a. The Pocket Tomboy, a blogger and fashion consultant who has earned a coveted spot on DapperQ’s 100 Most Stylish list for 2017. Their mission is to help folks feel good about themselves through fashion and have fun while doing it. You can follow them on Instagram @thepockettomboy or on Facebook.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that anyone can be stylish. Sure, some folks have an eye for fashion and have a natural ability to MacGyver a runway ready outfit with just an old t-shirt, a match, and a bunch of rubber bands, but the majority of people don’t have that gift; myself included. When I started to reclaim my style and embrace my masculinity that I kept buried inside since puberty, it was a time of rebirth and discovery.
Although I was starting to feel more confident and being true to my authentic self, looking back my fashion choices were cringeworthy. I thought I looked great then, but after I learned more about dressing for my body and details that can upgrade my outfits I realized that I was making some, if not all, of the fashion faux pas I’ve listed below.
#1: Wearing Clothes That Are Much Too Big For You
This is probably the number one mistake masculine of center folks make and we’ve all fallen victim of this one time or another. Despite a resurgence of ‘90s fashion, JNCO jeans and baggy clothes do not look good on anyone. Of course, I’m using JNCOs as an extreme example, but I frequently see butch and masculine identified individuals being lost in a sea of fabric. First of all, if you’re on the short or smaller side, wearing clothes that are much too big are going to make you appear even smaller. On the other side of that, if you’re using larger sized clothes to hide your body you’re just going to add more bulk to your frame.
When you try on a shirt or a blazer, do the cuffs go past your wrist? Does the same shirt or blazer have enough room in the shoulders that you could easily wear hockey or football pads in them? What about your pants? Are the hems sweeping up the floor? These are all indicators of wearing items that are much too large for you. Don’t get me wrong, “dad style” is in, but if you look in the mirror and what you see reminds you of how you used to wear your father’s suit jackets when you were a kid, you’re not wearing clothes that fit you properly.
In a previous blog post, I mentioned that a proper fit is the most important thing to learn when it comes to fashion. This is a universal rule that applies to everyone, regardless of gender identity or presentation. However, inexperienced masculine dressers tend to gravitate towards clothes that are bigger than what they should be wearing, because they hit the men’s department blindly and think that if something looks good on a mannequin that ultimately it would look good on them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. How many of us are built like mannequins? Exactly. I’m not telling you to give up your favorite baggy pair of cargo shorts that go past your kneecaps and have pockets so big that you can fit an entire week’s worth of groceries in them, but maybe wear them when you’re lounging around the house, not out for brunch.
#2: Over Accessorizing
You just splurged on a slew of accessories to bring some sophistication to your wardrobe. Ties, pocket squares, suspenders, tie bars, lapel pins, maybe even a handsome wide brim fedora or dashing driving cap. You’re ready to take on the world with your new found style so you wear every single accessory at once.
This is the telltale sign of a newbie dapper dresser. When you over accessorize, things get lost in the mix. Nobody is going to notice that spiffy shark-shaped tie bar when you also have a flower lapel pin, a houndstooth pocket square, a navy blue pork pie hat with a feather in it, and suspenders. When you over do it with dapper accessories, your outfit starts to look more like a costume which is something you certainly want to avoid.
Accessories are used to bring your look together: their job is to add a little je ne sais quoi to your outfit and to display a bit of your quirky side. So you want to show off that shark-shaped tie bar? Wear it with a solid tie, add a gingham pocket square in your blazer, and step away from your box of accessories. Ready to rock suspenders? Pair them with a dark chambray shirt, a pindot bow tie, and ditch the hat, or if your hair isn’t being cooperative that day, skip the tie and wear the hat. Trust me, there will be plenty of opportunities to display pieces from your collection of dapper accessories.
#3: Wearing Clothes That Are Wrinkled
You know how millennials are killing everything from chain restaurants to the auto industry? Apparently we’re bringing down the sale of irons and ironing boards as well. Most folks don’t iron their clothes anymore because they’re either too busy, too scared of burning their favorite shirts, or think that ironing is unnecessary.
I’m not telling you to iron your underwear or even your t-shirts, but a wrinkly oxford can make or break an otherwise stellar outfit. A simple way to combat this problem would be to buy dress shirts and oxfords that are “no-iron”. However, these easy care shirts are loaded with formaldehyde, they tend to wear out at a much faster rate than their 100% cotton siblings, and feel stiff and scratchy.
If you’re unsure about ironing, a great steamer can work wonders. I highly recommend the X-Cel by Rowenta, it's certainly worth the investment, but if you don’t have the cash to toss at a steamer, a good quick trick for getting wrinkles out of your clothes is to hang them up in your shower, put on the water (as hot as your shower can handle), and make sure the windows and doors are closed in your bathroom. You want your wrinkled items as close to the hot steam as possible without getting your clothing wet.
Wrinkle releaser sprays are also a great alternative. Just place the item on a flat surface, spray a bit of wrinkle releaser, and spread the fabric with your hands. Although most hotels will have a small ironing board and iron, I never go on a trip without a travel sized bottle of wrinkle releaser spray. While it won’t produce the crisp results that ironing does, wrinkle releaser works in a pinch, especially when it comes to removing lines from items that were folded in your suitcase.
#4: Relying On Graphic T-Shirts
If I had a quarter for every time an AFAB masculine person asked me the question, “How do I dress so people don’t think I’m younger than I am?” my student loan payment companies would be getting their money in change. This is a hangup that many masculine identified folks have (myself included).
When I started to dress for myself and not what society wanted me to be, I noticed that I was being asked for my ID 99.9 percent of the time when I would go to a bar or buy a six-pack at a liquor store. Hell, I was even asked if I wanted a children’s menu at a restaurant once when I was in graduate school. Granted, I’m short and youthful faces run in my family, but it got frustrating when the world thought I was 15 when I was a decade older than that. Although I haven’t ditched graphic t-shirts completely from my wardrobe, I figured out that when I wore them more, I was pegged for much younger than I am.
It’s hard to navigate a cis, heteronormative world as it is when you’re a butch woman, nonbinary person, or transman. At times, you want to be taken seriously and a wardrobe that relies heavily on graphic t-shirts will not convey that. I absolutely love graphic t-shirts, especially soft, broken-in, vintage finds, but they should not be the main focus in your closet. A great alternative to the graphic t-shirt is a microprint button up. These shirts are more casual than other patterns and they have the ability to display your personality like a graphic t-shirt would, but in a slightly more grown up package. There’s a time and a place for graphic tees. A band t-shirt under a black bomber or leather jacket worn with dark fitted denim and a pair of black brogues is an easy and edgy outfit to wear for a casual night out.
You don’t have to donate all of your graphic t-shirts, but don’t be surprised by people thinking that you’re a junior high school student if your go-to outfit is a pair of basketball shorts and a t-shirt with Pikachu on it.
#5: Buying Shirt and Tie Sets
You've probably seen these at your local department store. They’re usually in a package and include a bright colored or black shirt and a tie that corresponds with it.
An inexperienced masculine of center dresser might think, “Wow, this is great! Everything I need to look dressed up for an event is right here!” These sets are awful for many reasons. First of all, these sets scream laziness. Looking polished and dapper takes more time than grabbing a shirt and tie set and bringing it up to the checkout counter. Second, it doesn’t take a fashionista or lifetime subscriber to GQ to know that you’re wearing something that was a packaged deal. Lastly, the quality of the shirts and ties that are bundled together are horrible. The shirts are made of “frankenfibers” and the ties are usually a polyester blend of some sort. These sets look cheap, even if you spent a lot of money on them.
The same goes for tie and pocket square combo packs. Most of the time the tie’s pattern in these sets matches the pocket square exactly. I will admit that I have bought these sets in the past, and if I see one that I like I will pick it up now. However, don’t make the mistake that I used to do when I began to incorporate ties in my wardrobe which is wearing the set all at once. While a tie should compliment the colors in a pocket square, it should not match it exactly. It’s perfectly fine to buy these sets, but they’re meant to be broken up.
Remember, You're Always Evolving
Once you begin to feel comfortable with your presentation and you start to explore different ways to express yourself through fashion, you might realize that shopping for clothes isn’t a chore anymore and that it could be fun. Developing your own personal style and aesthetic is not an overnight process. There’s going to be a lot of trial and error and a lot of, “Why did I wear that!?”, but if you avoid some of these common mistakes you’ll be ahead of the game.