How the Evolution of Queer Style Suddenly Made Me Fashionable

Or at least somewhat trendy...


I never considered myself to be particularly fashionable. The clothes I wore as a teenager were loud and garish, and my androgynous style didn’t necessarily signal the fact that I was queer, just that I wasn’t like “other girls”. This never really bothered me; in fact, I used to pride myself in not caring about my appearance. If the clothes I wore made people uncomfortable or think I was weird, then good! Job done.


So you can imagine my surprise when one night I see one of the cool gay guys at my university wearing the exact same ugly patterned shirt I’d had in my wardrobe for years. Hideous Hawaiian shirts had been the foundation of my style since adolescence, and now they had been stolen by someone who I had considered to be particularly fashionable.


It happened again about a year later, I had just bought some beautiful dungarees — bright yellow with bumblebees all over it. Gaudy and gorgeous - I was in love. And yet, on my way home, I saw at least three people wearing the exact same brand. Was I - a frumpy little emo - suddenly fashionable? Well, no, not exactly. I could, however, be considered somewhat trendy, which was a brand new experience for me.


Following trends that follow Queer culture


It's no surprise that Queer culture and fashion have been intrinsically linked for years, owing in-part to many big-name designers (Versace, Yves Saint-Laurent, Gaultier, etc.) being gay, as well as the emergence of drag artists in the fashion world.


However, contemporary Queer fashion goes beyond designer labels and prominent names; it is a specific mode of dress-sense that you can adopt if you want to be read as queer when you leave the house. Cuffed jeans, mullet haircuts, bold prints, and tacky earrings all contribute to a Queer aesthetic - all of which I am wearing as I write this article (my earrings are little plastic toy dinosaurs, in case you’re wondering).


The importance of these signifiers can’t be understated. As a Queer, non-binary person, as soon as you walk into a new room, you're on the defensive - an unfortunate reality of being LGBTQ+ in our society right now - however seeing another person there with bold hair or earrings made out of something that’s not usually an earring, you can be fairly certain you're not alone, and that inevitably makes you feel ever-so-slightly safer.


There's a history


What's to love most is that there’s a precedent for this. Queer people have always had to find a secret way to express themselves and find their community, going back to when acknowledging that you were gay was a criminal offense. But they found a way.


Codes and language evolved in order to keep themselves safe, even down to the word “gay” itself, which had been opted by the Queer community from the slang of sex-workers in the early 20th century. As a community, we’ve always had a way of being able to covertly identify one-another.


Back in the '80s, gay men had the handkerchief code, where a man would wear a certain coloured handkerchief on either the left or right side of his shirt to indicate what kind of desires he had, which made meeting a prospective partner easier, while still being covert about it.


A visual cue for lesbians usually involves her wearing a carabiner of keys or big heavy boots. Of course, this isn’t to say that every single woman in work boots is Queer, but it’s a known cue. Breaking typical gender norms has always been a staple of Queer culture and there’s this mentality of “I’m already not conforming to what you want to consider normal, so how else can I rebel?”. For a lot of people, this rebellion comes from their clothes.


Lucky me


I love embracing my Queerness and sharing that with the world. I love that I have the opportunity and privilege to do so in a mostly safe environment. I want to wear outfits that empower closeted people and inspire the younger generation. Hairstyles that I would have obsessed over if I’d seen them as a kid.


Now that I’m older and more immersed in Queer culture, I find myself gravitating more towards the fashion trends that I know will validate my identity, and perhaps validate others as well. Lucky for me, this style was one I already had filling up my wardrobe.