My sophomore year of high school, I swore off pants. At the time, my approach to fashion was absurd by anyone’s standards. I plotted my outfits a month in advance, hell-bent against re-wearing any single item within two weeks of itself, and even ensuring that proximate months featured repeat outfits on different color-themed class days. I followed my schedule religiously—whim or weather be damned. Never mind that my vintage dresses and daytime sequins were largely lost on my Ugg-wearing peers. As a peacock-in-training, I had standards. Jeans were for…what? Pigeons.
The fact that I owned enough clothing to observe such a stringent code is somewhat mind-blowing to me now, as is the fact that said hijinks unfolded entirely without leg holes. A quick glance at my outfit archives (yes, I held onto that ill-conceived record) indicates that I wore pants six times in the year 2005. Sure. Casual. The opposite of casual, in fact. I eventually swore off swearing off pants, and somewhere down the line, my favored aesthetic dramatically reversed—so much so, in fact, that I became a card-carrying worshipper at the altar of tomboy style. So much so that one of my friends named me “Most Likely to Wear a Tuxedo to Her Wedding.”
Oh. Hello. This is me, this is my bathroom, this is my thumb-in-pocket pose, and this is what I wore today. Air-dried hair. Minimal makeup. Shirt unapologetically plucked from the men’s department. Literally the same watch as the hipster who tried to pick me up in the Trader Joe’s line. If you were to scroll down, you would see my skinny jeans cuffed over green suede desert boots. I call this look “urban lumberjack” (I typically rotate between “frat boy femme” and “slutty stockbroker,” so this is a step outside the box for me). I spent all of 45 seconds getting dressed.
At the risk of sounding excessively self-congratulatory (what else is new), I’d like to let you know that the gentlemen eat. This. Shit. Up. I’m not talking about construction workers and subway lurkers, either—the type of gentlemen I usually go for eat this shit up. I’m reasonably cute and all, and I’d love to take full credit for my animal magnetism, but I know for a fact that the clothes have something to do with it. I never feel more invisible than I do when I’m wearing a pretty, feminine, conventionally flattering A-line dress. In the age of #whatshouldwecallme, it seems only fitting to define the phenomenon—what should we call Dudes Who Are Into Girls Who Dress Like Dudes?
Having fallen for a number of Dudes Who Are Into Dudes in my day (an unfortunate byproduct of my years as a theatre major), I’m innately distrustful of any lad who ogles, hoots, or hollers when I’m pulling a Twelfth Night. Oh, you like me, huh? You like my curves under this big ol’ button-down? You like the dainty clomp of my loafers on the pavement? Do you also…like it from behind? No? Oops, my mistake. Hey, where are you going?
I kid. Confidence is certainly a factor here. I’m at ease in my tomboy incarnation, and I feel sexier in tailoring than I ever did in frills. Conventional wisdom would cite that in itself as the source of the allure. But after years of dressing to the nines, the idea that I possess a distinctly gamine appeal sets so many axes of my mind a-whirring, namely: What does the popular reception of this ragamuffin aesthetic mean for feminism? Does it represent a breaking of the shackles, or a whole new tyranny to which I now have to ascribe? What does it mean for my personal identity? My female identity? And yes—what does it mean for the dudes who are into girls who dress like dudes?
Male readers, I’m so curious: Do you prefer your ladies casual and unladylike? Is it purely a matter of aesthetic preference, or does it carry a deeper significance for you? Ladies: Do you, like me, feel like you get more attention dressed down than you do dressed up? I have so many questions I’m not even going to italicize. Let’s talk about girls and boys and girls who dress like boys and the boys who love them. Whew.