Welcome to ¡Hola Papi!, the advice column where John Paul Brammer helps people work through their anxieties, fears, and life's queerest questions. If you need advice, send him a question at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I came out five and a half years ago. I’m in my mid-20s and I’ve come a long way, but I still struggle with feeling comfortable in my own skin. Part of this is my style. I’ve stopped wearing graphic tees all the time, thank goodness, but I’m still far from the stylish gay stereotype. I want to change this, but all the references I find are the traditional “straight guy” image.
I want to stand out without being flashy. I’m fortunate to live in a city where it’s safe to be out and proud. On a practical note, I don’t want to lose out on a date or sex because other gay guys don’t notice me. I spent too much time in the closet to spend even more time blending in.
Feeling “gay enough” is certainly a topic for my therapist, but I think my desire to play with style comes from a healthy place, too. Where can I find references and advice on “gay” style so that I can feel like my wardrobe isn’t keeping me in the closet with it?
Hi there, SL!
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this isn’t Queer Eye. If it will get you in the mood, I guess I could whip up some guacamole and say something regretful about politics. We could cry at the end. I just don’t have the budget to fly out to your home and berate your wardrobe in person.
Still, I’m going to do my best. I love online shopping for clothes, and luckily for me your letter is chock full of baggage to unpack. You can’t just come to me and say you wish you could be more of a stereotype and then tell me it’s all coming from a “healthy place.” I’ve never been to a “healthy place,” but I’m pretty confident in saying we’re not in one right now.
In short, I think the “I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin” thing is the real problem, not the clothes. Don’t get me wrong! Clothes can help us tell a story. That story could be “I’m very rich and tacky” or “my parents hate my dangly earring” or, of course, “I am gay.” Those last two might be redundant, but I digress.
Just like “I’m gay” can be scary to say out loud, it can be scary to say it with your clothes. So before we start putting together outfits for you, we should focus on the more pressing issue: It sounds like you’re either not sure what you want to say, or you don’t want to say it because you’re too nervous about what people think.
You say you don’t want to “lose out on a date or sex” because of your wardrobe, but you also don’t want to be “flashy,” but you also don’t want to be “straight.” Maybe you didn’t mean it this way, but I interpreted all that as saying “not too fem, please,” which I assure you is a common guiding principle for many, many gay men.
You should have no problem finding a tight Zara shirt with a “fun” print on it that won’t scare off Brian McMuscles at the bar but will still tell your heterosexual coworker in the office “I am a homosexual.” It’s entirely doable.
But what I’d like you to do is to think less about what straight people want you to do and what other gays want you to do and to think more about what you want to do. In your letter, I see a lot of concern over archetypes and where you fit in relation to them.
That’s not necessarily bad. You can import things you look from mood boards on Pinterest. We don’t have to allocate all our mental resources into building a completely original wardrobe. There are other, probably better ways to signal queerness. Rob a bank. Make inscrutable tweets. Embrace ennui.
It sounds like you want to play with how you present, though. You want to explore. Girl, go do that! Take a risk! Try something new. Push your own boundaries a little. I don’t think what you’re asking for is a list of websites here. It feels more like you’re asking for permission. Well, here it is.
Life can be a dull affair, SL. Wear a statement sleeve.
Con mucho amor,