I’ve been busting out some of my oldest t-shirts this summer; some of them I haven’t even looked at in years – I have them stored in a box. Others I see, but don’t touch, every day – they are on a hanger, on the wall, like fine art. After having top surgery earlier this summer, I have been getting to know my collection again. And, it includes some really old gems, including band t-shirts from the 1980s.
Like this one:
This was taken 10 years ago, as part of a drag photo shoot. It was most likely the last time I wore the shirt. I can wear it again, now, if I want! Although, maybe I better keep it in nice condition – I found the same shirt, in a muscle-t style, selling online for $71.82. And my other The Police t-shirt (not pictured) is selling for $134.23.
I got this shirt for $5. There is this amazing local record store that has tons of gems, but it’s really hard to locate anything. The store is a mess, but in the 1990s, it was even worse. There was literally a mountain of t-shirts, starting from on the floor in a space that may have been about 8ft by 8ft – it was sectioned off by railings, like a bull pen. You would walk onto shirts and just start digging. I found this, plus these shirts, and more (another The Police, Echo and the Bunnymen, David Bowie…):
They were all $5. In the early 2000s, I went back to uncover more treasures, and I was horrified to find that they were all organized neatly on racks and hangers, alphabetically. And none were under $20. Suddenly. And I would have probably bought more at that price, but it looked like it had been picked through extensively. I couldn’t find any I’d actually want to wear or display. Bummer. I guess the influence of online selling had swept in, and cleaned up this mess. For the worse. Still, I am glad I was able to get a piece of it while it lasted.
P.S. The Honeydrippers were a band from 1981-1985, formed by Led Zeppelin lead singer, Robert Plant. It was kind of a part of that resurgence of 50s style music, in the 80s. Other memebers included Jimmy Paige, Jeff Beck, Paul Shaffer, Brian Setzer, and a bunch of others. They only recorded one EP.
This post is part of a series. Here are the previous ones:
When I first started coming out as a lesbian(?) at age 17, I was paranoid that people would be able to tell my sexual orientation just by looking at me. I suppose it didn’t concern me enough, though, to change my appearance. I had tried that in 9th and 10th grade (grew my hair out long, actually went to the mall with people and looked in the womens’ sections), and I couldn’t keep it up. I wore a lot of hoodies, a lot of flannel, saggy pants. I wore this one down vest that my mom had made when she was in college, all the time. My hair was dyed bright orange at that time; it was really short. The first person I came out to was my childhood best friend. I was totally freaked out to be talking about this out loud; I managed to ask her somewhere in there if it was obvious. This was really important to me. She probably could sense my discomfort and stretched the truth to tell me what I needed to hear. She told me no.
Later on in college, my hair styles and fashion sense got even more bold. I had fluorescent sneakers before florescent sneakers were a thing. (They were classic style Sauconys. I had one pair that had a color gradient from hot pink to yellow, and one pair that did the same thing between bright blue and purple. I sometimes wore one of each.) I started bleaching and cutting my own hair, usually into a mohawk. I only shopped at thrift stores: if the article of clothing was in the boy’s / men’s section, and it popped out on the rack, it’d probably appeal to me. I knew I enjoyed standing out, but I didn’t think of it as a queer look, specifically. So when I got a note slipped under the door of my dorm, from someone who had a crush on me (a girl!), I really questioned how she knew how I was gay. I deduced it was the teeny tiny rainbow ribbon I wore on my backpack. Because, that’s what it was there for!
When I told her about this much later, she just laughed, and I think it suddenly clicked at that point: I looked queer, and I was glad about that. And I probably always looked queer. In retrospect, that was a good thing. I was no longer mortified by the idea of that.
Trans and queer people fall everywhere within visibility spectrums, and that either does or does not match where they would ideally like to be. It is possible to control it somewhat, to experiment with clothing, mannerisms, etc., but sometimes you just are who you are, and it’s often preferable (in my mind at least) to get comfortable with that. Of course it’s not always, in the world we live in, preferable: there are issues of safety to take into consideration. But in an ideal world, it’s great to really just be able to settle back into how you naturally tend to present, whatever that looks like.
I wear a lot of flannel, and I have a mullet. Lesbian stereotypes. (Even if they are outdated), I’m not a lesbian. I just happen to like plaids and this hair style. The reason for the mullet: I don’t want to have long hair, but I do want my thin, slender, feminine neck to be framed by hair, to obscure it. It works in making me less self-conscious – I’ve had this hair style for probably over 10 years now (It morphs into a sort of mull-hawk in the summer months)… I think mullets have shifted from lesbian / 80s rocker into queer hairdo territory. OK, actually I don’t know of other people sporting mullets, but if I did, I’d see them as queer! As for flannels, those are versatile and timeless.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m visible as a trans-person. I would like to be, but I’m not sure what to do to increase visibility, other than wearing a teeny tiny pin on my bag (haha.) I like the idea of being visibly queer, but cringe at the thought of being seen as a lesbian. I think I’ll get to where I want to be, slowly, eventually. For now, I’ll just continue to rock this mullet and collect those flannels.