Guest Post with Finnegan Shepard, CEO of Both& Apparel
It’s no secret that the vast majority of products are designed with a cisgender consumer in mind. This is especially the case with clothing, an industry that decided to ‘standardize’ in the name of efficiency about a hundred years ago, somewhat arbitrarily decided on what ‘average’ was for men and women, and then graded sizes around it.
According to a cisgender fit and sizing system, men’s clothes should be tall, narrow, and rectangular, and women’s clothes should be form fitting and shaped to accentuate curves. This is of course an over-simplification, as there are wide varieties of styles that have evolved within these systems, but if you look at the base measurements or proportions, many consistencies remain, and these consistencies are based on three fundamental, normative assumptions:
- That men are taller, have broader shoulders, longer limbs and torso, and narrow hips.
- That women are shorter, have narrower shoulders, shorter limbs and torso, and are curvy through the chest, waist, hips, and thighs.
- That men want their clothing to accentuate muscle and square shapes, and women want their clothing to accentuate curves and be form fitting.
So what if you don’t fit into these assumptions? What do you do, for instance, if you identify as transmasc, are 5’4”, are binding, have just started T and are broadening out in your shoulders, and want clothing that fits you the way that cisgender men’s clothing fits cisgender men?
Today, we are going to walk through some of the key tools, tricks, and recommendations that can help you navigate your wardrobe with less dysphoria and more ease, confidence, and joy.
Step One: identifying the challenge
Sometimes the most important step in finding a solution is simply figuring out what the problem is. Growing up as a trans man (before having the language for it, let alone medically transitioning), I always knew something was upsetting about clothing, but I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what. In retrospect it’s very clear that it had everything to do with fit: I would see a cis male friend wear a particular style or brand, then try to emulate it, only for the clothing to look terrible on me, and that fed the little voice in my head that nagged at me, telling me that I was crazy to think I was a boy, that I didn’t fit, that I didn’t belong in that category.
I speak about this often as a kind of synecdoche: to not fit is to not fit in. Clothing is a powerful tool of translation, it’s how we present who we are to the outside world and feel seen (or not seen) in return. Growing up, I was lucky enough to be allowed to wear boy’s clothing, but once puberty hit and my body started changing, being allowed to wear it wasn’t the issue: wearing it and having it fit and feel good on my body became the issue.
I, like many other non binary, trans masc, and gender queer people, found all sorts of hacks. I wore things super oversized. I found certain brands that worked okay and would buy ten t shirts from them. I layered vests over button downs to hide curves, found the most forgiving fabrics for pants, avoided swimming at all costs. The sad part was, I started to think this was normal. That this was how it would always be.
Step Two: figure out what does work
Throughout the process of DIY hacks, you begin to build a kind of vocabulary for what does feel good on your body. For instance, as someone that is relatively short and has wide hips, shirts that are thicker and have a boxy shape, with plenty of room around the hips, was a key discovery. I could never find the perfect shirt, but I found shirts that had enough elements of what I wanted to be livable.
It’s important to note here that while fit is primary (if something doesn’t fit on your body, then you don’t even ‘get’ the privilege of worrying about style), gender queer people have a huge variety of style and forms of presentation. In fact, I would argue that we tend to be trend setters, and this is often not despite but because of the fact that we don’t fit neatly into the binary boxes society has made for us. With that in mind, the journey of finding clothing that fits is both a practical, shape based one, and also an ever-evolving one around self expression and what feels true to you. However, I tend to focus on a fit-first approach, because as I said above, we have to worry about clothing fitting before we can move on to worry about other things.
The homework here for you is to start observing and noting down (if you aren’t already), everything that feels good in clothing. What fabrics do you prefer? What shapes feel best? What’s your favorite t shirt, and why? Once you understand the elements that go into clothing that feels good for you, you will be much better equipped to navigate the large and often convoluted fashion landscape.
Step Three: try brands that were built with your needs in mind
A decade ago, if you were transmasc or nonbinary, you simply didn’t have any alternatives to cis fashion. But over the last ten years, with the explosion of visibility for our community, a number of trans or queer owned apparel brands have been founded, all with slightly different takes or approaches on how to serve this community. Depending on what you are looking for, the following brands are worth checking out:
Urbodyco creates high quality, gender affirming functional wear for the trans community. If you are looking for a good binder, gaff, or compression shorts, they are highly reviewed and respected, and have been crafted with a lot of care by folks from within the community.
Kirrin Finch has been around for awhile, with the core focus of designing masculine inspired formalwear. They make high quality shirts, slacks, and suits. Their products are on the pricier end, but they do have a great reputation for quality.
Full transparency, Both&, is my brand, so of course I am biased. However, when it comes to the purpose of this guest post, which is to answer the question of ‘finding clothes that fit your transmasc body” I think my closeness to the subject is actually a point in my favor. As a trans man who has struggled with this issue my whole life, and who felt there was a gap in the market for high quality, stylish clothing in fit patterns that would fit my body the way cisgender clothing fits cis men, I consider myself a resident expert on all things transmasc fit based. Both& has used thousands of data points to build an entirely new fit system that provides all the points of euphoria I want in clothing: shirts that show off my muscles, create a square shape, and never cling to curves. Pants that fit comfortably around my hips without being too long. Swimwear that makes me actually enjoy swimming. Head on over to our website to learn more about what we do, and get 25% off when you sign up to get updates.
Here’s the secret: clothing for transmasc folks isn’t rocket science. It just requires a different fit system that has been iterated on and improved with feedback from the community. A decade ago, this wasn’t available to us, but luckily, now it is. We all deserve clothing that fits and that feels like an accurate representation of self. Together, let’s build a world where that isn’t a radical idea, but a given.
Finnegan Shepard is the founder and CEO of Both&, a brand focused on designing apparel for transmasc and masc of center individuals. Follow Both& on socials @bothandapparel and shop their euphoric collection at www.bothandapparel.com.
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