Do Clothes Make the (Wo) Man?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading a lot of posts on a number of blogs about gender identity. It’s always been a subject that has interested me, but maybe not in the way you might think. I have always been “sure” of my gender. I am a woman, female, and that has never been a question for me. However, during part of my life, and even on into today, people have often “mistaken” me for a man. This baffles me. All right, I am tall (as I’ve said before), and I have short (sometimes VERY short) hair.

But still, when I look at my face, my features do not seem particularly masculine, and while I do have a stray whisker here and there now at age 51, it’s not like I have five o’clock shadow or something.

Which brings me to the photo posted above. I bought that little jewel at the ARC thrift store in Pueblo a couple of months ago. It’s a real honest-to-god “Ralph Lauren” Polo shirt. Whoo-hoo. I paid $2.00 for it. After wearing it a couple of times, I now call it my “boi shirt”. Every time I wear it, SOMEone calls me “sir”. Doesn’t matter that I’m wearing capri pants and slinging a purse over my shoulder, OR that I’m wearing my Playtex 18-hour, lift and separate, support-the-girls-to-their-best-advantage bra. Nope.

That shirt must give off some kind of huge vibe that says, “I am a MAN’S shirt”! Therefore, whoever wears it MUST be a man. Now, I don’t MIND being mistaken for a man, mainly because I always get a laugh once the eyes travel down a few inches, and they realize they’ve made a BIG mistake. Talk about flustered. They blush and I giggle.

Trust me, I am no femme. I quit wearing make up even before I got pregnant, I can’t even remember the last time I wore a dress, and I’d rather be in hiking boots or Tevas than any kind of “girlie” shoe. But still–42D folks, get real! Even in a baggy shirt, the girls are hard to miss.

I just think it’s interesting that “we” generally take our cues from the first glance. The shirt is obviously not “girly” either in cut, color, or fabric, so at just a glance, taking in only the cover, what’s in the shirt is, in the brain of the observer, made to fit the mold of what the observer thinks SHOULD go in the shirt. Heisenberg’s principle as applied to fashion and gender…wow!

I recently read “Self-Made Man” by Norah Vincent, and one of the things that I found most interesting was how she noticed that as she got deeper into her male “character” that it really didn’t matter how “accurate” her male drag was. At the beginning, she was meticulous about stuffing her crotch, even figuring out how to effect the look of the “five o’clock shadow”, etc. But as she became known as her alter-ego, she found it was less necessary to keep up those “appearances”. Her acquaintances knew her as the male character and that’s how they accepted her, even when she didn’t have her fake whiskers or penis. It was almost enough just to dress in a man’s business suit.

So, when I put on my “boi shirt” maybe my attitude changes subtly, maybe I DO give off a more masculine vibe that says, “Don’t mess with me” or something. And maybe it’s not JUST the shirt that others react to, but my own little bit of gender bending that I do almost without thinking.

Either way, just don’t expect me to put on a dress…

Happy day,



3 thoughts on “Do Clothes Make the (Wo) Man?

  1. Seems gender expression is quite the topic lately. 😛

    It would always baffle me when I had a big chest when people would call me sir. I was like HEY BUDDY, DID YA MISS SOMETHING?

    But I still liked it just the same 😉


    PS You’d be proud of my tomatoes right now! They are going really well. I finally have peppers too!

  2. It does seem that gender expression has been all the rage lately. I love the honesty of this post. I have struggled with my lesbian identity lately and hope to be able to put it into a post soon. I think it’s great how you are able to embrace youself and you feel good about yourself.

  3. When we lived in TX Fran was called sir on more than one occasion. It would piss me off. I just don’t get how they didn’t see she was a woman.

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