Journey To The Center: Casual Looks Inspired By My Favorite Boys

Journey To The Center is a project about finding what fits. Gender presentation is a complicated creature, one of personal and political importance. For some queers, traditional masculinity and femininity doesn’t hang quite right on our shoulders. So every month, Audrey is going to find a new way to smash up the extremes and explore the vast landscapes in between. 

I’ve been working to broaden the scope of my fashion inspiration to include more typically masculine elements by reading the non-gross parts of men’s mags, following stylish dudes on Instagram, and obsessively reading my emails from Topman and The Tie Bar. I could do a whole separate post on all the times I thought a Topman model was a cute dyke.

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 7.55.23 PM

But the goal here isn’t to pursue masculine ideals — it’s to rip them off, queer ’em up, and cover them with fairy dust. So I called up my photographer friend Silvio and asked him if we could do a little project. I chose three men with very different aesthetics: Nick Jonas, Mike Hadreas and Willie Nelson. Then I picked apart their styles to make them my own. Every outfit includes at least one piece made for women and one made for men, which was a happy accident. I am a skinny white person, and these are all skinny white people, and I absolutely don’t want to reinforce the idea that androgyny is a skinny white space. But it would probably be more fucked up if I style-thiefed Le1f. So, I really want y’all to go wild in the comments and hear how you incorporate the styles of people you find beautiful into your own looks, talk about what inspires us, and think about deconstructing typically masculine and androgynous apparel for everyone.


Muse: Nick Jonas

via Flaunt

via Flaunt

For a long while, I thought I had a crush on Nick Jonas. His voice and those dumb Marky Mark photos gave me feelings. But recently I have realized that I actually want to be Nick Jonas, at least sometimes. I have catalogued him and Justin Bieber in my head as celesbians, and I honestly can’t undo it, so we’re all gonna hang out in my alternate universe for a minute. Nick wears a lot of well-cut jeans, muscle tanks and snapbacks, providing endless inspiration for low key butch looks.

You too can have your very own Gal Pal cropped muscle tank if have $25 and a pair of scissors.

Also I’m wearing a binder in this picture but I’m not really ready to talk about it so I am just gonna put it here and hope no one reads it.

To capture his aesthetic, I found these black men’s Wrangler jeans at a second-hand store with the help of a sweet and confused salesclerk. I cropped my Gal Pal tee into a muscle tank, and it has become the only shirt I ever want to wear. You too can live this dream. I could not have planned the extent to which the shirt matched the unlicensed Texas Rangers snapback I bought in the street. Also, those briefs have a pattern of a T-Rex riding on slices of pizza, because occasionally there is justice in the universe.


Forever 21 “I love tacos muscle tee” // Levi 505 Regular Fit Jeans in black // Wild Fang “Wild Flowers” Snapback // American Apparel Fine Jersey Muscle T-Shirt

Power Twink

Muse: Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius

via Wondering Sound

via Wondering Sound

As I’ve mentioned before, Mike Hadreas is one of my most beloved gender muses. He speaks openly about his dismissal of the gender binary in his music as artist Perfume Genius and in interviews. His manicure game is very, very strong. He often applies a high glam, regal aesthetic involving flowing white suits and/or gold mesh. But when I saw his photos in a great feature in Wondering Sound, I realized that even simple day-to-day clothes can convey his aesthetic, which I think of fondly as power twink.

Could there be anything more basic than a collared shirt with shorts? A collared tee or button up takes this most casual of looks to a polished place, and buttoning that top button is my favorite subtle queer flag.


Trying to become one with the sun.

This whole outfit is from the Gap, because I am my mother’s daughter. I’m wearing their sexy boyfriend shorts (see below) and a boy’s XL color-blocked button down. Did you know that it’s a button down if it has buttons on the collar, and a button up if it does not? For those of us with warm autumns, shorts with a short-sleeved button-up/down is also a versatile way to embrace the changing season without sweating to death.


Wildfang Lavoux Shirt // Topman Burgundy/Navy Ginghan Shirt // Topman Washed Mint Chino Shorts // Gap 1969 Sexy Boyfriend Denim Shorts

Rodeo Darlin’

Muse: Willie Nelson

I recently came across this picture of Willie Nelson wearing two bandanas at once and standing next to Dolly Parton.

Willie is living my best life.

Willie is living my best life.

Growing up in Dallas, Western wear was a constant style influence, and Willie Nelson’s music was a mainstay in all our household music players. I will never be as cool as Willie Nelson, but I’m willing to die trying.


Willie just wants us to be comfortable, ya know?

This seems like a good place to say that I believe in leggings as pants as a politics, a way of life, a spiritual marker by which to live my life. For me, there is actually something incredibly freeing about wearing clothes that show exactly what my body is shaped like. There is no room for interpretation, for trying to make my legs seem like a certain kind or gender of legs. They’re just my legs! The leggings pictured are not jeggings, they are just denim colored leggings. Since this picture was taken, I ripped a huge hole in the crotch. RIP. The Wrangler denim pearls snap is incredibly versatile, and one nice thing about Western-cut shirts is they tend to have nice tall gaps on the sides that better accommodate hips. And of course — What Would Willie Do? — I tied on two bandanas.


Target High Waisted Legging // Wrangler Men’s Authentic Work Shirt // Lucchese 1883 Women’s Boot

Ok y’all, get up in the comments and tell me your dreams. Who are your fashion icons, and how do you incorporate their signature looks into your own style? Where can I go to replace my jean colored leggings? Let’s talk.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Adrian is a writer, a Texan and a Presbyterian pastor. They write about bisexuality, gender, religion, politics, music and a whole lot of feelings at Autostraddle and wherever fine words are sold. They have a dog named after Alison Bechdel. Follow Adrian on Twitter @adrianwhitetx.

Adrian has written 153 articles for us.


  1. Ngl, that first picture has me swooning. As for denim-colored leggings, try Target? I feel like I’ve seen those there. I also am a firm believer in leggings as pants as a lifestyle choice. #leggings4ever

  2. audrey, you are a perfect, radiant, angel. i love reading about yr journey and rate all of these looks A+++. #beyhive

  3. God I love this column so much, thank you.

    On that note – does anyone have a suggestion for a store/online shop that does what Topman does with men’s shirts, but at a more affordable cost?

  4. Talking about mistaking topman models for cute dyes and then have a picture with the text “what are you packing?” over it=gold

  5. “I believe in leggings as pants as a politics, a way of life, a spiritual marker by which to live my life. For me, there is actually something incredibly freeing about wearing clothes that show exactly what my body is shaped like.”

    yep yes yeps mhm yah yes yepppppp yes

  6. Goddamn, Audrey. You are so babely.

    I never knew that two bandanas at once was an option and now that I know it, I can never unknow it and for that, I am glad.

  7. “Did you know that it’s a button down if it has buttons on the collar, and a button up if it does not?”
    I didn’t know this!! Feeling all kinds of enlightened right now.

    Have to say my top style icon is Bender from The Breakfast Club, but if I could ever find outfits as snazzy as Duckie’s, I would dress like that every day.

    I have so many feelings re. style icons! So many dapper guys I want to look like, but also so many grungy boys.

  8. When I like a girl I always face the age old question of whether I actually like her or just really want to be her. When I like a guy I wonder if I really like him or just really admire his fashion sense. Probably the answer to those questions is “both”.

  9. I watched too many Hall & Oates videos today, and they are back at the top of my dude fashion icon list. Billowy leopard print suit with cowboy boots? Purple t-shirt with the sleeves rolled? Generally weird-fitting jeans? Yes, yes, yes.

    Also, everyone should seriously watch the video for “Out of touch.” Like now. It’s completely insane and I promise (hope?) that you’ll love it.

  10. Um yes Mike Hadreas is a beautiful human and I think we can all learn a little something from his brilliant mind, music & manicures

  11. Some personal style icons:

    Donald Glover/Childish Gambino

    Bender from Breakfast Club

    Sean from Boy Meets World.

    Oh and Dannielle O-R.

    I enjoy plenty of baggy slouchy shoulders, prefer my button ups to hang completely open in a grimy way, and some dad prints.

    Also, has anyone seen the New Zealand show The Tribe?
    …so much fashion thinkpieces to be had from that.

    • HOLY CRAP! “The Tribe”! I was really into that show when I was in junior high. Everyone thought I was nuts, because it was this random foreign show on an obscure digital cable channel (I grew up in the States). I’m pretty sure my DVD box set is still in my parents’ garage. I need to dig that up! Also, totally picked up on queer vibes from Amber when I was like 13. Haha!

  12. I read that caption you were hoping no one would read and I have to say it looks good on you! But let’s not talk about it.

  13. I also read that caption. *sneaky high five*

    As someone just coming out as non-binary, this column feels like the closest thing to NB representation on Autostraddle. (I don’t wanna assume anything about what the caption we aren’t talking about means).

    And I gotta say, I look forward to every installment.

  14. Ahh thanks for this Audrey! I love wearing clothes usually boys wear and femming (is this a word?) them up. Basically I love this post because the sky is the limit with our fashion and you just proved it thanks!

  15. I definitely use Willie Nelson as a low key fashion inspiration, he’s been my buddy through many roadtrips. just with less double denim. I’m also taking fashion hints from Cale Tyson and every single danner boot model for sure.

  16. Hm I think I’m seeing why my some of my attempts to dress my self, and not just throw the most neutral clothes that smell okay on to my body, sorta flounder.
    I do not actively look to other humans for inspiration.
    Especially humans I find beautiful or what.

    What inspires me is whatever makes me feel powerful and sometimes it’s what makes me feel transgressive.Like say wearing a black bra under men’s undershirts. Rather than hide the fact I have something under that shirt that is not what “real men” have I’m fucking flaunting it.
    Rather than get thicker undershirts in a darker colour I consciously choose the thin, thinner than a woman’s would be, shirt in white. All the better to see yes this person is wearing a bra and it is the colour of a raven’s wing. Most of time it is a sports bra, but sometimes it’s a “girlie” bra.
    Usually when I do this yeah I have a hoodie or work shirt I could put on over me to hide everything, but I don’t unless I’m physically cold.
    It’s a look that trangresses feminine respectability (ladies do not let their brasseries show through their clothes) and the way masculinity is suppose to be performed by someone with boobs or that wears a bra.
    So that is a deconstruction of typically masculine and androgynous apparel, yes?

    This is not a deconstruction but helpful hint for those of us with 40 inch or so hips that find ourselves changing sizes/fat distribution, or in the men’s department where depending on the cut of the pants the “waist” sits somewhere where a stiff sturdy prong buckle leather belt is uncomfortable.

    Box-frame belts with a cloth strap.

    There’s no holes to fight with or lament about tearing, and greatly reduced pressure on your hipbones. I can’t say how far past 40 inches I can guarantee comfort, but I guess it could go pretty far.

  17. Yesss @ that short-sleeved-button-down and shorts combo. If only my giant boobs didn’t pull the crap out of shirts like that…

  18. g-dragon is my fancy man stylespiration. sometimes when considering a new item of clothing, i ask myself, “will this bring my wardrobe closer to g-dragon’s?”

  19. Joseph Gordon-Levitt reminds me to wear prints and layers. Eugene Tong has a great Instagram (black-and-white will never not work). A$AP Rocky does this long-coat thing all the time that I want to pull off this winter.
    Also, just Googling “mens street style [insert name of a city here}” gets you great looks.

  20. I love this and will probably be stealing most of these ideas, as we have similar body types. +1 to the Gap sexy boyfriend denim shorts – I’m wearing a pair right now with a Gap men’s striped tank.

  21. Ooooooh man, let me tell you all about all the terrible choices I make re: male style icons.

    Marc Almond is why I’ve taken to wearing all black, far too much eyeliner, and letting my hair get as fluffy as it wants to.

    Loud blazers and power clashing every day forever.

    Literally everything about this specific Psychedelic Furs video is how I want to look every day of my life.

    Honorable mentions: Michael Emerson’s dapper older man suit game, George from the Paradise Kiss manga/anime, and for some horrifying reason LITERALLY ALL THE MEN FORMERLY OF TOP GEAR. I dunno. I saw a photo of Jeremy Clarkson in a really awesome coat once and I got inspired in the most terrible way.

  22. Please tell me what kind of pants I’m supposed to wear with my denim shirt when I can’t wear leggings (for work or for when it’s too cold for leggings). Because denim shirt with jeans seems weird…but I don’t know what else to do.

    • Black or colored denim are both good options, and I find a nice pair of khakis with denim on top to be a classy look, though you run the risk (or reap the benefits!!) of looking like a 90s carpool mom depending on the cut of everything.

  23. Wow wow okay so power twink is like my new ideal. I want to be a power twink forever and ever. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with school boi looks partially because i might be a teacher next year so like i’m building a wardrobe i can carry with me into the Future, but also because it’s timeless and classic and it’s like super basic simple classic pieces put together that always make me look and feel really good about my life. it’s also an androgyny that’s both femme and butch at the same time and also neither of them and yeah.

    i love this column and you btw also <3

  24. This is so simple yet so brilliant because I’ve never seen it before! Steal-the-look where you steal a guy’s look even though you’re not a dude. Why is this not a thing in every major fashion magazine already???

Comments are closed.