Let’s Get Weird: Wearing It on Your Sleeve

Welcome back to Let’s Get Weird, a judgement-free place to talk about fashion and feelings!

T-shirt feminism; it’s a thing, I know. I’ve even made fun of the bogus “The Future Is Female” shirts popping up all over the internet as retailers clamor to profit off the lingering sentiments of the would-be first woman president and the Women’s March. Still, though, I find myself drawn to wearable items that state my beliefs and benefit worthy causes; not because capitalism is activism, but because fuck, on top of the myriad problems that existed pre-Trump, this administration is turning out pretty much exactly how I imagined it. Exactly how the majority of white men I know, who of course believe in the inherent sense of other white men and the power of checks and balances, told me it wouldn’t.

They’re rolling back our job protections; deporting people who had the nerve to seek legal protection from domestic abusers; encouraging law enforcement to use excessive force; banning trans people from the military, and refugees from the country altogether; doing their damnedest to take away birth control and abortion rights. Yes, I’m donating what I can; yes, I’m demonstrating; yes, I’m calling my representatives. But also, if I have the option of wearing essentially a giant sign around my neck at all times while doing those things that says to people like those aforementioned complacent white men, HEY ASSHOLE, PERHAPS GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOUR FELLOW HUMANS, I feel like I probably should go ahead and do that. Right? Why do fewer things at once than I possibly can? I’m flailing like a fish out of water — aren’t you?

In late 2016, I asked a bunch of friends who I imagined would be most vulnerable under this administration to take part in a photo project about the political significance of clothes. Only a few wore slogan t-shirts like mine; for most others, their regular wardrobes were enough. The personal is always political, but in Trump’s America, wearing a headscarf or a suit jacket or a skirt can be especially so.

So I wanted to ask you — how are you dressing through what feels like the apocalypse? Are you, like me, trying to spell things out as literally as possible? Are you struggling to pull on anything besides sweats, because, well, look at the news? Or are you taking a conscious but more subversive route to political dressing, wearing things that emphasize or celebrate your fatness, or your blackness, or your non-binary gender, or your disability?

If it’s the first answer, you can pick up my shirt from Leggo Your Ego — or, for a more specifically queer bent, their tee benefitting the OneOrlando Fund. And whatever it is, tell me about it in the comments.

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Nora is a writer and shoot producer living in Brooklyn. Send her links to weird clothing and dog videos to nora [at] autostraddle [dot] com.

Nora has written 52 articles for us.


  1. I’m struggling with crap at my job currently, so yesterday I wore socks that say “motherfucking girl power” and a “Nasty Woman” shirt as armor. I also have a rainbow shirt when I want to show my gay.

  2. Certainly a more personal than political but the other day I definitely wore my AS misandrist pin in an obvious and visible place on my collar for my professor to see. After an email exchange of me asking him to be more constructive and helpful with his feedback and him being incredibly defensive and rude, I wanted him to notice the pin and leave me the fuck alone. May continue to be my strategy for getting through the last few weeks of his class.

  3. I wear my regular clothes and gear but…those things are politicized already. Okay yeah, I went out and bought a slew of rainbow (among other fun colors) compression socks, but…that was because I need to wear compression socks and wearing rainbow ones seems do-able in a way that wearing the old-person bought from the medical supply store white, black, or tan isn’t (and not just because I can’t be trusted with anything white or tan because I will Ruin It). And yeah, in warm weather times, wearing those rainbow compression socks on top of everything else swings people’s interpretation of me to “yeah, really queer”, but that’s mostly a pleasant (or unpleasant, thanks rural hell) side effect.

    Using a cane as a young person with no visible mobility impairment is already political as hell, and I haven’t gotten outright harassed *yet*, going anyplace (especially any doctor’s office, but especially my cardiologists’ office or any other office where the average patient age skews closer to my grandmother’s age than mine) is like walking a gauntlet of dirty looks and wondering when it will go beyond that (in some ways being queer and presenting as easily read as queer has prepared me marvelously for that though). Heck, even bringing my foldable cane folded up is political and gets extra questions if you go anyplace that has security, as I found out a couple weeks ago when I had the chance to go see Fun Home and had to explain what that thing was in my bag and why I need it to the security officer checking bags (and who wasn’t even TRYING to be rude, she just didn’t know that foldable canes existed, that someone may only need a mobility aid part of the time, or that someone my age might need a cane at all), and that was immediately after seeing signs about the theater not allowing large bags or backpacks in for security reasons (which uh yeah I have a small backpack because that is the smallest thing I can fit the things I may reasonably need when I go out because yeah I’d prefer not to bring so much with me but…yeah, I need that stuff and the consequences of me not having it are fun for exactly zero people, and luckily it wasn’t an issue that time….but it could be an issue in the future and I know it and it bothers me).

    And it’s not that I don’t applaud people who want to wear those shirts and pins and hats and everything else to make statements because I do and I have done that…but sometimes I wish I had a choice on Making A Statement when I go out because always (or mostly, but the mostly is on the days I already am not doing good, thank you random people at urgent care judging me for my cane use so I don’t fall while I get medical treatment for bronchitis, that was just what I wanted to deal with while I feel like a zombie with poor lung capacity and poorer balance) Making A Statement is just…so, so exhausting, especially when your choices are Make A Statement or stay home.

    • This really struck home for me, Hollis. But thank you for mentioning folding canes. I hadn’t considered that and it could really help me. I only need the aid part of the time as well, and it’s impossible to predict when. Being able to just carry it with me without it being a nuisance would be amazing!

      I also worry about the potential for scene or denial of service and I’ll all too familiar with the dirty or questioning looks. I’ll never understand why perfect strangers feel the right to know EVERYTHING about you. My disability, my gender, NONE of that is required for someone to speak to me or get to know me!

  4. So we’re different colors and we’re different creeds
    and different people have different needs
    It’s obvious you hate me, though I’ve done nothing wrong
    I’ve never even met you, so what could I have done?

    I can’t understand
    what makes a man
    hate another man?
    Help me understand!

  5. Prior to the realization that I needed to transition, when I was still seen by others as male and struggling to fit that mold, I wore tailored suits. I had a pocket watch, would sometimes wear vests, and wore nice boots. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to keep a formal wardrobe interesting.

    After transitioning, I gave up all of my suits and went high femme for a while. Skirts, dresses, and high heeled shoes. It was the only form of presentation that I knew about, so it was what I did. Thankfully, I work in an office with some magnificent lgbt women. From them, over the next few years, I learned that there was a lot more to women’s fashion than what I had learned growing up.

    I took that knowledge and… Went back to where I started – suit jackets and pocket watches. It feels freeing, honestly, since while a lot of things changed when I transitioned, my fashion sense wasn’t one of those things. Particularly in today’s world, I feel a need to express myself freely and without the constraints of trying to fit anyone else’s ideas or needs.

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