Stylish-of-Center: Back to School Tomboy Butch Looks for the Fashionably On Time

photography by riese bernard

As Frank Ocean recently said, “summer’s not as long as it used to be.” That’s especially true when you’re going back to school, like me! After taking a few years off I’ll be starting community college this week, and my venture into the world of “adult education” is as new to me as my venture into THE WORLD OF FASHION. Specifically: my queer, masculine-ish-of-center, tomboy baby butch fashion. One morning I woke up and realized I was completely unsatisfied with (almost) my entire closet, and have since been on a journey to find my style-of-center, mixing Goodwill finds with brand-name bits from the sale rack.


Day One: Bad Boi Has an Awakening of Adulthood and Wants To Further Their Academic Pursuits to Grow as a Person

It’s the beginning of the week. I’ve got the energy and I want to look like I’m taking community college seriously (because girl, I am). The vibe I’m really going for is “bad boi has an awakening of adulthood and wants to further their academic pursuits to grow as a person” because that’s my truth and I want to tell it. I usually get my collared shirts at thrift stores, but for this white shirt I wanted a starchy collar for ultimate nerd vibes and JC Penny had the answer. Sometimes I wear binders, sometimes I don’t, but the way binders enable me to fit into boys/mens button-ups makes me wanna lead all the queers in a “Hallelujah” chorus, and not the Rufus Wainwright building.

If I’m feeling a little more flowy and chill, this pretty rad gray crop top from American Eagle helps me get my #butchcrop vibes on. I’ve started experimenting with pants from the men’s section, and a couple of months ago David Beckham and H&M came out with these sporty-slack-joggers that make me feel pretty cool. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to exist anymore, but you can definitely go for the same look with some slim-fit chinos.

Day Two: Skater Boi

Now that everyone has seen just how high you can button your collar, your serious student vibes are not to be questioned. This is when you hit-em-up style and go classic skate park circa 2005. Ironically, this is exactly how I looked in 2005 when I… skipped school to go to the skate park.

My Thrasher Mag tee brings back solid memories and projects my roots, and I’m serious about these gym socks as an homage to the beloved Avril Lavigne. I love the fit of these men’s Dickies slacks too. Kinda profesh, kinda makes me want to see how long till I can spell S-K-A-T-E in Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Also, this is a look in which I don’t feel the need to explain the state of my haircut. Bonus!

Day Three: (Butch) Leggings as Pants

There’s nothing more infuriating to me than a man talking about something he knows nothing about. Specifically: the movement that is “leggings as pants.” Can I get a hell yes to athleisure? I don’t know why it took me so long to join this movement, but I’m never gonna leave to make up for lost time. It’s the middle of the week, already your professor has figured out a way to deplete your printing budget at the library and if he changes his office hours one more time you may just lose it. This calls for putting on “Kanye’s New Workout Plan,” forgetting your troubles, and going for a quick jog (approximately two-ish minutes before I get winded and need a time out). And no shame — I’ll show up to the new office hours, in this exact outfit, feeling confident, cute, and fit. You can’t stop me!!!

Day Four/Five: TGIT/F

Fridays are Fridays for a reason. Everyone needs a stopping point. As excited as I am to learn new things and grow as a person, I’m gonna need a break. That break will probably include dancing with queers at a gay bar downtown and drinking away the idea of MLA format. This year, I was super excited to invest in a pair of Timberlands. As a person who gets 75% of their wardrobe from Goodwill, Timberlands were a serious expense, but if you’d spent as much time as I have drooling over pictures of Drake wearing his, you would’ve done the same. Luckily for us, there’s a lot of shoes that look similar and don’t break the bank! For this “look,” we’re going all black. To quote one of my favorite movies, Walk The Line

Vivian Cash: You can’t wear black. It looks like you’re going to a funeral.
Johnny Cash: Maybe I am…

And guess what, you are! Funeral to the school week! You’ve got approximately 48 hours to recuperate, feign sanity, and do it all over again. One of my favorite trends to come out of this year has been the oversized and boxy tees. It’s the cut I’ve been looking for my whole life. And like the lesbian I am, I paired this with with a flannel or a denim jacket (both thrifted), though if you’re feeling doubly gay I daresay do both.

Best of luck out there, I know I’ll be needing it. At the very least we’ll look good trying.

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riding' bikes, reading books, bobblehead to the beat.

Abby has written 3 articles for us.


  1. Abby I love this so much! All of these outfits are totally the look I’ve been going for lately :) also I should definitely try to buy a button up from the boys’ section because men’s shirts are always way too big for me (why I never buy them).

    • definitely team shirts from the boys section, but also some stores carry x-small in mens and those can fit okay–though the sleeves are too long for me so i usually stick to short sleeves and roll them because cuter. (ex: j crew, american eagle, topman which actually also carries xxs online, other stores i’m not thinking of)

  2. This is amazing (ditto on the Drake = Timspiration) but what really sealed the deal on all of these outfits for me, Abby, are your expressions. You and your eyebrows are going to CRUSH IT this year.

  3. Into all of these looks. I just know I’m going to have to wait a couple months before I can wear anything resembling this in the Texas weather.

    Congrats on starting school again!

  4. Abby I am SO INTO THIS. The looks are great.

    I’m also seriously considering a binder for men’s shirt because I keep seeing my male friends with these fantastic shirts and prints that I just can’t find in the women’s section, but a men’s shirt never fits over my boobs :(. So maybe I just need to stop saying “I wish my boobs were smaller” and find a binder ?

    Do you guys have recommendations ? I’m not necessarily looking for something that will hide the boobs, I’d rather go for something less tight that I can wear with minimal discomfort and which reduces boobage just enough for shirts to fit…

    • GC2B! I wear mine to achieve ultimate flatness but I know plenty of folks who use them for the sort of subduing you are talking about.

      Check out Ali’s review on this website if you need more info :)

      • Oh I’ve read the review but I assumed ultimate flatness was the only setting for this one. Do you mean that it does a good job if you don’t tighten it too much ?

        • I just bought that binder and it is incredible. With my previous one I was restricted to not doing anything too athletic, such as cycling into town, and only wearing it for like four hours max. With my new GC2B one, I get almost exactly the same look, I wouldn’t say it binds any better or worse, but it is so much more comfortable! I was careful at first because I like to be sensible, but I’ve since worked 12hr shifts at a nursing home in mine and not felt any more uncomfortable than a sports bra (or worse, a ‘real’ bra).

          I’d been holding off on buying a proper binder because of money, not thinking it would be worth it with how frequently I’d wear it, but for me, i am so glad I bought it. It was even worth the extra £12 import tax (thank you very much Post Office).

        • GC2B binders are pullover t-shirt style, so no tightening required. All the binding comes from getting the right size for you. The website makes sizing really easy, and they do returns- no questions asked!

    • I second GC2B! I love my binder. I love the way I look in menswear now, and it has finally given me the body confidence to wear tank-tops! Decent price too :)

    • I have a t kingdom zip up that has stretched a bit becuase I don’t hand wash and will never, ugh what a pain, and

      1. If you have panic attacks, I would HIGHLY SUGGEST you not get a t shirt style pullover binder

      Even if its comfier than most, it is compressing the part of you that does the breathing, and if you hyperventilate an Easy Escape might be needed

      2. It’s ridiculously comfy in comparison to my others, which are Not

      3. Bad for larger people becuase it’s made in Asia, where I, a skinny b cup, am a size large

      4. The stupid zipper shows so I can only wear it with button downs >:(

      IN SUM: I don’t think a truly comfortable binder exists. I think we are saying “comfortable” in relation to what cheap binders are like (ie, tortue devices)

      And I despise how binding feels

      But also I have weird sensory issues and a lot of anxiety that makes not being able to breath fully Bad News so give it a shot maybe???

      Idk this commwnt is all over and not helpful

      • Oh also I have ~hypermobile shoulders~ and sublux one or both everytime I try to remove a pull over style binder

        It’s a real struggle

  5. In related news I bought something from the men’s section of Old Navy yesterday and only felt about 75% like the dudes I saw were going to kick me out – progress!

  6. This has inspired me to put together the perfect first-day-of-school outfit from my existing wardrobe, where does a person who works from home and is long out of school wear such a thing?

  7. GR8 looks! Thanks for the inspiration.
    I REALLY need a denim jacket. The problem is that I have huge boobs (40 G) and have a hard time finding something that fits. Do ya’ll normally button up your jackets if it’s cold or w/e, or is it better, ie, more fashionable, to leave it open all the time?

    • No clue what the official line on “most fashionable” is, but I like to leave denim and leather jackets unbuttoned. It lets you see the shirt underneath, ya know? Winter coats are obviously buttoned up, but I don’t bother buttoning “cool but not cold” jackets.

  8. Relevant to my interests as someone who just bought their first pair of leggings-to-wear-as-pants — so cheap and comfy in comparison to regular pants!

    A+ for these outfits. The shoes are especially on point! I’m personally terrified of white shoes bc as soon as I put them on they’ll be inevitably ruined by dirt/my cat throwing up on them, AND YET. brb writing my birthday list.

  9. i have been looking at a million pairs of sk8-his for weeks trying to talk myself out of the unnecessary expense (hello my name is catherine and i am a shoe addict) but you are really pushing me in the other direction

    A+++ teen dirtbag bad influence

    (that is intended as a compliment, a la mallory ortberg)

  10. WOWOWOWOWOW these are great back to school looks
    wow… its awesome! very nice.. u did a gooood job! i like the bg! really nice.

  11. So late to the game on this one!!

    But love this, all of this!

    …also, is… that 2nd or 3rd base you are on in the Friday collection ?

  12. WOWOWOWOWOW these are extraordinary back to class looks

    stunning… its wonderful! exceptionally pleasant.. u made a gooood showing with regards to! i like the women jumpers uk big! truly pleasant.

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