5 'butch chic' icons to inspire you
Updated: Feb 19, 2021
Butch chic is quickly becoming a popular choice for people of any sexual orientation or gender. As a feminist who generally wears comfortable versatile clothing, I am all for embracing it. Butch chic embodies everything I love about fashion: elegance, timelessness, and gender neutrality. It's not simply a case of women wearing their boyfriend's shirt and jeans. It's much more than that. It's a movement away from a sexualised image and stereotypical femininity. It's a shift towards free, atypical self-expression that is not limited by gender norms.
As Ellen Page put it in an interview with Vogue, “I used to feel this constant pressure to be more feminine [..] You need to wear a dress or people will think you’re gay [...] Now I feel a sense of freedom in dressing.”
But the desire to leave behind restrictive, ultra-feminine clothing not just a modern phenomenon. Arguably Coco Chanel was the first big designer to kickstart the fashion. Throughout the twentieth century, women began wearing comfier, more 'masculine' clothing. Now, in 2019, women can wear suits, ties, even tuxedoes. It's barely controversial any more.
I'll admit that most butch chic style icons are queer women. But you don't have to be one to wear this style. The beauty of butch chic lies in its freedom.
Here are my personal top five favourite style icons for butch chic day wear:
1. Janelle Monae
Janelle knows how to hold a stage. She is famous for her style choices, from her famous vagina trousers in the music video 'Pynk' to her Met Gala 'camp' interpretation. Janelle came out as pansexual in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2018. Since then, it's evient that her style has been much more daring, colourful, and flamboyant - something her stylist, Alexandra Mandelkorn, confirmed in an interview with Refinery29. I think this shift in expression rings true with a lot of people who come out later in life. It's hard to be fully yourself when you are suppressing something as essential as sexuality. In my mid-late teens after I came out, I went full-out with facial piercings, dyed hair, and wacky clothes. But I couldn't say whether coming out was what initiated the change.
2. Christine and the Queens / Chris
Christine and the Queens has been an inspiration for me for at least five years now. My dad introduced me to her music and I have been a fan ever since. I love her boyish look and her effortless elegance. My favourite look of hers is the full suit and sports bra. I'd love to have the body to wear it myself! There is a great interview with Christine where she talks about the social pressures of growing up as a girl and feeling ugly. She talks a lot about queerness and how it has influenced the way she presents. Her style is not so much anti-feminine, rather she simply doesn't care what other people think. With Christine, what you see is what you get. There's no pretence, which I think is an essential part of butch chic. As women, we grow up with the idea that our best way of making a good first impression is to be beautiful. But think about it this way - by turning up with wet hair and minimalist clothing, Christine makes her audience focus on her ideas rather than her image.
3. Ari Fitz
I have just recently discovered this incredible model/YouTube vlogger. She describes her style as 'tomboyish' and has launched a web series under this name dedicated to androgynous fashion. Her style is all about throwing gender binary out of the window and allowing people to express themselves. If anyone embodies 2019 fashion it's her. She's all about wacky, innovative, unusual designs. There's a total lack of judgment and a real anti-establishment vibe about her clothing. She's on Depop and she's also designed for Asos. In an interview with Buzzfeed she says her clothes make her feel "swaggy AF" and "unstoppable". I believe this is how everyone should feel getting dressed in the morning. Clothes are there to make you feel good about yourself, to empower you, and most importantly to put a smile on your face.
4. Ruby Rose
I first saw Ruby Rose in Orange is the New Black, which of course I watch, because I am a living stereotype. I think everyone in the world watching the show had the hots for her when she appeared in the third season. With cropped short hair and a feminine face, she naturally blurs gender lines. On top of that, her style involves a lot of black, a lot of leather, and tight jeans. If you've read my other posts, you'll know I'm a big fan of colourful over-sized shirts, but my favourite look of hers is her Burberry outfit (left picture). The long jacket is such a classic gender-neutral French look. I'm a big fan of that particular piece because it elongates the figure and smoothes over any bumps.
5. Emma Stone
Emma Stone is one of those women that pretty much everyone either fancies or wants to be. For me it's both. She can flit between red carpet elegance and formal suit-inspired Louis Vuitton (middle picture) and always look effortlessly great. Most people wouldn't categorise her style as butch chic, but there are a few outfits that I really love. Her photoshoot with Vogue (left picture) is reminiscent of a Victorian dandy - think Oscar Wilde in his cape and with long flowing hair. Butch chic can both be minimalist and elegant or extra camp with patterns left, right, and centre. Many women are afraid to wear a full suit for fear of seeming masculine, but I personally think there are few outfits more flattering than a fitted jacket and cropped high-waisted trousers.