A Man Repeller community member slid into my DMs last month with a question: “How can I stop worrying about being ‘fashionable’ and just start being myself?” I would normally respond that “being yourself” is the most fashionable thing in the entire universe, but her context for the query made me want to say a whole lot more.
She explained that, as a member of the queer community, she wanted to present more androgynously, both in the way she dresses and wears her hair, but a lifetime of struggling with social norms around femininity was making it difficult for her to find the courage to make that leap.
I proposed that she didn’t have to leap — she could simply sail right across from point A to point B on a ship provided by the U.S.S. Man Repeller. (In other words, we would provide the haircut, the clothes and the platform, and she could just enjoy the ride). Check out her makeover* below.
*Man Repeller’s version of a makeover is a transformation of any kind, literal or figurative, emotional or physical, that helps you feel like the best version of yourself. Sometimes it’s just playing dress-up.
Meet Emma, Pre-Makeover
Why were you interested in changing up your aesthetic?
I’m into all genders, so it’s frustrating to be perceived as straight, especially in queer spaces. I was complaining to my roommate about this recently, saying it’s not fair because no one looks queer in a physical sense. She made the point that this exact frustration is why some people embrace a “queer aesthetic,” whether through a certain hairstyle or a way of dressing, as a signal to other queer folx that they’re one of them. Not every queer person chooses to do that, obviously, but it definitely gave me something to think about.
I used to be so obsessed with feeling feminine. I think the impulse stemmed from being uncomfortable with my height for so many years. I had this stereotypical idea ingrained in my brain that femininity equates to smallness, which in turn equates to attractiveness. I wanted to feel dainty, which now seems so ridiculous to me, but it was a big factor in how I presented myself for so long.
Even though these days I’m more body positive and more comfortable with my sexuality, I still struggle to match my outward presentation with how I feel on the inside. My desire to change up my aesthetic came from wanting to feel more like me, while still existing in the world without people questioning my identity as much.
How did it feel to get such a dramatic haircut?
Even though I wanted to rid myself of my attachment to my hair and switch up the different ways I could present myself, part of me was scared that I’d just feel straight-up ugly without longer hair.
I was shocked how calm I was on the day of the Big Chop. Shoutout to Wes Sharpton from Hairstory who understood exactly what I was looking for, and then made it look even better than I could have ever imagined. (Wes gets me.)
I’m feeling pretty damn good right now. I know a lot of people who cut off their hair say this, but I honestly feel liberated. I’m more confident now than I was a week ago, and that’s because of how the haircut looks — and also because of how it makes me feel: free. I feel free to express whatever version of myself wants to make an appearance, feminine or not.
I didn’t explicitly tell my family I was cutting my hair beforehand, so they were a little shocked, but overall supportive. My friends, on the other hand, have been low-key freaking out about it all week. It’s pretty funny and so, so nice. My big reveal on Instagram got the most likes I’ve ever gotten on a photo so, like, I’d say people are pretty into it?
How did it feel to be styled in outfits that aren’t stereotypically feminine?
Even though I’m the most awkward human ever and have never modeled anything before in my life, I still felt pretty comfortable in all the outfits. They let me experience a previously unexplored, less-feminine side of myself.
Although the “sleepy robot outfit” (my personal description of the pajama look) was a close second, my absolute favorite outfit was the Canadian tuxedo under that amazing blanket of a coat. It was out of my comfort zone from top to bottom, but also everything I’ve ever wanted in an outfit. I’ve never felt so dapper! Also, can we talk about those sparkly rainbow socks? Yes, please.
I 100% want to recreate the feel of all of these looks moving forward. Suiting up — whether it’s in a plaid blazer, Canadian tuxedo or set of luxe pajamas — is now my favorite sartorial fantasy.
How has this experience changed the way you think about yourself and your style?
Okay, stick with me here, but right after I got the haircut, I quickly found myself over-compensating by dressing in overtly feminine clothes, even though I love my new hair! It’s clear that I’m still unlearning all these false beliefs about what makes me attractive and to whom. The Man Repeller shoot knocked some sense into me, though. I think I can force myself to be more chill about the way I dress moving forward. Isn’t everyone’s goal to stop caring what other people think and dress purely for yourself? I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping this experience is a big step toward total effortlessness and fluidity.
If anyone else out there is struggling with the things I’ve talked about, just know that I FEEL YOU and you’re not alone. Sexuality and self-expression are complicated, but the most important thing is that you feel good and feel like yourself.