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Attire: Importance of a Tailor

One of the most common complaints about attire that I hear from the Trans-masculine community is the inability to find clothes that fit right. When we find a shirt that fits right in the hips, and chest, the shoulders are too big or the sleeves are too long. Pants that fit in the waist are often too long in the legs. The problems are endless, and vary widely, depending on your body type.

True, these problems are highly individualized, depending not only on your body type, but on your decisions or journey in transitioning (pre-T, no-T, 1 year on T, pre-op, non-op, etc) as well. However, there is one word that I think any gentleman, no matter their gender identity or journey, should know: “tailor.”

Over the years, I’ve had a number of garments tailored: button-down shirts, jackets, suits, pants, and more. A well-tailored garment makes a noticeable difference: it appears more fitted, stylized and professional. Often, shirts or pants that are not tailored appear too baggy or tight, and distract the eye.  Simply put, a tailored garment can add polish to your wardrobe.

So, I wanted to address the importance of a tailor, including: finding a tailor, what to expect in a tailor, and, as always, considerations for transmen.

Finding a tailor

Obviously, this is the first step in getting your clothing tailored. Like a barber, I would advise you to first talk to the community. If you know transmen in the area, ask if they have a tailor recommendation. If that’s not an option, think about people you trust and/ or those who look like they may know a tailor: friends, co-workers, colleagues, even a teacher or professor.

When asking for a recommendation, don’t just ask for a name/location; ask why this person recommends that tailor. Are they LGBT friendly, do they have good prices, fast turn-around, or is it just someone that this person has been going to for years and never thought to change? If you’re asking someone whom you are out to, ask them if they think this tailor would make you feel comfortable.

If you can’t find a recommendation, I have found that Yelp.com is helpful. The site has a lot of reviews, however there are more reviews in “metropolitan” areas. It’s good to see what people have to say, the good and the bad. Also, try reaching out to your online communities (TQNation.com, Tumblr sites, susans.org, livejournal.com, selfmademen.com, etc), to see if anyone has a recommendation for your area.

Another important note: if you’re going to a tailor for the first time, bring in only one item, preferably a “stand-by” shirt or pair of pants. That way, you don’t risk sacrificing an entire wardrobe to a bad tailor or experience.

If you’re looking to save some money, and looking for something simple (a hem, or other easy fix), see if a family member or friend sews. You might be surprised to learn who can help you with a quick fix! For the more complicated things – a jacket or suit tailored, taking in a shirt, etc – I would say stick to the pros. But, for the “small stuff” a friend or family member may be a cheaper and even quicker help.

What to Do and Expect When Going to a Tailor

Of course, what a tailor does will depend on what you need: having a suit custom made/tailored involves a lot more than a simple hem on a pant leg. For now, I’ll talk about the simple stuff – but I plan to write a more detailed post in the future about suit shopping/tailoring (so stay tuned for that).

Obviously, bring the clothing item to be tailored, and explain, first, what you’re looking for: explain what DOESN’T work about the item of clothing as clearly as possible. A quick note about the garment itself: wash the item before you bring it to the tailor. We all know, washing an item, especially for the first time, changes various elements; so run it through the wash first. Plus, if this is something you’ve had for a little while, do you really want a tailor to handle your dirty laundry?

The tailor will ask you to put the item of clothing on, so they can assess the situation for themselves. Here, it is important to replicate, as accurately as possible, the average way you will wear the garment. For instance, if you plan to wear a pair of pants with dress shoes, don’t try them on with sneakers. Bring in the shoes (or type of shoe) you plan to wear the pants with. Do this with a shirt or jacket, as well. If you plan to wear the shirt under a particular blazer, bring in the blazer; or if you plan to wear the shirt tucked in, tuck it in when the tailor is looking at it (they may ask you to un-tuck it at some point, but you should show them how you plan to wear it). You want this garment to work for you, and how you want, so help the tailor out, by being prepared.

As many of us know, tailors get pretty “up close and personal” in many respects. It can be a little unnerving, but remember, they’re NOT doing this to embarrass you, they’re doing this to make sure you get the best fit possible. Just relax, because, if they’re good at their job, you’re going to look great. The tailor will take a variety of measurements, depending on what you’re having altered. While they’re measuring, stand as naturally as possible. If you “suck in” any gut, for instance, then your garment will fit your “sucked-in” measurements. So stand naturally, and the item will fit you well, all around.

Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Just like a haircut, the tailor isn’t doing their job right unless you’re happy. So, if they pin a hem that looks too short or too long, say so. If it feels like they’re trying to make the pants tighter than you want, say something. As I said before, make sure you explain what you want to achieve with the garment: if you want the pants to stay loose in the leg, or the shirt to be tighter in the shoulders, that’s fine, but you need to tell the tailor. They can’t read minds! But also be aware, they may explain something to you that you hadn’t thought about. So be open to their opinion – they are the professional. Have a conversation with them about what you’re looking for, and what they think.

What to bring to your Tailor

Not all garments can benefit from the magic of a tailor. If something is WAY too small, for instance, no tailor will be able to salvage it. Here is a list of things that I generally bring to a tailor, and for what (mind you, there are other options, these are just my most common):

Pants: Generally I look for pants that fit well everywhere else, and go to a tailor for the hem. However, some pants can be boxy in the leg, and so I will have the leg taken in as well. For instance, I had one pair of pants fit great everywhere else, but for some reason, the thighs of the pants were HUGE. I wanted to get that taken care of. It doesn’t help if it looks like your pants have wings. (Take a look at the picture, the pants should look natural from hip to shoe).

Also, if you’re like me, you have that one pair of jeans or pants that you just love: they’re broken in, and they work in every way possible. Sadly, that fateful day comes when a hole appears; but don’t fret! A tailor may be able to patch that! Don’t toss out the perfect pants for just a hole, take it to a tailor and see what can be done!

Shirts: These benefit the most from tailoring. Maybe I have a weird body type, but finding the right fit in shirts, is nearly impossible. The sleeves are always too long, or shoulders too big. Luckily, those are things a tailor can address. I try to err on the side of caution, and get something that fits well, but is maybe a little too big or too long in some areas. Generally, I try to buy shirts that fit well in the neck and collar, but get the sleeves and shoulder tailored.

You can also get the entire body of the shirt tailored, but keep in mind that this will limit any growth (good or bad). I like to keep a shirt relaxed, but not overly loose.

Considerations for Transmen

Remember what I was saying about replicating how you wear the garment for the tailor? This is especially true for us transguys. For instance, if you pack regularly, then pack (with the same packer) when you go to a tailor. If you bind, then make sure you bind the same way, with the same or similar binder, at the tailor.

A note about packing: if you’re getting pants tailored, the tailor will ask you which side you “dress to,” or if you “dress right or left.” This means which side you let it hang. Be prepared to answer this question (preferably without stumbling). Also, personally, I don’t pack on a frequent basis, but I may wear an extra small packer to the tailor just to avoid any confusion. I know this breaks my rule about “replication;” however, it’s personally important to me to avoid any awkward gender situations. Since a tailor will be “up close and personal,” I would rather be extra prepared for any confusion, than caught with my pants down, figuratively speaking. I find that a small packer doesn’t change the fit of the finished product, so it’s worth it for me. You may have a different experience, but this is just my opinion. (and watch out for Joey’s Tailor….)

Also, having recently had top surgery, I have found that I need to take a trip to the tailor, as my shirts are fitting differently, since surgery. So, for those of you who have surgery scheduled in the near future, be aware, a trip to the tailor may, also, be in your future.

Lastly, for those who are just starting T, or still new to T, you may find that your body shape is changing. I know several guys had to go out and buy a new wardrobe, typically in a smaller size, approximately one year (or less) after starting T. If you’re on a tight budget, a tailor may be a better solution to this problem! Getting the waist taken in or shirt body trimmed down will be cheaper than buying all new pants and shirts.

I realize that this is a lengthy post, but I think a good tailor can really give a polished look to your wardrobe. If you have any specific questions or comments, please post them!

Thanks for reading, and, as always…

Cheers – Mason

Viewpoints: Dealing with Ignorance or Bias

In a recent post I wrote briefly about the fact that, sadly, many trans* people face discrimination, or bias on a regular basis. We all have different ways of handling these incidents: from internalization or quiet protest, to confrontation or outright rage. Over the years, I’ve thought a great deal about how to address these situations in the most polite, yet effective ways possible. I thought I would put my thoughts here, in the hopes that they may help someone. Please note (of course), that these are only my thoughts and my ways to address situations: they may not be right for everyone. These methods and thoughts are my own, and suit my communication style. By no means do I believe that these thoughts will help everyone, in every situation. If you have other methods, or thoughts, please feel free to post them below.

As always, I welcome all questions, thoughts and (polite) discussion.

The situations

Encounters with discrimination or bias vary widely across identities, locales, and individuals. Some situations of discrimination are blatant, whereas others are subtle or hidden; some occur on a frequent basis, others sporadically. It’s important to gauge the situation on an individual basis. For instance, how you deal with a teacher who refuses to use correct pronouns in every class is very different than how you may address a distant family member you see twice a year. When thinking about confronting someone about their bias against trans* identities, consider the situation: what will potential ramifications be, when and where can you address them, what communication styles are best, etc? Of course I can’t write on every possible scenario, and how to address it – I can’t even fathom every scenario – but it is important to consider it when approaching confrontation.

Stay Calm

In many situations, the bias or discrimination may catch you off base, and it is frequently infuriating. But try to stay calm. Take a few deep breathes, and mentally or physically remove yourself from the situation, even if momentarily, before you respond. Give yourself time to collect your thoughts. In the past, I have responded to situations in the heat of the moment – every time I have regretted it. I spoke without thinking, and was hardly articulate in my responses. I would advise to avoid speaking without thinking first. Retain your calmness, think, and then speak.

It’s What you Say AND How you Say it

Don’t speak with anger or defensiveness. Of course, I recognize that this is easier said than done. The way I had it explained to me is “if you speak defensively, you show your opponents that you have something to be defensive about.” You should never have to defend your identity. Speak with conviction, in calm, even tones, without defensiveness.

Avoid swearing (again, easier said than done). Swearing doesn’t help your position, or prove you any more passionate about your opinion. You can convey the same opinion without dropping any swear words.

Avoid sweeping generalizations: your opinion or experience with trans* identities may not be true for everyone in the community. Just as you may not agree with every trans* person, not every trans* person may agree with you. Use words and phrases such as “In my experience,” “In my opinion,” “I feel,” “I believe,” “I think,” etc. If appropriate, you may want to add a statement that explains trans* people, like all people in any community, may differ in their opinions on the matter.

Don’t focus only on the bad, and remember the good. The tragedy of many trans* lives are a common element in our narratives: the hate crimes, discrimination, violence, etc. But all of us have some good in our lives. Personally, I try to assert the bad, but celebrate, and if possible, highlight, the good elements of my life and identity. This shows our opponents that not everything in the trans* community is horrible or terrifying. When we focus only on the bad, we leave others around us feeling like everything in the trans* community is about hatred and anger. When, there are some amazing things in each of our lives, and good things are happening! If anything, I think it’s good to remind people that you are proud of your journey and/or identity. And you should be proud….don’t forget that!

Be prepared. Many of us know, before walking into a room or event, that we will likely be facing some questions, comments or outright disagreement. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Before walking into these situations, take some time to think about how you may want to address the issues. Maybe write something out, or talk it over with a friend, Sig-O or trusted family member. As silly as it may seem, try role playing, to prepare yourself. It may feel awkward at the time, but if something happens, the benefits of your preparation will be readily apparent. As always, it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

Think about language. Terms like “cis-gender privilege,” “non-op,” “SRS,” etc. are common within the trans* community. We hear/see them on a regular basis. But for those not in the trans* community, these terms are completely new and unknown. So think about language when addressing someone. Use language that they will understand, because then they will understand your message that much better. If you have the time and energy, you can educate a little about these terms (“…for someone who is not transgender, cis-gender, that may not be true. Cis-gender is the term used to define someone who is not transgender…”). If you’re not interested in education, than use the language that will be best understood by the person you are talking to.

Don’t be afraid to remove yourself from the situation. If the conversation is getting too heated, or you are feeling threatened, unheard or increasingly insulted, sometimes you just need to walk away. That’s ok. Politely state that you are uncomfortable, you have somewhere else to be, or that you can discuss this another time – whatever you need to say to defuse the situation and get out of there. Some people are firmly entrenched in their ideas, and sadly, no amount of conversation is going to change that. There is no shame in recognizing that, and saving yourself the heartache of fruitless bickering.

You have the right not be questioned. Disclosing your trans* identity, or coming out as trans* does not mean that everyone else has the right to ask personal questions about your health, medical procedures or sexual orientation. If someone is getting too personal, I like to say something along the lines of: “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel comfortable answering very personal questions about my body or relationship status. I would never dream of asking you questions like these, and I respectfully ask you to honor that same etiquette.” It’s hard to argue with words like “honor,” “respectfully” and “etiquette.” Once again, language is important, so rather than saying, “bug off,” I like to phrase this retort carefully, with an eye towards civility.

Weigh your options. Some people prefer to address negative comments or ignorance on their own terms. If someone says something that hurts you, you can choose to address the matter then and there, or, conversely, write them a note and deliver it later. If you don’t like confrontation, this may be a good option. Plus, it gives you time to word things carefully, run it by others, and think about what you want to say. Of course, this only applies to some situations, but it is a helpful option. Be aware, however, that sending a note may distill the message. The person you are addressing may forget the situation or comment they made, or take it less seriously because you waited to address it. However, as I said, this is an option that may be helpful for some.

Considerations for Transmen

This was a pretty trans*-centered post, so I have very little to put in my “considerations for transmen.” However, I would like to address one matter that I have been faced with, related to this topic. In one situation, I confronted someone about their derogatory use of the word “tranny,” and explained, calmly, why some people in the trans* community would see this as hurtful (personally I don’t like the word, and choose not to use it; I understand others in the trans* community defend it’s use, but that is another topic for another day). Nevertheless, the person I addressed stated that I was clearly experiencing “testosterone-induced anger,” and I should consider lowering my dosage. Often, transmen who are on T are faced with this attempt to discredit our disagreements – people point to testosterone as the source of our “unreasonableness.” As stated above, in these situations it’s important to remain calm and polite. You won’t help the matter by raising your voice or getting angry. Personally, I politely explained that my dosage was carefully managed by my doctor, who is amply qualified to do so, and that I was simply expressing my views and disagreement on the matter at hand. Then, seeing that I was wandering into the region of fruitless argument, I excused myself, but expressed that, if they wanted to discuss the matter later, I was more than happy to do so.

You may handle this situation, and the others discussed above differently. As I said before, these are just my thoughts on how to handle bias or ignorance in everyday life. As always, I welcome any conversation and polite discussion on the matter. Thanks for reading!

Cheers – Mason

Attire: Belts or Suspenders

After a brief pause in writing, due to midterms, we’re back!

So, you’re suited up, looking sharp for a day at work, or a night on the town: but how to keep those pants up? A belt or suspenders? Good question, and the answer depends on a variety of factors, such as the event type, time, attire, and  your general style.

First a few quick notes:

  1. A belt and suspenders should never be worn at the same time. There’s an old saying: “he’s a belt and suspenders kind of guy.”  Meaning, a man is so paranoid that his belt will fail, that he wears suspenders, just in case. It speaks of a man who refuses to take risks, for fear of embarrassment or exposure. It’s not a flattering metaphor, and an image you want to avoid.
  2. A lawyer once told me that if you’re going to wear suspenders, don’t do so with pants that have belt loops. The loops draw an observer’s eye, and it is more obvious that you’re not wearing a belt. So, if you’re going to do suspenders, have a tailor remove the belt loops. This isn’t true at all times: for instance, if you’re not going to take off your jacket, no one will see belt loops. However, if you’re going to make suspenders a regular part of your suit, you may want to remove those loops.
  3. No matter which you choose, belt or suspenders, make sure they match. Make sure your belt matches your shoes. With suspenders, make sure the leather ends (where they attach to your pants), match your shoes. Also, with suspenders, make sure the color matches your tie, shirt, or other color you’re wearing.

Now, which to wear? Generally for professional events (work, interview, career-related cocktail party or networking function), I would suggest a belt. Unless you’re over 40 years old, suspenders may look out of place. The belt is more appropriate for these types of events. That being said, if you’ve got the suit for it, and the sense of style – do it! I’m all for bringing back suspenders.

But suspenders can be worn in other places. When attending events where you can play with fashion, rock those suspenders, if you so wish: weddings, formal or semi-formal social events. Not only that, as you can see in some of these photos, suspenders can be worn in casual attire as well, for the truly dapper look (or Larry King – if that’s you’re style).

There are two types of suspenders: formal and working. Formal suspenders have button holes and attach to buttons inside your pants. Formal suspenders will need pants with suspender buttons (which can be sewn in by a tailor). These suspenders are appropriate for formal or professional wear. The ends of formal suspenders are shaped like a “Y” and made of leather (that should match your shoes, as previously mentioned). Working suspenders have clips (or alligator claws), which can be attached to the waistband of your pants. Working suspenders are appropriate for semi-formal or casual wear.

No matter how you decide to wear them, I say wear them with pride! Suspenders are a dapper, fashion forward accessory that I wish were more common. Help me out guys, and bring them back!

Considerations for Transmen

One downside for transmen with suspenders: if you haven’t had top surgery, suspenders may accentuate your chest. If that is a concern for you, I suggest sticking to belts for now. Also, suspenders come in a variety of colors and patterns. If you don’t want to accentuate your chest, stick to solid colors; patterns will draw attention and highlight any swell in your chest. Lastly, if you’re not very broad in the shoulders, make sure to get thinner suspenders, as opposed to the thicker width.

Thanks for reading everyone! Now that midterms are over, I’ll be posting more often. And please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Cheers – Mason

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