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A transmasc guide to clothing

If you are a trans man, or identify as nonbinary, transmasc, or gnc, you’ve likely struggled to find clothing that fits. The reason is simple: all fashion companies use fit patterns and sizing gradients based off of cisgendered bodies. Some of these companies might try to come across as more inclusive by throwing a trans model into a photoshoot or branding a hoody as ‘gender neutral’, but none of us are fooled: we still find ourselves in front of the mirror, the garments bunching in the wrong places and hanging off in the wrong places, filled yet again with that rush of sadness and shame and anger.

So what should you do, if you’re enby/transmasc/gnc, and looking for a t shirt, or a pair of pants, or swimwear? First, you need to know what to look for. At Both&, we gathered data from thousands of people in the community to inform our product development. We wanted to know what people struggle with most, what they wish existed, and what tricks they’ve found to help alleviate dysphoria and elevate euphoria in the shopping experience.

Today, we’re going to share everything we’ve learned with you. Enjoy!

The base principles

If you’re AFAB and masc presenting, the design challenge is primarily based around proportions and key dysphoric triggers, such as the hips. Here’s a simple sketch to illustrate what I mean:

Transmasc fit and sizing system

On the left, we see a cisgender man and the points on his body that fashion uses as key measurements. On the right we see a cisgendered woman, with those same key areas indicated. The problem for the person in the center is twofold:

  1. Our proportions are often a mix and match between the two (if you are medically transitioning then your muscle and fat distribution changes, but your bone structure doesn’t), and
  2. It’s impossible to find our desired silhouette or shape created by the clothing, because that shape is only made to accommodate cis male proportions. (Think about that perfect muscle tee you once found, which was way too long, or the pants that fit perfectly in the calf and lower thigh, but which you can’t get past your butt and hips).

If we were to boil down our thousands of data points to the most consistent takeaway it’s this: people in our community need masc clothing that is less long and has more proportional room around the hips.

How fit impacts style

One of the interesting side effects of the principle I listed above is that our limitation around fit has had a huge (unintentional) impact on style. This is perhaps best told through a story from early on in my research.

I was interviewing a nonbinary-identified person in London, who we will call G. G has an amazing, eclectic style that draws on streetwear culture as well as elements of punk, sprinkled with victorian accessories (yup, you read that correctly). But across the board, there is one principle that is true of all their clothing: it’s baggy. I asked G whether that was an intentional choice, or whether that was a by product of fit. In other words, did they WANT baggy clothing, or was baggy clothing the only style available that wouldn’t trigger dysphoria.

Their answer? “Wow. I hadn’t ever really thought of it that way, because yeah, the only clothing that feels okay on my body is clothing that isn’t too tight around the hips or chest.”

This conversation confirmed a hypothesis that I had begun my research with: Fit is prior to style as a decision making factor in our shopping experience. Yes, we may love the style of a given button down or pair of pants, but before we can even entertain style, we have to fit through the pinhole limitation of fit. And unfortunately, there’s very little on the other side.

Some data-backed recommendations:

If you want clothing that has been made in a new fit and sizing system based on our community’s data and proportions, you can explore our collections here.

If you would like to have some takeaways of what to look for in other brands, here’s a list:

Do:

  • Look for t-shirts that have a boxy shape. In general with shirts you want to aim for a square rather than a rectangle. This will increase the likelihood that the shirt has enough room around your hips, and isn’t too long.
  • With pants, you’re better off with a straight leg. The reality is that to get your pants to fit your hips, there’s a 99% chance they will be too long. This will force you to cuff them. On pants that taper, this can create an awkward visual—better to keep it straight legged throughout if cuffing is necessary.
    • Some folks have found success with utility style pants, specifically from Carhartt.
    • To see how we’ve altered proportions and design elements to make a transmasc pant fit, click here.
  • For button ups, you’re looking for a few things:
    • Be careful of patterns that have sleeves that are way too long, and have a thick cuff (which makes rolling them up more awkward). In general, plaid style button ups made for cis man have a boxier shape, and fit our bodies better.
    • Check the length of the shirt. Unfortunately many button up shirts are very long and rectangular (especially formal button ups) which triggers major dysphoria around the hips.
    • Button placement. If you are binding, you want a slightly different button pattern, ideally where the second button is slightly lower than where it usually sits, so you can have a bit of an opening at the chest without revealing the binder.
    • You can explore our first button up design and the elements we added here

The takeaway

  • Don’t trust branding, trust real product innovation. There’s nothing wrong with our bodies (despite what the fashion industry implicitly suggests). We simply have different needs and desires than cisgendered consumers, and this should be honored. Rather than fighting to fit into a system that doesn’t work for us, let’s build our own system.
  • If you continue to shop from cis fashion companies, look for clothing that is boxier. This is the least likely to trigger dysphoria. Some brands that other folks in the community have found to work in the past are: Uniqlo, Asos, and Carharrt.
  • If you’d like to learn more about the world’s first transmasc fit and sizing system join our community through the email sign up in the footer. 

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