Oct 8, 2023
The best androgynous clothing for non binary and trans men
How do you decide what looks androgynous? For instance, of the three images below, which strikes you as the most androgynous?
The word androgynous comes from Greek, literally combining the word andros (man) with the word gyne (woman). Its definition has varied throughout time but has always had the same core sense of combining both male and female. It has been used both in a medical sense (hermaphrodite) but more commonly in one’s presentation through clothing, accessories, and self-styling. In turn, fashion, or how one self-styles, has a huge impact on presentation and perception of gender. In other words, the term ‘androgynous’ has a deep connection to identity, and how one wants to be read in the world.
What’s exciting about the world of androgynous fashion is that it is a vast space. Think about it–there are so many (and sometimes conflicting) definitions and perceptions of what masculinity or femininity look like. Then, when you mix them, the possibilities become even more vast.
In this article, we are going to briefly explore the history of androgynous fashion, and then we will showcase some of the different options that are available. We promise to leave you more informed than overwhelmed—there’s a lot out there, but we are here to help you navigate it!
A brief history of
The history of androgynous fashion is fascinating, and we don’t have the time here (nor the expertise) to do it justice. However, there are a few key facts about it that we would like to point out.
- To deem clothing as androgynous is always an ‘accident’ of the times. Because gender is constantly constructed and reconstructed by different cultures at different points in history, what appears as androgynous will always depend on what is the ‘norm.’ In this sense, androgynous fashion could be understood as the negative space in a picture: it always exists in contrast, but what it is in contrast to always shifts.
- Some of the earliest records we have that explicitly discuss androgynous fashion can be found in 17th century England and France, when the aristocracy intentionally engaged in a kind of ‘cross dressing’ so as to stand apart from lower classes. (This is a fun fact to wield in debates today!)
- In the 18th and 19th century, with the rise of the industrial revolution and manufacturing of uniforms for the world wars, and then the subsequent requirement for women who joined the services as spies or in other roles to wear uniforms, androgynous fashion became (in certain arenas) more mainstream. However, this was more the case for cisgender women than for men. We can see evidence of this imbalance in the relics of words like ‘tomboy’ when there is no equivalent for someone who was assigned male at birth and chose to wear girl’s clothing without there being subsequent assumptions around sexual orientation.
Androgynous fashion in the late 20th century has gone through ups and downs in terms of visibility in mainstream culture. Today, there is an explosion of visibility, awareness, and interest in gender non conforming identities, from gender queer to non binary to transmasc to trans (naming just a few). For all of these people, cisgender fashion poses problems. It poses problems in terms of accurate self representation, and also in terms of fit.
In the next section, we are going to explore some of the top brands serving the gender non conforming community, highlighting what they focus on and what you should go to them for.
The top brands in
As a note before we list the following brands, we want to note that this article is focusing on brands that serve folks on the masc presenting side of the spectrum. That is, these brands cater to anyone who is AFAB but identifies and presents with elements of masculinity.
Urbodyco is a “brand for the human being” that creates high quality functional essentials. Known for their compression shorts and tops and their clean, welcoming and androgynous aesthetic. They serve nonbinary, trans, and gender non conforming consumers.
Go to Urbodyco for: gender affirming undergarments (binders, gaffs, compression shorts) that help gender diverse folks feel good.
Ella Boucht is an up and coming label that plays on queer history and representation, specifically with butch inspired resonances. It is the brainchild of Ella Boucht, a Finnish designer who is interested in interweaving queer history into the products they design.
Go to Ella Boucht for: one of a kind butch-inspired vests and leatherwork, made in micro drop quantities.
Kirrin Finch has been around since 2015, making ‘masculine inspired clothing,’ with a speciality in formalwear. They use high quality fabrics to make dress shirts, suits, and slacks that are very popular in the lesbian, queer, and gender non conforming communities.
Go to Kirrin Finch for: androgynous and masculine dress wear that will fit AFAB bodies.
Ijji is a genderless clothing label that focuses on slow fashion, with bespoke, high quality garments. It is named after a Japanese word that means ‘any loose fitting drawstring pant.’ Ijji fits into both the category of gender neutral, in the sense that it creates boxier fits that are made with the intention to work on both men and women, and also in the gender fluid category, in the sense that the clothing is clearly meant to be paired with a wide spectrum of other clothing.
Go to Ijji for: high quality fabrics in boxier fits for the classic, Japanese unisex style.
Both& is the first company to build a new fit and sizing system for people who were assigned female at birth and specifically want a more masculine silhouette in their clothing. They have altered the proportions of their clothing to solve the biggest complaints in the masc of center community to create a fit that emphasizes muscle, minimizes cling, and comes in the right proportions of length to width.
Go to Both& for: high quality, long lasting garments that create a masculine silhouette for anyone who is AFAB and masc of center.
As we said at the beginning of the article, what is so cool about androgynous fashion is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. Androgynous fashion is invitation to play, to turn gender into a big mixing bowl and find a recipe that feels right for you. Some people want their body (shape, hair, fingernails, etc.) to represent one side of their gender, with the clothing swinging far in the other direction. Other people want both their body and their clothing to present as somewhere in the middle. One person we interviewed said that their gender identity was literally, “to force people to do a double take.”
Whatever your flavor is, we recommend that you try out different paths. Play with base layers of clothing that feel comfortable on your body, then accessorise or add makeup. Use social media and google to find inspiration from past and present gender-benders (there are so many out there). Try out pieces from the brands above, go thrifting, explore. Remember–there’s no wrong way to do it. The goal is for you to feel free and seen in your identity.