An Extravagant, Practical & Revolutionary Thing

From Huffington Post:


I didn’t own a suit until I was 25. In fact, I’d never even tried one on until I had one custom-made for my body. I knew immediately that it was the most extravagant thing I’d ever done for myself, and later I realized it was also the most practical and revolutionary thing I’d ever done for myself. It was extravagant because bespoke menswear from a tailor in Manhattan’s east ’50s needless to say comes at a cost (the kind of cost one puts on a credit card); practical because no off-the-rack suit will ever fit my (petite, queer, transmasculine) body; and revolutionary because not only did this suit revolutionize my relationship with formal menswear (which I anticipated), it revolutionized my relationship with myself.

I wore my suit for the first time on New Year’s Eve in 2010. I felt like the most self-possessed, at-ease, handsome version of myself that had ever existed, which was well-timed because it was also the first New Year’s Eve my girlfriend and I had spent together. I told her that I loved her on New Year’s Day, and while I’m not crediting worsted wool or a talented tailor for empowering me to express that sentiment, I will say that feeling like the most self-possessed, at ease, handsome version of myself didn’t hurt.

I used to feel a very specific feeling of dread whenever I was invited to formal occasions. That feeling of dread was replaced by new feelings. Feelings like I-can’t-wait-for-someone-to-get-married!, which despite being a romantic I’ll admit was completely unprecedented. And despite my reputation for being a bad-but-joyful dancer, I never danced at a wedding (unless I was awkwardly coerced to do so) until I owned this suit. If this sounds like an ode to my first suit, it’s because it is one.

After feeling all the feelings I’ve described above for approximately a year and a half, I stumbled upon some photographs of drag king Murray Hill in campy, perfectly tailored suits and found out Bindle & Keep, a bespoke menswear company based here in New York City had made them. I contacted Daniel Friedman, the owner, telling him that I wished to apprentice with him, and were I ever to have my own clients, I wanted them to be from my community. I wanted to play a role in transforming that feeling of dread into something healthy. Healthy and handsome. Last summer I started a tumblr. called The Handsome Butch and wrote the words “you have the right to be handsome” as a reminder to folks navigating the masculine landscape who don’t feel welcome there. That was what I’d call Handsome Butch preaching, and now that I’m working as a queer clothier, I believe I’m practicing.

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