• Alexander Mays

Keep Left!

Updated: Apr 11

“Keep Left!”—screamed the woman as she came to an abrupt halt in front of me as we met. A connection at the Bank Underground Station includes a long walk through a wide corridor with two rows of commuters on both sides. We saw each other from a distance and I noted how she walked with the same tenacity as I did, as we met both of us refused to move. After glancing over my shoulder, I saw no one, and with my surprise I stepped aside and continued down the hall…ignoring the incident.

I am confident that if the situation was reversed, she would not have moved.

Although I don’t know what inspired her rush, the yoga mat under her armpit and the reusable water bottle implied a fitness class.

I wondered what had motivated her anger towards a complete stranger, but considering the recent disappearance of Sarah Everard, the topic of female harassment has resurfaced in the UK.

In case you were wondering Sarah Everard was—white.

As a queer person of color, fashion is central to my identity. Everyday I connect with imagery and try to reinterpret it. Bringing the images to life through what I wear and choosing clothes that not only fit my figure, but also my personality.

During my commute, I was wearing a white t-shirt, black sweatpants and a brown suede jacket, and I had dyed the tips of my hair a shade of dark blue, a monthly habit of changing my hair color. I did not wake up that morning with the intention to impress anyone and especially not her.

Nonetheless— an impression was clearly made.

Was it my clothing, my demeanor or my transparency that inspired such aggression from this white woman that I had never met before? Was my swagger at odds with her chakras?

This season D&G’s fall collection explored a new take on glamor through bright chromatic color, strands of necklaces and turquoise hair, referencing Boy George and the ‘New Romantics’ of the 1980’s.

In summary, the show reimagined a style for my generation from generations past and has gotten me excited for life post Lockdown.

If I was decked out in Dolce, would this even have happened, or would the pronounced distinction between our class, taste and orientation have led to a completely different encounter?

Queer subculture has historically opposed the binary politics of feminism due to the wide range of identities and orientations that queerness encompasses, whereas feminism seeks to only support the agenda of the white woman, disregarding minority groups.

Carrie Bradshaw was not queer, brown and we can all agree that she was not black—nor were her friends.

L. Negrin, the author of Feminism and Fashion details how up until the 80’s the predominant attitude toward fashion was generally hostile, as fashion was viewed as an oppressive cultural construct.

Feminist Androgyny and Anti-Style, the chapter from Adam Geczy and Vicki Karaminas book Queer Style challenges the traditional feminist argument where the feminists believed that in order to achieve equality, societal differences must be eradicated.

This queer would disagree.

In 2021 when gender practices are being questioned everyday in the subway, the media and on the runway, and discussions about diversity and inclusion have become a daily practice…have we encouraged the angry white woman?

The fact that people don’t seem to realize how their behavior in public supports century old systems of division that target marginalized groups; yet also want to sit and binge-watch RuPaul’s Drag Race while waiting for a Deliveroo, unaware of the black and brown queer culture that the show hails from is the main problem.

The enjoyment afforded by fashion cannot be considered independent of the social context with which it occurs”—continues Negrin

D&G is a luxury label that has bridged the gap between sex appeal and elegance since 1985, drawing on a wide range of cultural references supporting their aesthetic.

The recent menswear collection sent a strong message of gender fluidity, showcasing an opulent display of non-conformity. Bold fashion statements complete with yellow eyeshadow and strands of necklaces, upstaged by a fur coat in a striking hue of magenta, attempting to bridge the gap between mainstream and subculture.

Ironically, only 25% of the modelling industry currently employ queer models according to a 2019 BoF article introducing the 6 queer models of the industry—only two which were of color.

Robert Cordero, the articles author also implied that queer models are only cast when their identity suits the designer.

The 14 Stunning Models to Follow on Instagram from Out Magazine lists a series of models (mainly white) that have all been scrutinized to accommodate the Aryan gaze.

Even though D&G’s show aimed at targeting youth culture, their clientele is obvious, and their price tags are undoubtedly exclusive.

With that in mind, are white women ready to fully embrace the trends that people choose to exhibit on the subway, thanks to a gender fluid runway?

“I think sometimes we have a fear of creating our own spaces because people push back against black and brown folks.”

Says Ajamu X, a pioneer for black queerness in the UK after being interviewed for Dazed last month.

What does this type of encounter mean for young people that want to recreate looks from a brand that tokenizes people of color?

I doubt that anyone has the answer, although I wonder if queer fashion will continue to be commercialized?

…but a more urgent question, did she make it to class in time for that downward dog?

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