Patterson: LGBT inspired fashion crosses into mainstream

Patterson discusses the existence of gay style while introducing readers to her favorite game.

Sara PattersonThere’s a talent that some lucky homosexuals have. Some are born with it. Some have to struggle and develop it after years of hard work. It’s a talent that one can use in all facets of life, from making friends to getting ahead at work to meeting someone special. It’s called “gaydar.” Gaydar, as some of you may know, is the ability to spot another gay person long before the first reference to Lady Gaga lyrics or “The L Word.”

For decades, people have been able to rely on a simple glance at hair or clothes to determine whether or not someone played for their team. A trend has emerged in the last few years, however, and it has put everyone’s gaydar on the fritz: hipsters.

Hipsters have ruined plenty of great things. We all know that. We have to drink PBR at parties even though nobody likes it. Sorry, photojournalism majors, but the time and money you’ve spent on a college education will be for naught because Instagram just released a brand new filter. Everyone assumes my thick black-framed glasses are fake, when really I picked out these frames when I was 14 years old and they are very necessary for my astigmatism and extreme near-sightedness. But now, hipsters have ruined gaydar.

There’s a game that my friends and I like to play while at a party, hanging out around Main Campus or walking around the city. It’s a game that hones both your eye for fashion and your gaydar. I call it: “Gay or Hipster?”

As you see immaculately dressed people with alternative hairstyles, you try to figure out if they are gay or just a hipster. The premise may be simple enough, but it’s harder than it seems.

A boy wearing skinny jeans with a dress shirt, cardigan and bow tie?

A girl wearing combat boots, a flannel shirt and a slouchy beanie?

Two girls in sundresses having a picnic in Rittenhouse Square?

“Ellen DeGeneres and k.d. lang wore men’s suits long before it became cool to raid your grandfather’s closet.”

All of these could go either way. My friend, Jared Manders, is pretty confident in his gaydar, claiming to have 90 percent accuracy. He bases it mostly on physicality and mannerisms, although he couldn’t really tell you what those are exactly.

“I can’t really explain it,” Manders, a sophomore theater major, said. “There’s almost always a hint of gayness. I don’t want to say femininity because it’s not that. It’s just gay mannerisms.”

While style used to factor into it, Manders said that it no longer works since coming to Temple where, he said, “Everyone dresses hipster chic.”

The fact is hipster style is all about being just out of mainstream – which is something that gay people know quite a bit about. Hipster style is an evolution of gay style. We knew nothing about “manscaping” before “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” Tegan and Sara were rocking the mullets before that girl who works at the bike shop did while Ellen DeGeneres and k.d. lang wore men’s suits long before it became cool to raid your grandfather’s closet.

As hipster style encroaches on gay style, I have to ask: What exactly is “gay style”? Is there such a thing? The way we dress is our best way of expressing ourselves. The clothes we wear say a lot about where we’re from, how much money we have and what kind of music we listen to, but do they say anything about our sexual preference?

Now, there are dozens of subcultures in the LGBT community and they all have their own style, but I think overall, yes, our sexuality does affect how we present ourselves. I mean, how else would you explain the fact that at a fancy New Year’s Eve party all of my straight girl friends wore high heels and sparkly dresses while I wore oxford shoes, corduroy pants and a cardigan?

My favorite part of my lesbian style is the androgyny it allows. Being a part of the LGBT community, we’re already messing with established gender roles, so what’s the big deal if we wear men’s clothing? I feel absolutely zero need to conform to what our society considers “feminine.” I love that I have the freedom to play around with fashion without worrying about any stigma. I’m talking about dress shirts, suspenders, blazers – the whole nine yards. I rarely wear dresses, I wear men’s shoes and yet I still consider myself feminine. Plus, there’s the added bonus of being able to shop anywhere. While I was trying on men’s vests in Forever 21, my friend complained about how unfair it was that I could shop in any section of the store.

Although the LGBT community has put its own unique twist on fashion over the years, as we can see by “Gay or Hipster,” the new gay fashion gaming sensation that is sweeping the nation, it’s getting harder to differentiate gay from mainstream. Well, that’s because gay is becoming part of the mainstream. We can no longer use outdated and tired stereotypes to assume someone’s sexual orientation, at least not after junior high. A girl can have short hair without being a lesbian just like a man can wear a bow tie without being gay. We have metrosexuality. Lesbian chic was a serious trend at New York Fashion Week last year.

So, the next time you’re walking around campus or Rittenhouse Square trying your hand at “Gay or Hipster?” and you see a girl wearing a flannel shirt and Rachel Maddow-esque glasses with half of her head shaved, just remember: I’m a lesbian, not a hipster.

Sara Patterson can be reached at

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