The Fashion Agenda: The Micro-Aggressive Part-Time Job

 Banner by  Sid Champagne

Banner by Sid Champagne

Dear Queers and fine folks, thanks for gathering together again at The Fashion Agenda!

It’s tax season, meaning we’re taking on the work week, the hustle, the come-up, and how we work it. Who doesn’t love working 80+ hours every week to get their slice of the American pie! But, since we all gotta do it, why not talk about it? Sometimes it’s a pain, and sometimes what we wear at work even becomes a weekly topic of discussion.

So let’s talk about it, shall we?

The business casual standard is a great big lie. There’s nothing at all casual about working under capitalism.

At most jobs, there’s an expectation for heteronormative "casual" and, while it’s not necessarily harmful to have a professional expectation, it is a problem to have a gendered expectation.

I work in non-profit so I’m able to be liberal with my gender-bending presentation, though still business professional. I also work that crew-collegiate look - sweaters, oxfords the like. Personally, I save my bowties for queer spaces (my tiny act of resistance). In other spaces I’m a tee and jeans kinda person, and that’s all to say that work is so significant that our outfits and our choices in them really are as big a deal as we make them.

Here’s a good example:

 [Image description: photograph of a person, taken from below. The person is smiling, and is holding a white shaggy dog on the left side of the image.]  Photo credit Lyn

[Image description: photograph of a person, taken from below. The person is smiling, and is holding a white shaggy dog on the left side of the image.]

Photo credit Lyn

  • Lyn (she/her/they/them)

  • Work: full-time professional dog walking, part-time kenneling and dog training, community organizing for The Glossary DC

  • Professional Plug: Sassy Steps DC on Facebook

  • Workwear: outdoor/athletic, jeans and sneakers, hair covered or wrapped, new balance, Converse

It’s great owning a business for yourself (or with a partner) as Lyn does. She wears everything from jeans and shorts to tanks and sweats at work. Working in the outdoors and elements means Lyn’s work style is at the mercy of our temperamental seasons. So she meets the needs of her pack by dressing for function.

Luckily, Lyn’s learned to give sass while walking sometimes fifteen dogs at a time. Many folks assume from her work, and misgender her as male. It’s a lifestyle where Lyn and her partner are making strides five years in, and able to take time to pursue other interests like family and building community.

They’ve also learned to accessorize according to the specific job requirements - a great skill for those functional roles. With those long locs, pups won’t recognize her with hair down, and that can make them confused or anxious. All about business, Lyn wears her tied up or in a wrap at all times when at work.

Working outside the binary is a crucial sweet spot in American workforce. There are so many workplaces where people with locs or covered hair are met with disdain. Jobs like on-demand services and schedule savers help everyone get the bag. Your dog walker makes sure you can work the late shift, or pick up a friend or child or extra shift after work, and the co-worker with a wild fashion sense keeps the place from being too drab.

 [Image description: photograph taken from below of a person wearing a blue-grey button up shirt. The person has long locs, and is wearing sunglasses and a hat.]  Photo credit danieonthemove

[Image description: photograph taken from below of a person wearing a blue-grey button up shirt. The person has long locs, and is wearing sunglasses and a hat.]

Photo credit danieonthemove

 [Image description: photograph, taken from above, of a pair of red-pattered sneakers beneath the hem of baggy black joggers.]  Photo credit danieonthemove

[Image description: photograph, taken from above, of a pair of red-pattered sneakers beneath the hem of baggy black joggers.]

Photo credit danieonthemove

 [Image description: photograph of a pair of feet, soles flat against the back of a chair. The shoes are reddish-brown sneakers. The hem of a pair of tan pants is also visible.]  Photo credit danieonthemove

[Image description: photograph of a pair of feet, soles flat against the back of a chair. The shoes are reddish-brown sneakers. The hem of a pair of tan pants is also visible.]

Photo credit danieonthemove

  • Danie (she/hers)
  • Work: catering/food service and Rideshare
  • Workwear: versatile, jeans, sweats, tees, hats, custom pieces, Vans, cool jewelry
  • Instagram: danieonthemove

Danie is another queer folk of color working around DC. As a native Washingtonian, Danie’s had some experience working in Chocolate City before marriage equality - as a caterer, bartending, and now she’s added Rideshare to her side-hustle.

Danie’s one of the cool androgynous gays. There’s a real laid-back style about her, and when she’s got a rider there are some amazing sounds on her airwaves. Locs down seems to be the go-to for this queer of color. Respectability be damned.

And with that she’s unbothered, working in whichever environment suits her.  And either behind the wheel or behind the bar, she’s on the road as a serial concert/festival-goer in her spare time. With over 800 events to pick from across the US every summer, Danie makes the PT hustle her world, taking time between gigs to hear the ones she enjoys most.

Making friends, concert connections, once-in-a lifetime experiences and memories all on her own schedule is what keeps Danie’s nose to the grind. In the service industry there’s an expectation of emotional labor on top of the physical or service work - that makes nightlife and the fast life fun for wealthy, white patrons, but can be exhausting and haunting for queers of color.

Still - the custom kicks, and time to spend enjoying herself and meeting new folks, is the balance and reward.

 [Image description: photograph of two people in a barber shop. The person on the right is seated, facing away from the camera, and wearing a white barber cape. The person on the left is standing in profile, wearing a hat and glasses.]  Photo credit Mr. Cook

[Image description: photograph of two people in a barber shop. The person on the right is seated, facing away from the camera, and wearing a white barber cape. The person on the left is standing in profile, wearing a hat and glasses.]

Photo credit Mr. Cook

 [Image description: photograph of the same two people in a barber shop. The person on the left is seated, facing the camera, and wearing a white barber cape. The person standing behind them is cutting their hair with clippers.]  Photo credit Mr. Cook

[Image description: photograph of the same two people in a barber shop. The person on the left is seated, facing the camera, and wearing a white barber cape. The person standing behind them is cutting their hair with clippers.]

Photo credit Mr. Cook

  • Britnee Millner (she/hers)
  • Professional Plug: Le Nomadic Barber on Instagram
  • Work: barber, mechanic, AirBnB host, courier
  • Workwear: "barber uniform" (functional, all black), Chelsea boots, Stinson fedora

Other queers come to the work world with their own unique masterpieces.

Britnee Millner is probably the handiest queer of this month's column, and is quite the catch when it comes to the pursuit of survival in capitalist America.

Along with killer mechanic skills, Britnee handles a set of clippers as well as the curves of a motorcycle. You can get a cut either on-call or from her shop in Springfield. Cuts on campus are another way Britnee goes hard in the hustle. She gives clients cut, color and promising presentation. She sets clippers, and cleans and maintains pretty much anything with a motor.

As a barber, Britnee wears mostly black so the cut hairs won’t show on her clothing. But all black is a modern way to simplify any style. The all black profile is great because it's an easy high-end look that feels casual to the wearer and looks slick as ice to everyone else.

Give all black tux, give black jeans and tee, give leather. All black is always on.

For those of us who wear a uniform or branded work wear, there’s not many options for expression, but just add a black item and you will feel a level of refined that will most likely match anything.

Above all should be the pursuit of function, and I believe this a tenet of work clothes selection! We all like to be comfortable, and feel and look amazing. Our clothes and queer casual looks can do that in work environments where we have to survive in order to thrive!

What about you? What do you wear to work, and how are you rocking those dramatic ‘omGAY’ looks?


Eleadah Clack is an organizer and author of The World Without Racism. Eleadah is passionate about creating effective change and being a leader in her community. Follow her on Instagram.