5 Ways to Queer Any Outfit (Without Rainbows)

5 Ways to Queer Any Outfit (Without Rainbows)

Erin Gray

Erin Gray (Pronoun: she/her) is a Portland, OR based writer with an affinity for working behind the scenes with companies that offer something unique to their market. When she’s not writing, she likes to roam around mossy hiking trails, wear leather hats, and build stuff. You can find her on instagram @rawhidelaces or email her by clicking on the little envelope below:

It’s 2019 and gender-defying outfit or haircut just doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

Suits are for everyone. Jerseys and snapbacks are for everyone. Short haircuts are for everyone.

And as far as we’re concerned, that’s a beautiful thing.

But it does beg the question...

“What can I do, short of plastering myself with rainbows, to visibly signal that I’m queer?”

Maybe you don’t struggle with this - but I guarantee someone in your life does.

Whether it’s femmes who have been dealing with this since the dawn of gay (filed under: “femme invisibility”), folks on the softer side of butch, or peeps who are passing for dudes without even trying - it’s not uncommon to wish you could be better seen by your fellow queers.

It’s also not uncommon to enjoy adding a bit of visually interesting queerness to your outfit for your own personal satisfaction. You do you.

Before we go any further, let’s get something straight (pun intended): the only definitive way to figure someone’s identity out is simple - ask them.

But let’s be real: we all look for clues before taking that plunge.

So let’s talk about the clues that don’t involve getting a taper fade (unless you want one).

There are some subtle (and one not so subtle) ways to queer up any outfit, starting with...

#1 - The Traditional Way: Flagging 

You’ve probably heard of this one because it’s an old school classic that has survived the test of time.

Flagging’s origin is traced back to the 60’s and 70’s when gay and bisexual men would use a “hanky code” to signal their interests to each other before gay sex was legal.

It’s come a LONG way since then.

Today’s flagging incorporates the full spectrum of gender identities and it’s no longer just about searching for partners or various kinks - many queers flag on the daily just to represent their identities to the world.

There is a color in the hanky code for almost anything you can imagine.

Most of the major primary colors have universally agreed upon meanings, but it gets a little crazy when you factor in all the color shade variants, patterns, and materials besides the standard handkerchief.

A quick google search will help you find the right color for you, or you can get creative, pick a pattern or material not found on any of the numerous charts (good luck - there are a ton), and make up your own meaning!

For example, I could find a handkerchief with cat faces printed on it, and decide that flagging it in my back left pocket means “Cat Lover who owns a cat” and flagging it on the right would mean “Cat Lover who doesn’t own a cat”.

The nice thing about flagging is that the queer factor is assumed no matter what color/pattern you pick, and asking about the meaning is a great conversation starter!

“Cool hankie, are you flagging?”

“Why yes I am, thanks for noticing! I’m flagging Cat Lover on the right”

"Well boy do I have an exhaustive cat photo slideshow for you! (Pulls out phone)...”

So how can you get in on this?

The most obvious way to flag is the classic way, with a hanky in the back pocket:

Image Source: DapperQ

You can also use any number of hanky inspired accessories to flag, including:

Flagging Flowers for Femmes:

Image Source: KinkyCraft via Etsy

For dapper occasions, there’s Bandana Print Lapel Flowers:

Image Source: The Detailed Male

Or you can just use a hanky as a pocket square, a la Kurt Hummel:

Image Source: Deconstructing Glee

There is even an entire tumblr dedicated to Femmes “finger flagging” with nail polish!

Needless to say, it can really pay off to be up on these details if you’d like to meet more Femmes.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they’re flagging. If they aren’t, it’s easily brushed off. If they are - it’s meant to be noticed.

And if someone clocks you for flagging a hanky, hurray! You’ve just met someone who is up on their queer history.

Or they’re kinky. One of the two.

#2 - Patches: Not just for mending  

A patch is like a tattoo that you give to your favorite jacket.

The classic version of this is a denim vest or trucker jacket covered in patches.

But even if you don’t rock the punk aesthetic, one patch can easily do the job of queering up your outfit - like the subtle “Dapper Boi” patch on our bomber jackets:

The nice thing about patches is the way that they lend a customized look to your favorite outerwear. They work best when added to sturdy, well constructed pieces made of a heavy weight material like denim or canvas.

It’s easy to find a queer patch you like and add it to the shoulder of your favorite jacket.

It doesn’t have to be a rainbow - you can find a patch online to suit any taste.

Image Source: neatobadges via Etsy

For a more versatile addition, add a patch to a canvas bag or backpack - then no matter what you’re wearing, you can carry it when you want to be more visible.

Don’t like your clothing or bags to have words or symbols on them?

Adding suede elbow patches to a sweater or heavy-weight shirt (like a denim button-up) is guaranteed to give it at least a 50% gay boost.

#3 - Enamel Pins (Like Patches With Less Commitment)

If a patch is the tattoo of clothing, an enamel pin is the henna tattoo. You can put it on and take it off - less commitment required.

Adding an enamel pin is an easy way to add some variation to a blazer or vest you wear a lot - perfect for folks who like to mix things up!

Are you feeling more like using they/them than she/her today? There’s a lapel pin for that!

Image Source: Autostraddle

Enamel pins also make great gifts and are a great way to tell someone special that you see them.

Like patches, there are enamel pins available for every identity you can think of.

You can even use them for flagging!

Image Source: Prick Pins

#4 - Plaid Flannel (Works Every Time) 

Plaid flannel is one of those queer staples that will endure until the end of time

It turns queer heads without saying a word.

It’s the Subaru of shirts.

Let’s take for example, internet famous Buzzfeed Producer Niki Ang.

Here she is in a regular t-shirt:

Image Source: Buzzfeed

In that look, she’s not super clockable.

Now here she is rocking plaid flannel:

Image Source: Buzzfeed

100% clockable. The aviators don’t hurt either.

#5 - Super Gay T-shirt (Not So Subtle)

Sometimes you just wanna spell it out. Sometimes you want it to be unmistakable.

Personally, I smile whenever I see my wife wearing her “Femme Forever” t-shirt. It’s so cool whenever someone unabashedly claims their identity like that.

So if you’ve had it with subtle signs, sometimes you’ve gotta pull a Clark Kent...

We see you, Superqueer.

What are your favorite ways to add some extra queer flavor to your outfit?

Let us know in the comments!

Hey, wanna rock some flannel? Shop Plaid Flannels Now


  • Posted by Wanda on

    Fun blog post! I learned a lot :) And you’ve solidified my love for enamel pins! Thank you for the great tips :)

Leave a comment