Still sporting looks from the early ’90s, we’ve been known for our “comfortable” shoes, white backwards baseball hats, unflattering flowy dresses, and too-small ironic boy T-shirts paired with too-big man jeans. We’ve worn Carhardts to weddings, chain wallets years after the rest of the world gave them up, giant rodeo belt buckles, and lots of womyn symbol jewelry. So, yeah, in a lot of ways we’ve deserved our reputation.
With the high holy gay days of Pride and Dyke March upon us, the city is bound to be flooded with some terrible lesbian looks. But it’ll also be filled with great ones.
There’s a new lesbian fashion zeitgeist happening right now. Maybe it’s because of the L Word or its reality TV spin-off. Maybe it’s because Ellen got a stylist and married one of the hottest ladies in Hollywood. Or maybe, in the case of SF, it’s that we have the privilege of being any kind of dyke we want – no need for obvious handkerchief flagging or sticking to overplayed stereotypes. So I teamed up with queer culture illustrator Ariel Dunitz-Johnson to showcase some of the city’s new lesbian looks.
The Look: New take on the classic femme. These ladies wear high heels and dresses, but kick some serious ass. They are often heavily tattooed and have perfectly styled long dark hair. Sometimes they look a little rockabilly, other times vintage pinup. They might pass as straight, but any dyke will recognize them as one of their own.
Found at: The Lexington Club and most of the dyke dance nights, many of which they organize themselves.
The Look: This crew identifies more with gay boys than dykes in style and sensibility, though they still frequent dyke establishments. They rock carefully selected vintage tees, fitted flannels, and fancy jeans tucked into unlaced boots. Their hair is usually a tousled short boy cut. They’re sometimes also known as soft butch.
Found at: Mixed bars and clubs like El Rio and The Stud
The Look: You might find these butch dykes on the arm of a tough femme. They love stiff shirts, bow ties, and hats. Their shoes are polished, and even when they’re wearing jeans, their pants are pressed. When they go out, they look good. Their hair alone takes hours to comb and gel into perfect place. Little known fact outside the dyke community: Butches spend way more time on their hair than femmes.
Found at: “Hard French” at El Rio and “Ships in the Night” at Underground SF
The Look: These stylish ladies are active in the lesbian scene, but they’re also drawn toward the spiritual. They have overflowing closets full of vintage clothing and shoes. They’ll ask you your sign before your name, and they manage to pull off crystal earrings and incense burning without appearing too hippie. They are San Francisco-specific – that is, until they move to New Mexico to settle down.
Found at: The Lex, The Sword and Rose, and the newly opened Stone Pony
The Look: Thanks to dyke writers like Michelle Tea, our literary lesbian scene is going strong. These ladies usually have wild, tousled hair from poring over poetry, and cute nerdy glasses. They still make zines and probably collect typewriters. They buy vintage (and rock it) partly because who can afford new clothes on a writer’s salary? These dykes could be femme, butch, andro, or any other type – but poet trumps all other identities.
Found at: Radar reading series, Sister Spit , Green Apple Books
The Look: These ladies love their fixed gear bikes and skateboards, as well as fitted hoodies and expensive jeans, always with the chain side rolled up. They might wear sneakers and a hat, but they’ll be limited edition Vans and a handmade messenger cap. These girls are tough and sporty, but you’ll never catch them actually watching sports – unless it’s something edgy like Roller Derby or wrestling at the Armory.
Found at: Zeitgeist, The Lex, Box Dog Bikes
The Look: These ladies are part of the urban farmer movement. They are often dressed in vintage pearl-button cowboy shirts, boots, and jeans. They live in the outer Mission and Bernal Heights, and fill their tiny yards with chickens, beehives, and maybe even goats. They frequent (or maybe work at) Rainbow. Often teachers or social workers, they fill their spare time teaching gardening to city youth.
Found at: Rainbow Grocery, Hayes Valley Farm, Dogpatch Biofuels, Wild Side West
If you want to see dyke fashion for yourself, just keep your eyes peeled. With Pride upon us, you’re bound to see a lot of fashionable (and unfashionable) lesbians here in town. They'll most likely be at the Stay Gold Pride Kickoff Party tonight (Wednesday), the Dyke March on Saturday in Dolores Park, or Hard French (a mixed party) on Sunday.
If you’re looking for more San Francisco lesbian fashion stereotypes, head to The Lex to see the latest exhibit, “Stereo” from LISF (Lesbians in San Francisco). It’s on display until late July.
Oh, and since this is just a smattering of lez fashion, use the comments section below to let us know what we missed.