Advice for the Shopping Averse

Here’s an e-mail I recently received from a dapperQ that expresses feelings common to those of us who don’t feel comfortable in either the men’s department or the women’s department of our local department store:

I hate going shopping in person so much that I never do it anymore. In fact, I haven’t, basically, since I was a teenager. I depended for major purchases on the help/advice of my mom, who, predictably, gave me ambivalent help getting what I actually wanted–at best.

While dapperQ is teaching me many of the implicit tricks to buying clothes and dressing myself, I can still be paralyzed with fear: fear of going alone to a new place, fear of the difficulty of asking for what I want from people I don’t know–fears I don’t understand, since I’m a proud and visible butch.

Shopping online is a safe haven for me, but it limits what I buy to what I’m already looking for, and without the chance to try things on (another psychological hurdle for me), there’s a high rate of things not quite fitting.

Diagnosis? Advice?

When I Twittered the question — What’s your advice for an otherwise proud butch who wrote dapperQ about being terrified to shop? — I received the following responses (thanks!):

Over several Tweets @sloppydelicious wrote: It helps to build a memory of positive butch shopping experiences.  One time that I was nervous buying boxers but then the cashier got positively excited about my selection.  And, kinda obvious, but network with other masculine-o’-center folk about places to shop that are welcoming.

@hardcorps80204 wrote: Depends “why” the terror.  But taking friends who like to shop (perhaps gay male variety) can make it more fun.

@mrkate sent in some great advice that I asked her to expand, dear reader. So with no further ado, Mr. Kate says…

My best and most trusted advice for you: take someone with you (not your mother!), possibly someone else who identifies masculine of center, who can provide solidarity and clothing critique. My pseudo sibling and fellow dapper dresser has been the best thing to happen to shopping expeditions for me since I could buy my own clothes. It is amazing how something that’s scary and paralyzing can become less so when you take someone who is actively supportive with you. Just yesterday I took my own advice and took my pseudo sibling with me down to our local suit shop because I was looking for a tux shirt. (Mr. Kate is pictured right in said tux shirt.)  I was totally intimidated just by the idea of going by myself, but going with him felt like something I could actually do. Having him there helped me be able to tell the sales clerk exactly what I wanted. I have often found that most sales clerks don’t really care what they are selling or to whom so long as they make a sale.

I know that when I started shopping by myself it was also easier for me to go to stores that sold all manner of clothing, instead of going to a place that sold only masculine clothing (like Target, Macy’s, Marshalls, or H&M.)   Not only are these stores usually large and usually populated with shoppers, but they also give you a choice of dressing rooms. I also like to ask folks whose style I like where they shop and what stores they find friendly or unfriendly. Word of mouth has only added to the awesomeness of my wardrobe.

In dapper solidarity,

mr. kate

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4 Comments

  • Great tips from Mr. Kate & hardcorps! Really useful topic. Only thing is that I’m pretty sure that Mr. Kate uses “hir” as a pronoun, not “her.”

    Also, I feel that I should note that the boxers that I bought were H&M’s superman underoo-ish boxers. Total win.

  • Sloppydelicious, I did request to use female pronouns, but I often use gender neutral pronouns and I appreciate your gender neutral pronoun support. =)

    Also, the tux shirt in the photo is not the one I went out looking for. Here is a photo of the fabulous 80s outfit that tux shirt went towards: http://twitpic.com/3cp2qm

  • Woah, so I wrote a comment on another article kinda about this, not realising this article was here, haha. Im such a ditz.

    Some rules of shopping that I discovered are, never go by yourself (shop assistants are scary), never go with your mom (she’ll do that “oh, this would look so pretty on you” thing), and don’t go with girls (they’re more interested in the girls clothes). Go with a dude.

  • So I’m going to set the scene for you. So it’s tax-free weekend. And I’m at Sears and there are plaid shirts in there I really like. I wanted them so BAD!! But I’ve never bought men’s clothes before. So I’d grab an ugly yet assuming female shirt and then run through to a shirt I wanted (while feigning innocence) grab it and flee before I was seen. Needless to say(because I assumed mens sizes were similar to womens)this foray was a massive failure. I really want to at least try mens shirts but how do I begin a conversation with my mom over clothing. I want plaid!!!!

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