Owning It! Featuring Ali

Owning It! spotlights everyday dapperQs who rock their own style. I believe that examining ourselves through a holistic, 360 view is what makes us truly attractive, to ourselves and to others. Through in-depth conversation and photographs, I’ll interview a different dapperQ each episode, and share their inner and outer beauty with the rest of us.

What’s sexy? You decide.

Meet Ali

Being someone who’s clearly masculine but not male-bodied, the way things fit you is so important.  You can walk into The Men’s Warehouse and ask them to fit you for a suit, but you’re not necessarily going to be comfortable there, with your needs or their perception of you.”

Ali Harris is a 25-year-old Jewish transmasculine genderqueer from Menquon, Wisconsin. Although he prefers masculine pronouns, Ali doesn’t identify himself as a man. Now living in Brooklyn, NY, he spends much of his time providing social media outreach, and web and graphic design consulting, for nonprofits. Recently, he has worked for OUTmedia, as well as the Queer Commons, which serves the NYC queer community with the intention of having hard conversations about space, visibility, race, socioeconomic status, privilege, and a lot of other issues that affect the queer community. Ali also plays for the Brooklyn Women’s Rugby team. Although he loves the sport, playing on the team has been challenging for him due to his gender identity, presentation, and pronoun choice.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ali at my apartment on a rainy Sunday morning. Ali was talkative, thoughtful, and funny. I also discovered that he likes seltzer.

Do you think you’ve always been a dapperQ?

No, that came with age. When I was around 15, I thought clothing was unimportant. But as I got older, I started seeing how crucial my presentation was in how I felt about myself and how I wanted to be treated. It made dressing myself very daunting and difficult, where I felt like I was being perpetually misgendered and misunderstood. There weren’t a lot of clothing options that fit me the way I wanted them to – not only men’s clothes, but just how it fit my body.

I think that for many years, I was very confused about what it meant to dress masculine. There’s a strong association between masculinity and butchness, which left me feeling very alienated, because I always felt distanced by a butch identity, and had to figure out how to dress comfortably and masculine while also not having to be butch.

Candice: How would you describe your style now?

Ali: I used to wear baggy pants and big t-shirts, but my style has morphed into something more refined: tighter pants, a stiff-collar, button-down shirt with a fabulous tie. I don’t mean a BLAND tie – this is not your dad’s tie, I’m talking like a bright flamboyant tie.

When I was 17 or 18, I started participating in the gay male bar scene in Columbus, Ohio. I was in a space where I could be around male femininity, and I was feeling a bit more at home with myself. There’s something about that culture I really felt comfortable in and grasped on to, because I felt like I could have friends in that space and look fabulous. I got a lot of encouragement from my friends.

So, I’d say that over the past few years, I’d identify my look as “fagular” (laughs), especially since my experiences in Columbus. In college, I got this haircut that I was really happy about, and let me tell you, it was fabulous! It was around this time that it really became more apparent to me that my transmasculinity indicated a whole plethora of identities, and not feeling limited to just one. And since college, I’ve just kind of been building out my wardrobe.

Candice: Do you have any favorite places to shop?

Ali: There aren’t specific brands I dig, but I’m a big thrifter. I go to lots of thrift stores here in NYC, like Monk’s Thrift Shop, Beacon’s Closet, and Guvnor’s Vintage Thrift. There’s something pleasurable about finding something unique and that fits.

Being someone who’s clearly masculine but not male-bodied, the way things fit you is so important.  You can walk into The Men’s Warehouse and ask them to fit you for a suit, but you’re not necessarily going to be comfortable there, with your needs or their perception of you.

Candice: How about your hair, where do you get it cut?

Ali: I get my haircut by Severin Dickson at Dickson’s Hairshop. He’s a queer barber, which is nice. It’s hard to find someone who knows hair shape of female-bodied folks who want to appear more masculine with their hair.

Candice: How do you find clothes that fit you?

Ali: I do self-tailoring, actually. Luckily, with men’s shirts, they usually fit me pretty well off the rack because I have broad shoulders. However, I tend to tailor my pants and jeans, because I have a long torso but my legs aren’t as long as I’d like them to be.

Candice: And now it’s time for the age-old question: Boxers or briefs?

Ali: Well, it on depends if I’m go-go dancing (laughs). Typically, I’m a boxer-brief type of person. And while we’re talking about what’s under my clothes, I also like wearing full-length binders by Underworks. They’re nice, because they give my chest a nice contour.

Candice: You brought lots of things to wear to today’s shoot… that’s a real treat for me as a photographer! Can you tell me something your style today?

I worked with selection of styles that feel “like me.”  I feel as though my style shows that I’m a casual urban dweller. I don’t fear wearing cutoffs or a simple t-shirt.  I am all about the bold earth tones and tighter fitting clothes.  I’m a button-down queer, with a masculine-of-center edge, but a genderqueer fashion sense.  Today, I wore a variety of things, moving between everyday drag, the more fun, urban cowboy (must be those Midwestern roots), and a little prepped-out pink tie combination on the rugby pitch.

Candice: What is dapperQ doing right?

Ali: dapperQ creates a space for folks to critically and sympathetically access men’s fashion. I say that because the fashion industry doesn’t really contour its clothing towards us, and here, we can really come together and find ways to share the clothing we feel comfortable in, and still manage to keep or live in the body that we function in. I also really love mapperQ.

Candice: What can dapperQ do to help you more?

Ali: I feel like the trans narrative part of the site is growing, but it’s still not as present and isn’t really accessible. Generally speaking, I think that the assumption that butchness is so closely linked with transness is problematic. So, I think dapperQ could be more accessible to transfolk who don’t fall into one category or the other.

Candice: What’s something we’d never know about you based on how you dress?

Ali: My friends will have me over their house and make me dinner, just so I can assemble their Ikea furniture (laughs). This has actually happened on several occasions, with different groups of friend!s I’m very good at reading instructions… ones with pictures, apparently (laughs).

I’ve got sort of a mullet-perspective on life, you know, business in the front, party in the back! I wear the collared shirt, and then I wear cutoff jeans. Like, every morning, I make my bed with military corners, and I do it in a very specific way. But then I throw all my clothes on top of the bed. I guess there’s just something about the process of putting something together, and then taking it apart and messing it up again.

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