Editor’s note: Last August, the Huffington Post published an article featuring images from the #whatbutchlookslike Twitter campaign. The purpose of the ongoing campaign is to increase visibility of butch identified queers by celebrating the vast diversity of the butch community through images. We first saw model, musician, and police officer Mack Dihle via this campaign and instantly knew we wanted to feature Mack’s style on dapperQ. So, one of our L.A. photographers, Molly Adams, met up with Mack for a Cali photo shoot and Mack provided additional information for our readers about being a police officer, jazz musician, and a lover of the dapper aesthetic.
dapperQ: Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Mack: Sure! I’m a Detroit native who has been living in Chicago for 8 years. At night, I patrol the streets as full-time police officer. I love playing trumpet and flugelhorn in the blues/jazz scenes and appearing in local comedy music video shoots from time to time; Check them out on my website! Motorcycling is my regular mode of transportation and it always keeps me in a great mood because it makes parking in the city magical! I love playing soccer, softball, and cartooning personalized greeting cards for loved ones.
dapperQ: Your website indicates that you are an androgynous model. How long have you been modeling and what inspired your decision to start modeling?
Mack: This summer I was inspired to pursue a long time interest in modeling. My night schedule as an officer has always been challenging to work around and I needed a creative outlet. Through the process of coming out, I started coming into my own and finally began wearing things that made me feel comfortable. As a little girl, I would sneak into my parents room and try on all of my dad’s dress shirts, ties, suits, and even his Navy uniform, which was shoved way back in his closet. On a weekly basis, I’d beg my mom to buy me a camouflage uniform from the Army Surplus at the nearby Selfridge Air Base. I’d always be confused and have tantrums when I was told ties and dress shirts were only for men. I was so jealous they could wear them and I could not, even as a child. For me, androgynous modeling is the ultimate way of exploring self expression in an empowered way. Where I’m from, women wearing menswear is an act of courage.
dapperQ: Androgyny and “menswear for women” are not new concepts in the fashion industry; We’ve seen the trend wax and wane over the years. However, blogs like dapperQ, The Handsome Butch, and Qwear are working to increase visibility of masculine presenting women, gender nonconformist, and trans* identified individuals for whom dressing androgynous or masculine is not a trend, but rather a means of affirming presentation and/or identity. Do you feel that the recent resurgence of the androgynous trend in style in mainstream culture is truly reflecting this? Or, do you feel that it will be abandoned again for more normative, binary style?
Mack: I honestly feel that the resurgence is much more of a movement than a current trend. For me personally, it has been a not-so-subtle release and shift in my inner core. Ever since I gave myself permission to wear ties, vests and three-piece suits in public, I have experienced a profound feeling of empowerment. The discomfort of being awkward, trying to fit into what I grew up seeing as “beautiful” was finally shed. I’m just happy to see my wardrobe finally become mainstream! It’s an incredible feeling to walk into a straight wedding in a suit and be complimented for looking handsome. Handsome! What a shift. That shift in public perception is why androgyny and masculine centered clothing is, in my eyes, considered a positive step for feminism and all of us who will never fit into the simple masculine/feminine binary.
dapperQ: You’re a Detroit native living in Chicago. Do you notice any differences in fashion trends, particularly with respect to queer style, in the two cities? If so, what are they?
Mack: Yes! Aside from our Midwestern queers sharing the commonality of driving 4-inch lifted Chevy trucks and Jeeps with mudding tires, Detroit has a more aggressive and hardass fashion style. Detroit takes the reins with Timberland boots, flannels, snap-back hats, baggy jeans, tattoos up and down the arms/neck, and a chain wallet in the back pocket. Detroit fashion looks like it could knock your block off, if disrespected. In Chicago, we’ll take that Detroit flannel shirt, button it up and add a contrasting colored skinny tie with a dapper vest, then throw on a newsboy hat to top it off. I still keep my Detroit chain wallet with every outfit I wear, exposing my inked arms, and opt for a skinny tie and vest. I love being a total mash-up of the two cities.
dapperQ: Music and fashion have always been intertwined. Some of the biggest style icons have come from the music industry, from Gaga, Bowie, Madonna and Beyonce to Andre 3000, Joan Jett, Pharrell, and the Beatles. On the runway, the perfect song has the power to convey the aesthetic of a designer’s work. Alternatively, the perfect outfit or personal style has the power to convey the aesthetic of a musician’s work. How would you describe your personal style when it comes to fashion? Would you say it is influenced by your music? If so, how?
Mack: Yes! Thanks to a trumpet scholarship, I graduated with a music degree from Central Michigan University where we had a stellar jazz program. Whenever I’m wearing a skinny tie, vest and newsboy hat, all I want to do is pick up my flugelhorn and start playing “Round Midnight” by Thelonious Monk. This fashion style time warps me back to some memorable moments playing alongside guest artists Bob Berg, Randy Brecker, Rufus Reed and many others that came to our jazz festivals at CMU. I’ve always wanted to emulate what the male jazz artists were wearing and love that the dapper style parallels this beautifully in my life today.
dapperQ: Has it been a journey defining your own personal style?
Mack: Despite having long curly hair as a little tomboy growing up, I was constantly approached on the playground and asked, “Are you a boy or a girl?” After 2nd grade communion, my mom gave up trying to make me wear dresses for anything. Halloween was my “Christmas.” It was the only day of the entire year I was allowed to wear camouflage and combat boots and no one made fun of me. It’s no wonder I eventually became a police officer! Being told that I MUST wear a uniform every day? Please and thank you! As you can imagine, I now feel on top of the world and whole as a 32-year-old woman. I now chose to wear masculine centered clothing – the ONLY clothing in my wardrobe. No more “just in case I have to go to this conservative event” clothing in the back of the closet. Exceptions would be modeling down a runway with some killer outfits that gender bend in an exquisite way that leave me feeling proud. I like the occasional gender bend.
dapperQ: Who or what has most influenced your style?
Mack: Moving to Chicago changed my life dramatically. This city of big shoulders opened up parts of me I thought would never be allowed to come to the surface. For the first time, I met women that openly looked and acted like me. It blew my mind. Our LGBTQA community is enormous. They took me under their wing and taught me that everything would be okay from here on out. Dress how you want to dress! Everything else fell into place and my style unearthed itself, leading to a new relationship and understanding of who I could be as a gay woman.
dapperQ: Who are your fashion icons?
Mack: Elliott Sailors, Casey Leger, 1990s version of Tony Kanal (from No Doubt) and funny enough Demi Moore in her G.I. Jane days. I must have watched that movie 500 times in high school. Shaved head? Check! Camouflage uniform? Check! Muscles galore and a hardass? Check! That character was a beacon calling out to me.
dapperQ: What is the one article of clothing you cannot live without?
Mack: Does my motorcycle count? I feel like it makes everything I’m wearing a hundred times more sexy! Probably my skinny ties. The right color/contrasting skinny tie combo make any plain collared shirt into something sharp and classy. I am also pretty attached to my Detroit chain wallet.
dapperQ: What can we expect next from you?
Mack: I’ll be continually listening, observing and trying to learn whatever I can from those who have paved the way for androgyny. My ultimate goal is to be on the runway with Elliott Sailors (my idol!) and be picked up by masculine centered clothing lines, no matter what gender they are marketing to. You can expect a lot more photo shoots, an active online presence, and enthusiastic participation in any future magazines, blogs, photo shoots, or videos that I have the honor to be selected for. Please check out my website www.mackdihle.com for my latest photo shoots, music video cameos, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest accounts. I can’t thank dapperQ enough for their time and efforts in featuring me!