If you live in New York, you no doubt have an image in your head of a pretty cool looking person, in the context of the city. Not out of context, like cosplaying a dwarf French maid ninja in Tokyo, or the image of a cool person in the context of a different city, say Los Angeles, where a cool will frequently mean board shorts.
I've noticed that one of the looks for men in NYC, has included a form-fitting tartan check woven shirt, untucked, but buttoned all the way to the Adam's Apple. Almost a gay lumberjack approach to the iconic look of SoCal chicanos. Pair this with some tight but low-slung dark jeans, and a brand new baseball cap and you got yourself a Fall day in lower Manhattan.
Variations of the look might change up the shirt according to weather, but I sort of always assumed it was a decidedly straight look.
I was so wrong.
Last night I went to my first ball.
There, I saw what looked like a line outside BAPE or Opening Ceremony on New Shoe Day. Forgive my Aunt Mable approach to the look, but it was a lot of brightly colored brand new sneakers, and New Era hats with flat bills, gold stickers, and sports teams that don't exist. I'm pretty sure these weren't derivatives. I would have let any one of them into a Pharrell Williams party, but I'll grant that I'm not the best person to bounce this party.
Now, in the line were a lot of "children" greeting each other with sidewise cheek-kissing and pinching. Many of them had aliases, not uncommon in urban culture, but so far as I know Butch queen is not the way anyone at a PW party would describe themselves. Much less win awards for "realness."
It was a sort of forgettable look until last night. My favorite deconstruction of The Lumberjack: man-as-man wearing aforementioned tartan check shirt buttoned to the gills, sailor motif sports jacket on top (gold epaulets and cuffs), blond afro, Sally Jesse Rafael glasses (or American Apparel for that matter now), and (wait for it) fishnet stockings.
What impressed me most about the night's looks though, was how completely gender was bent, and frequently to no availing of a cause or case. It wasn't "I'm gay and fucking proud of it." It was, "guess whether I have a penis or vagina. On second thought don't. Just drink in this whole thing. It's here for a limited time only."
I mean to some, these looks may seem too decontextualized to exhibit cultural artifice (read: cosplay), but when the context is this big, and when The Look mimics the status quo SO EXACTLY, even the most homophobic, sexist, misogyne will not be able to do anything but awe.
Or maybe I'm making my case too naively. In any case, someone's paying attention. Someone always is.