If you’re a queer, non-binary, or gender-neutral person who’s ever had to enter a formal environment, you’ll most likely be familiar with this struggle: You want to appear professional and respectful, and you want to be taken seriously.
But you also don’t want to have to compromise your identity and sense of well-being just for the sake of some clothes. And you certainly don’t want to have to feel like you’re in “work drag” or even “wedding drag” all the time. For those of us who already feel like we’ve spent a good deal of our lives wearing clothes that simply didn’t fit who we were, having to go back into that headspace can be triggering.
So why aren’t there more companies that cater to those of us who want to step out in style without putting on drag? A few years ago, a big deal was made out of Rae Tutera’s Bindle & Keep, a bespoke tailoring company based out of New York City specializing in gender-neutral styles and meeting an unexpectedly high demand. The West Coast equivalent of Tutera’s business model is L.A.’s own Sharpe Suiting, an outfit (pardon the pun) created and run by Leon Wu, whose approach to suiting is nothing short of revolutionary.
Since opening in 2013, Sharpe has collected “4000+ body metrics from over 250 clients, both women and men” and has “developed a revolutionary new gender-neutral sizing standard,” as Sharpe told Autostraddle. Not only does Sharpe believe that fashion has a lot to do with a person’s identity, he feels that clothing doesn’t essentially need to be broken down into the traditional binary of male and female. Instead, Sharpe uses his own system of measurement that’s fine-tuned and highly customizable to reflect the customer’s personality and taste, not their gender.
“For hundreds of years,” Sharpe Suiting’s website explains, “tailors around the world have used Anthropometrics, the study of human measurement, to design clothing for men and women, clearly delineating the two. At Sharpe, we developed Andropometrics — our patented way of measuring the body to create a more masculine or feminine silhouette, reflecting your style and identity. Based directly on real measurements from our many clients, we know how to suit you.”
Andropometrics is about personal style and body movement. It also puts the control into the hands of the customer rather than working from an arbitrary gender standard.
“Bridging the gap between menswear and womenswear is going to have a large social impact in that it defines the acceptance of queer identities, as well as advancing gender equality in the larger straight community,” Wu told the Huffington Post. His point is already being proven daily in the news with talk of gender discrimination and harassment exposing the huge inequalities in the American workplace.
The importance of fashion seems to grow stronger in our culture every day. We’re already told from a young age that “clothes make the man.” But what if the man, or woman, or non-binary individual, had a bit more control over what they wanted their clothes to say?