I was in London on business last week, and by a happy coincidence was able to catch the tail end of the Pride in London Festivities on Saturday. I’m not sure if it was Pride, or simply my mood, but on this particular visit I was hit by a wave of nostalgia while listening to my 80’s mix on Spotify.
You see, I’ve been in love with England, and its central city London, ever since I was a preteen, and just figuring out that I was different than other girls. I was just getting into music and fashion and being “cool”, and there seemed to be so many English music groups to love: the Who, the Rolling Stones, Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Billy Idol, the Smiths, the Cure. British musicians, with their cool (to an American) accents and hip British style, were the people I wanted to emulate. To be more precise – male British musicians. I listened to the Clash singing “London Calling”, and wanted to be Joe Strummer, sounding the call to action. I would look at pictures of Led Zeppelin, and wanted to be like Robert Plant, with his mix of androgynous and masculine sensuality, and have Jimmy Page gazing at me with respect and affection (I used to ship those two before shipping was even a thing ….)
My first forays into the androgynous fashion of British pop stars were met by raised eyebrows at the hairdresser, when I asked for a “Rod Stewart” cut instead of my old standby, the “Dorothy Hamil” wedge, and ended up looking … well, even nerdier than usual, sad to say. It got easier as New Wave with its made for MTV pop icons came along – so many boys who looked like girls, and girls who looked like boys. Androgynous haircuts were now all the rage, so that no one thought too much about it when a girl asked for a step cut and a side part, bleached “Billy Idol white” (one of the few times I actually got the cut I wanted instead of the “feminine” version, come to think of it).
After New Wave, the rise of Glam Rock made things even easier for a genderbending DFAB, with only myself knowing that my long, shaggy spiral perm and leather pants were my personal tributes to Roger Daltrey and Robert Plant, my sleeveless Union Jack T-Shirt a tribute to Joe Elliot. Add Guyliner, studded leather accessories, and minimal lipstick, and I could imagine myself as one of the pretty glam rock boys popular at the time, while still looking enough like a girl to fool everyone else.
Since then, and through the years, I’ve had phases of “trying to look like a woman” and periods of “I don’t care”. These days I’ve gone over to the “I’m a frumpy, androgynously-dressed middle-aged woman with no makeup and man shoes and I don’t care what you think.” However, as I enjoyed the crowd at Pride, in the fabled city I have loved since my youth, surrounded by many wonderful people who were much more far-out than I could ever be, a part of me felt like I had finally come home.