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Sun’s out, guns out: Butch swimwear

June 13, 2010

This city is on a few months’ delay when it comes to nice weather, but summer, it appears, is finally here. We’ve already booked our trip to the Russian River. For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated the idea of finding appropriate attire to swim in. Throughout my adolescence I wore a frumpy one-piece bathing suit with mesh basketball shorts and a regular cotton t-shirt over it. Around the beginning of high school, I just gave up on the whole thing and told myself I wasn’t interested in swimming.

G at can i help you, sir? recently posted a great response to an AfterEllen article about the butch swimwear dilemma. The first thing to acknowledge is that the original AfterEllen article fails to address the issues that masculine women face — we’re not trying to find items that are not “overtly lipstick” (seriously, it says that), we’re searching for items that look like they’d actually fit in with the rest of our wardrobes. There’s a lot to say about that article, but a lot has been said already and I have little to add. I just think the author failed to acknowledge the huge number butch women who happily identify as masculine and very rarely, if ever, purchase women’s clothes.

Last summer when we booked our trip to Guerneville we had to frantically find swimsuits because neither of us had anything that would suffice. The only trouble my girl had was finding a plain white bikini halter top with enough support. She paired it with some really cute maroon board shorts. Mm. I ended up getting a solid black top that pretty much looks like an A-shirt. It has built in support and enough of a binding effect that I don’t feel weird, which I really like, and the straps aren’t spaghetti-like in any way, so I can actually take myself seriously in it. The shorts I have to go along with it are not outstanding, but they’re a comfortable and water-friendly material. They’re just turquoise and a little baggier than boxer briefs. I plan to replace them when my budget and priorities allow.

Swimwear is one of those categories that’s just so unbearably gendered, starting with the fact that there seems to be so few options for what to wear on our chests. I’ve read that pairing an Underworks binder (that’s the company I buy from — strongly recommended) with a rashguard is ideal for those who are most concerned with binding effect. I haven’t tried that combination, but the material seems as if it would dry pretty quickly and I strongly doubt the water would stretch it out. There are also swim shirts, which have evolved from rashguards — my understanding is that they’re pretty much the same thing but targeted at casual swimmers who like the idea of extra sun protection and being able to wear it as a regular clothing item after the beach. They’re also looser, so that might be a more desirable option for some folks.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 29, 2010 8:51 PM

    Thanks for the shout out. I don’t have all the answers about this stuff, but I’ll definitely keep speaking up if I think something isn’t quite right. Shopping for butch swimwear is tricky, and we need all the help we can get.

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