The Women’s Department

March 9, 2020 / Ethan Ramos

“Bro, no homo but that ‘fit you got on goes hard” or “I don’t usually tell guys this but … you look nice tonight in your lace.” Comments from the past I’ve heard from men who admire my apparel, want to dress better but don’t shop anywhere other than Old Navy. Mostly heterosexual males who’ve been raised to only browse at certain sections of department stores. Boys wear clothes marked for boys, and girls wear clothes marked for girls. Simple enough, right? Fuck no. Individuals ahead of the modern fashion world dress themselves in whichever garments they please. The spectrum of outfitting should not be confined to what our parents made us comfortable wearing before adolescence. I’m tired of straight men asking me where I found half of my wardrobe when my answer is the same every time: “I got it from the maternity section of the women’s department.” Gentlemen, a blouse will not f*gify you when you wear it, it may just make you prone to ridicule from your homies who still wear Sperrys. Get new friends.

Clocked in. I’m at my 9 to 4 cashier shift, regretting waking up. Man walks through the door thinking, “I needs me a new shirt.” Finds one, a special shirt. Tries it on, fits great. He feels sexy, comfortable, and the shirt doesn’t even give his armpits a wedgie. He struts up to the register claiming he’s found himself a treasure. Shirt costs $7.49, making his new treasure a bargain. The man can’t find where to insert his debit card before our store manager reaches for his hand (yes, it was this dramatic) and proclaims, “You do know the shirt you’re about to buy is a women’s shirt, right?” A women’s shirt. The shirt he probably took a tacky fitting room selfie in because he felt that outstanding in its fabric. He puts his payment card away faster than a middle-aged gay man running to a Forever 21 sale. In disbelief, “I’m sorry, I- I didn’t realize it was a girl’s shirt,” remarked the man, leaving the store empty-handed. Conforming to traditional standards of dressing prevent the man from wearing apparel he felt happy in.

Here’s society making fun of a guy for dressing how he wants when strewn across the globe are men being killed for wearing clothes outside of gender norms. Some countries, such as Russia, outlaw gay men from embracing their queer self. Uganda has recently passed a bill titled “Kill the Gays,” urging for the persecution and mass murder of any LGBT members found. In the US, men and women who crossdress are legally discouraged from seeking employment by the country’s military. Because we don’t always witness this widespread hatred or fear first-hand, we take the liberties western civilization possesses for granted. Throughout our planet it is a crime for gay men to be themselves, a motto we’ve preached in modern culture since “Mean Girls” came out in 2004, but yet here American men are, still struggling with the concept of wearing fabric labeled “women’s.” Perhaps these men can find a way to make amends with the voice in their head that calls them a f*g every time they put on a pink shirt. Maybe these men can procure enough bravery to wear a blouse despite its feminine stigma. How beautiful if everyone could support the freedom of gender fluid dressing rather than ostracize the individuals that participate in such expression. Let this be a challenge to all men regardless of social class, clique or heritage: start small. Try on a t-shirt found in the women’s department of a store. Feel the ordinary fabric against the skin. Recognize the not-so-foreign material that you thought would label you as a homo.


Cindy’s fragile little feet trail her broken shopping cart as she browses her favorite section of the store. Naturally like most older women, it’s the cardigan aisle. Knitted textures scratch or comfort her fingers as she searches for the ultimate apparel piece that’ll make her the talk of bingo night. Cindy suddenly notices something strange, out of the ordinary to her usual shopping routine. A boy. As she glances around, she notices several other pairs of eyes attracted to the same boy, browsing — no differently than they — at the lovely wardrobe options the women’s department offers. That boy is me. I’ve never appreciated making women uncomfortable when I shop in their domain, but sometimes there are no alternatives. Sure, I can endure the beaming eyes of women, but what do men fearing judgment do when they wish to browse women’s apparel? Growing up, I can even admit to falling victim to women’s department shopping anxiety. All this pressure can be a bit much for any boy, that’s why some resort to the intimacy of online shopping. As a manager of an online clothing business, I can personally say selling garments to those who don’t identify as male or female is extremely fulfilling. My blog’s intention is not to categorize someone for what they wear, but to give them a platform where they can simply exist — not as a boy or girl, but as a being that enjoys wearing all clothing types. My mission is to allow a small-town boy who wants to try on dresses, without fear of being black-eyed by some hick, to do so in the comfort of his own room. Modern technology makes any article of clothing accessible to a boy’s front doorstep. He can try on anything without alarming his parents. So if shopping next to Cindy seems too daunting, try ordering a blouse that intrigues your fashion eye. I promise your public image won’t be tarnished, just your pride.

Now is our time to erase the stigma. I say we go to JCPenney’s, knock down signs that read women’s and men’s department and give ‘em hell! No, don’t actually do that. Just act as if those signs aren’t there when shopping. Forget the conformist ideals that have been drilled into our brains and dress yourself in what you want because you like how it feels. Do it for all the boys who couldn’t. It’s 2019. Shouldn’t we all be able to enjoy the wonders of the women’s department?

After all, it’s just fabric. ■

By: Ethan Ramos
Layout: Kalissa White & Maya Shaddock Photographer: Leah Blom
Stylist: Caleb Zhang
HMUA: Sophie LG & Tiffany Lam
Models: Brandon Porter & Eliot-Zion Mpeye

View the full spread as it appeared in Issue No. 13 here.
ABOUT                  CONTACT                 STAFF                FAQ                 ISSUU