Style is important because you look good when you feel good and you look even better when you feel like yourself, through and through. Why the self-help-y intro? Because this week I’m going to let you–dear IBC readers–in on something real about my life: as you may have guessed from my new name, I am in the process of transitioning hormonally. Monsieur McBee = full time mister.
How does this affect you? Probably not very much. I am still a lean guy with champagne tastes and a house wine budget. I am a gentleman with a tailor obsession and a woodsy sense of rebellion. I will continue to be offended by poor social graces, essentialist norms, preciousness, lack of imagination, and people who insist on wildly overdressing for dance nights.
Writing about my my style hopes and dreams here has further helped me define who I am and where I am going. In short, being here with you helps make me me. DEEP! So, I guess I’ll be chronicling some changes in the coming months and years and years (!) here on IBC. I’m glad to tell you stylish people what’s up as it unfolds, as you are my fashion community and, for me, gender has always been entwined with style.
To illustrate: as a teen, my look could best be described as The Outsiders x Riot Grrl. In retrospect, this is not my proudest aesthetic moment, but at the time I expressed something fundamental about who I was at the time: a hard-edged kid raging against the machine, but also a heart of gold under a Manic Panic look-at-me/what-are-you-looking-at halo (it was the nineties!) Over the years, I’ve identified less with outer displays of youthful rebellion. I’m a much gentler dissenter with a less severe haircut, a shitload of tattoos, a love of Topsiders, some Dean-ish prescription Clubmasters, and enough nautical attire to outfit a small sailing crew.
(Sailors are the most dapper of bad asses, and I am grateful to have had the style inspiration of this port city in which I’ve spent the last seven years. As we leave for more seasonal pastures this Sunday I send big love to boats, Pendleton, and toggle coats. And big love to you guys for being such faithful readers of IBC!)
Anyway, in reflecting on transitioning and the way identity intersects with style, I decided to reach out to my very fashionable friend, the talented musician and trans icon Rocco Kayiatos.
Rocco–who you might recognize from my Jesus post–is hardcore sartorial, and I love that in a person. He makes hip hop and is an editor at Original Plumbing with the unstoppable photographer Amos Mac, who took pictures of him for this profile. Rocco and Amos also just relocated to the East Coast (he and I just seriously nerded out about a New York shopping date), so I asked Rocco to throw on his favorite new outfits and talk about the way clothes help make a man the peacock he knows he can be.
Rocco on this Aztec tank top: I love this print. I especially love how busy it is and how much busier it looks contrasted against my tattoos. I am wearing my favorite necklace, a silver chain with a galloping pony. My twin and I call each other pony, so this necklace is sentimental.
On his fashion philosophy: Dress for your age and body. Go classic instead of trendy. Think about how your clothes compliment your personality. If you are a 24-year-old clownish type, going out and partying every night, you probably won’t want to wear a grey three-piece suit on the regular.
On details: If I am going to wear a bow tie, I want be the one to tie it.
Rocco on all-denim all the time: I just made a cross country move to NY, thinking it would be time to bust out the summer wardrobe. Sadly mistaken. It is rainy and gloomy here nonstop, which on the bright side (pun intended) is cool, because I love fall fashion. Lightweight jackets, layers and long pants with well-worn boots and a brown leather belt to match.
I have been living in this outfit and variations of it. I love the contrast of denim and/or chambray. Most people can’t go wrong with a pair of Levi’s and a jean jacket. I just realized that I have five button-down shirts that are all almost exactly the same.
No one needs as much clothing as I am hoarding. In fact, I moved into a tiny room where the walk-in closet is almost the same size as the room, but it is still barely enough space for all my clothes.
On fashion and music: I like to wear basic stuff at shows. It feels uncomfortable to be performing hip hop in a button down shirt. I prefer to wear jeans and a white tee or tank top. That is when I wear sneakers, too.
In general, I find myself switching up my style depending on what I am currently listening to on heavy rotation. Hip hop and dance music make me want to wear casual, more masculine stuff. Acoustic or indie rock make me want to look more obviously styled.
Rocco on grunge: This is my favorite flannel right now, it’s thin and the perfectly oversized. I like the way it hangs on me.
My friend Alexis is an amazing thrifter. I was on the hunt for a perfect trench and was hanging out at her house in LA, when she pulled this jacket out of the back of her closet and said that she didn’t like the way it fit her and if it fit me, it was mine. She got it for $4 and it is Helmut Lang!
Also, nothing looks better with a trench coat than a floppy hat and flannel. It’s Seattle Grunge meets SOHO casual male model. “No big deal, I just threw this thousand dollar coat over my rags, ’cause I don’t care.”
Rocco on nautical wear: I got this ensemble for summer, which must eventually come! As a short dude, I have to look extra hard for stuff that actually fits. Shoes tend to be the hardest thing to find. I have been searching for a few months for the perfect mid-top espadrilles. I found a Hermes pair I liked online, but they didn’t come close to my size. Then I was shopping the other day and found these exact replicas at Topman for a fraction of the cost. I am wearing linen pants, which I am thrilled about, because I don’t love living in shorts and these are a nice alternative.
On his fashion taglines: Everyday I pick a point of fashion and then pick out my outfit. Sometimes if I like the tagline, I stick with it and make a wardrobe shift. When I first phased into the adult dress, I thought “Urban Dandy,” which was a tucked-in shirt, belt that matched the shoes, a meticulously tied bow tie, cardigan, letterman jacket or blazer. Most recently I was shooting for “Hemingway meets 1930s prison inmate.” This was more masculine in a timeless way, less dramatic. This morning the day was grey and I knew I would be working from home so I changed from my sweats that I sleep in to mid-calf grey 80s workout pants and an over-sized lighter grey athletic t-shirt. I’m calling this look”teenage boy meets Venice Beach muscle head.”
Rocco on dressing up: Obviously I don’t wear this everyday. I do think that all guys should own a couple of nice suits. This is a tux, so it’s my nicest suit. I got it tailored to fit my body perfectly. It is really crucial to me that all my clothes fit my frame. If you’re vertically challenged, it increases your stature to wear clothing that fits you. Bunchy clothes make me look shorter. I like to pair a tux with a crisp white shirt, shiny black shoes, and a belt to match. If you are even thinking about loosely tucking your shirt in, you should be wearing a belt; otherwise it looks like you did not finish getting dressed. Plus, men get so few accessories that it’s fun to wear as many as you can.
On Saturn Returns + style for grown ups: I am post-Saturn Return. Getting older has definitely made me care about quality more. When I turned 30, I had a big sneaker and baseball hat collection that I just left on the street. I never could tell the difference between something well made or something cheaply thrown together before then. For most of my life, I only wanted to thrift. I am still a maniacal thriftier, but now I also want things that have only ever been mine. I got a tailor, too. I wanted all of my stuff to fit my body perfectly and to be seen as an adult man that takes pride in his appearance.
Rocco on his favorite accessory: When I turned 30, I also started having major bag envy. I had this moment in an airport when it hit me that I was wearing a nice outfit and carrying a messenger bag I’d had since I was 19. I felt weird and embarrassed, like my bag was incongruent with everything else in my style. On the plane I realized I was sitting next to designer Richie Rich, and I decided I could not carry that bag anymore. So when I started dating my last girlfriend, all I did was talk about bags and how it was an adult accessory that I needed. For my birthday she got me this. It’s the best present I’ve ever received.
On clothes making the man: As a kid, I was so dysphoric in my body that the ability to dress myself and hide or accentuate parts of my body was always important. Now that I love my body, I want to show it off by wearing things that fit me well.
I once briefly dated a woman who thought my love of fashion was frivolous. I hated that she thought that, it felt incorrect and close-minded. I explained to her that fashion is creative, an extension of my artistic lifestyle and personal expression. I want to be noticed, to peacock. I want people to see me as someone who takes care of himself, because I do, and good style is one way of presenting that to the world.
Amos Mac has a solo photo show opening tonight at Munch Gallery in New York.
Rocco and Amos will be throwing more OP East Coast parties this summer, as well as selling a limited edition tank top and tabling at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. Celebrate the release of OP Issue #7 The Green Issue at Southpaw in Brooklyn tomorrow night at 10 pm.