Monday, 9 April 2012

What it's like dressing (relatively) flamboyantly in Ireland.

This is how most people in Ireland perceive my dress sense.

Flamboyancy. It’s a wonderful word. It’s just so evocative and enchanting. For me, it evokes an image of an urbane and confident man, clad in bohemian-esque attire, with a darting gaze, suave walk and dazzling smile. It’s something to strive for, it’s an image to want. I’m occasionally told I am flamboyant. Most often I’m told I dress flamboyantly. Often times it’s just me looking in a mirror and telling myself that I am flamboyant and wonderfully rebellious just so I can justify the wearing of some garish piece of clothing but sometimes people who aren’t actually me tell me that I’m flamboyant.

I usually laugh off such suggestions. Well, in public anyway. I tell them that I am only relatively flamboyant and that yes, in comparison with the innocently primitive males that inhabit Kerry and Limerick with their Hollister hoodies and Canterbury trackies, I am a luridly dressed maverick of the highest order. But place me in a more cosmopolitan and expressive environment, such as Dublin or London, and my flamboyancy becomes more uniform and more mundane. So this beggars the question, what exactly is it like dressing (relatively) flamboyant in the part of Ireland that isn’t Dublin? It’s quite peculiar to tell the truth.

 I’m naturally quite a showy person and as such I like my choice of apparel to reflect my ostentatious nature. I do like to stand out, especially visually. That’s not to say that I wear flashy clothes simply to distinguish myself from the crowd, I do actually like my own style, but it does help me with my showing off and attention seeking. Dressing differently in an environment often unwelcoming to flamboyancy does attract some negative attention though of course. I think how I dress foments mockery, derision and even disgust at least once a day.

Occurrences of ridicule regarding my dress sense are so ubiquitous now that I barely register them. My friends often mock my style but I know that that’s merely harmless joking; it’s the insults from strangers that initially agitated me. The insults still fly but it’s as if I’ve switched an imaginary mute button in my brain on so they aren’t really audible and don’t enter my noggin.

It’s the usual schtick really, “Fucking QUEER”, “Gay boy”, “Pussy” and the like. I imagine were I to be a visitor of the lavender passage, more commonly known as a “homosexual”, these primal and ignorant jibes would have deeply disturbed me. But I ain’t gay. Which some people find difficult to believe. Which smoothly leads me onto my next point.

Dressing flamboyantly in Ireland leads people to believing that you are gay. That may sound a tad obvious and implied by my previous paragraph but I don’t mean people impishly intimating that you are homosexual; I mean people seriously assuming that you are gay. I have a very recent anecdote to back up these claims. Very recently, a man, who I presume is gay, attempted to chat me up (If he is not gay then maybe he was just very lonely).

It was at the Limerick Student Race Day and I was dressed in typical Conor fashion: Skinny jeans, smart denim shirt, skinny tie, Grandpa cardigan and tasteful rockstar boots. I was sitting chatting with friends when the man sat down next to us and nonchalantly involved himself in our conversation, in a nice way though, he didn’t rudely interpose or anything. He stared into my eyes then and asked me in his squeaky yet imposing voice, “Are you gay man?” I was caught in a flummox here. The devilish joker in me told me to lie and act camply to confirm his suspicions but the decent man in me told me to inform him that no, unfortunately for the male species, I am not gay. I quickly plumped for the latter. 

He stared at the ground despondently, threw his hands in the air and stamped his feet wildly on the ground and exclaimed boorishly “WHY ARE ALL THE SEXY ONES ALWAYS STRAIGHT?? WHY? WHY GOD WHY?” I was going to step in and explain how, according to the bible, God and Jesus hold nothing but contempt for homosexuals but I decided that the irony of his comments probably wouldn’t be lost on him.

I jest of course. He actually just reservedly uttered “Oh…. Well you just give off that vibe.” We laughed and had a good and hearty chat. But this is no isolated incident. Many of my friends have legitimately questioned my sexuality, as do intoxicated girls on nights out. Funny thing is, besides my funky dress sense, I don’t really conform to the gay stereotype. I speak in a harsh, rusty Kerry brogue and my gesticulation is noticeably restrained. I move quite a bit, I am very hyper, but this is not perceived as being an intrinsically homosexual trait. So by that logic, it’s my flamboyant dress sense that gives off the gay vibe.  Not really surprising is it?

I imagine at this stage you’re expecting me to reveal the numerous sexual benefits one dressing in a flamboyant fashion enjoys but in fact you would be mistaken. There aren’t many. Irish ladies are mostly stubbornly conservative when it comes to male fashion. Too many of them believe that females should be as expressive and experimental as they wish when it comes to the garments they wear but that men should abide by a stringent set of guidelines: No skinny jeans, no shirt buttoned to the top, no rockstar boots and no luminous bracelets. We’re told that females find the mysteriously different male attractive but Irish ladies seem to be a different bred. Or maybe it’s just that I’m a narcissistic twerp who just ain’t too attractive, you decide.

I never will change my style because, in the words of every single tawdry X Factor/The Voice/Britain’s Got Talent/Got to Dance contestant, “I AM WHO I AM.” Dressing (relatively) flamboyantly is what I do and I believe I do it (relatively) well.


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  2. Hey man, I've found this post so relatable (!). Although I'm of the female species, and even for a girl, I dress rather differently.
    I think the insults from strangers are literally the worst because us alternatively-apparelled folk have done zilch to earn them, besides looking a little more decorated than your fellow bar stool warmer.
    I've always wondered we people care so much? Is it because they think we think we are better than them? Is it because we appear like a d***h**d? And what is it about us that does?
    I'm actually doing a project on this at the moment. I'm an art student, pretty much everyone here is very eccentric. I hope the attitude is changing for you, hope the shtix are becoming more culturally aware(!).