Visit any high school or college campus today, and you will see every kind of dress. But in general, the majority population of heterosexuals will be seen in typical casual dress – T-shirts with shorts or jeans, sweats and hoodies in cold weather, and tennis shoes.

So, does queer dress have a “typical” fashion style? If you look at celebrity gays, you will have to say no. Consider the fashion styles of Rachel Maddow, Portia De Rossi, Elton John, and Neil Patrick Harris – major differences, no?

Like any societal group, there are fashion trends, but there are also individual tastes within those. And remember, in every gay partnership there is a female and male “role,” and those impact the choice of clothing too.

So, let’s unpack some common fashion preferences within the gay community.

Ditching the “Flagwear”

Wearing the pride flag is pretty much not a “thing” with gays anymore. They reserve the pride colors for flags, banners, light shows, and such. It is worn by LGBTQ allies, though, and that’s an important affirmation that they have support among the straight community. Lots of companies have tried to capitalize on flag wear, but this new culture of Gen Zer’s, which has the largest LGBTQ+ population, rejects the commercialization and monetization of pride colors and finds these attempts laughable.

Style or Philosophy?

While many try to define queer clothing style, they run into big difficulties, because there is no “style” per se. There are multiple styles, and they reflect the individual statements that each LGBTQ+ member makes. They can range from flamboyant, to moderate with subtle signs, to very austere. But the point is this: Each piece of clothing and each accessory that the person chooses makes an individual statement or a signal. It’s more a philosophy of, “Who am I and how do I let others that are like me know?” And they also ask, “How public do I want to be about my sexuality?” And so, a bisexual may wonder, first, how do I get into the bisexual dating scene? Go and check Taimi for some great tips on this part of being bisexual. But then, the question becomes how do I signal that I am bi? This can be done with your dress – maybe cuffed jeans, tucked-in T-shirt covered by a plaid button-up shirt, and, of course, the signature Converse tennies.

Fashion = Identity

Consider this scenario. A boy grows up in a household of 11 children, and they live in abject poverty. He wears only hand-me-downs from older siblings or items and shoes from thrift stores. He had no control over his fashion identity as he attended school with kids who were better off and thus wearing the latest “styles.” Reaching adulthood, this boy determined that his identity would be known by his dress from that point on. Today, even in his 60s, he wears nothing but top clothing lines.

Now, transfer this story to a child who also has no control over their fashion until they are old enough to begin selecting their own clothing. They don’t feel comfortable in normal heterosexual dress; or they have realized they are queer and want to make that statement, either subtly or quite openly. They then make choices about their dress.

The more comfortable someone becomes with their sexual identity, the more comfortable they are dressing like others of the same identity. And so, someone who identifies as lesbian may choose cuffed jeans and a flamboyant jacket or austere suits. A male gay may choose flowered pants or jackets, boots with high heels.

Code Dress

Code dress actually began in the black queer community years ago and moved into the white queer culture from there. Thus, there are the standard handkerchiefs for males. And in contrast to the simple two-color options, there is now an entire code of numerous colors with a variety of meanings. Then, there are carabiners for females. They have become a bit more complex over the years, too, but they remain a part of lesbian dress, along with such things as cuffed jeans and lace-up boots. These are the things of which “butch” identity is revealed, especially when lesbians attend events or frequent gay bars.

Code dress remains popular with queers who are still uncomfortable being “public” about their sexuality because much of heterosexual society is unaware of them.

Where Queer Fashion is Today?

In short, it’s everywhere. Just as the heterosexual world has a huge variance in dress (especially in their adult world, with a variety of careers and lifestyles), so does the queer community. From austere to flamboyant, too extreme on the runway, and everything in between, queer fashion reflects the identity of the wearer.

Let’s go back to the original “look-sees” of the four celebrities.


Queer women who perform the “male” role in a lesbian relationship will embrace classic styles that never go out of style. Rachel Maddow and Ellen DeGeneres are examples, and they are copied by their counterparts in the worlds of work, college campuses, and high schools.

Note: Those who are the feminine half of an LGBTQ partnership embrace that clothing style. Check out Portia De Rossi, as an example. They dress for the occasion.

Flamboyant Styling

Perhaps no one typifies this more than Elton John. And those who are publicly “out,” including transgenders, love to express their sexuality via their dress. Thus, the glitz, the flowered outfits, and even the extreme clothing are the norm.

Normal Heterosexual Clothing

Many gay men and women choose to sport the fashion of their heterosexual counterparts, for a variety of reasons. Consider Neil Patrick Harris and his partner David Burtka. Both choose casual “normal” dress at home and suits at formal events. And many lesbian women do the same. Some of this “demand” for normal wear may be due to career or work considerations. In fact, dress choices may be quite different on dates, at parties, or at clubs.

Gender-Neutral Clothing

As recently as just several years ago, all clothing designs were categorized as male or female. And at all major clothing retailers, this is still the “rule.” Fortunately, many new designers have decided that people’s genders do have to be defined by the clothing they wear.

Enter gender-neutral clothing, also known as gender-fluid. The overriding concept is that no one’s clothing must be defined by their gender at birth. And so, a person can choose clothing that fits their sexual identity or even their attitude at the time, without being “signaled” out as anything by greater society as a whole.

There’s a comfort level here for the LGBTQ+ community. They can choose a style and specific pieces of clothing that don’t have to “shout” out who they are if this better meets where they are at the moment.

Lots of designers have come to the forefront with gender-fluid clothing, and we shall soon see their pieces offered by major traditional retailers – it’s a movement that is not going away. And Gen Zer’s are embracing it. They realize that they can express themselves free from traditional societal “norms.”

So, What Are Your “Druthers?”

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you have so many options today. And isn’t that an amazing validation of who you are and what statements you want to make with the clothing styles you choose? So, go forth, select whatever style(s) you are comfortable with at whatever moment you are “feeling,” and be at peace with your own identity.