The Women Using Menswear to Explore Their Own Identities

women in menswear
Women Using Menswear to Explore Their IdentitiesKarl Ferguson Jr.

It’s impossible to ignore the sense of increased visibility and vitality in men’s fashion these days. From the buzz around runway shows and presentations to the transparent ubiquity of the Menswear Guy on Twitter (we’re not calling it X, okay?), conversation is swirling amongst new fans and old heads alike. One community that has always embraced the crispness of a new tee, the excitement of trousers that fit just right, or the joys of soft tailoring is masc-presenting, queer women. While maintaining their connection to femininity, they explore gender, sexual, and, most importantly, personal expression through the vessel of menswear. Esquire sat down with some of this community’s leading voices— Desyree Nicole of designer menswear label Todd Patrick, brand and influencer strategist Toni Renee, and painter and poet Diana Carla Rowe—to explore the nuances of their style and its symbolism.

“I wanted to develop a brand identity that resonated with me and where I was going,” Nicole explains. Todd Patrick, named after her little brother, was founded in 2016 and is a continuous reflection of how she sees herself and the world around her. Desyree gravitated toward menswear and tailoring, describing her design process as “personal art experiments.” The brand’s collection isn’t overwhelmingly large, but keep an eye out for signatures like unique denim and leather shirts, trousers, and even shorts.

desyree nicole
Desyree Nicole (left) wearing Todd Patrick.Ron Ronson, courtesy of Todd Patrick

Renee’s relationship to fashion developed over years of reinventing herself. Her career had early roots in the music industry, where she led influencer marketing initiatives for Doja Cat, SZA, Flo Milli, and more. Eventually, she made her transition to fashion and became the senior influencer strategist at Coach; now, she’s a consultant for today’s top beauty brands. An Ohio native, she felt “pigeonholed” by her environment. “When I moved to NY, I was able to stand within my sexuality and how I wanted to represent myself within that,” she says.

toni renee
Toni Renee. Top by Junya Watanabe x Comme des Garçons, trousers by Comme des Garçons, sneakers by Adidas, jewelry by Swarovski and Martine Ali, and glasses by Poppy Lissiman.Karl Ferguson Jr.

Getting dressed up has always been deeper than just clothes—it’s a way of telling the world how we want to be seen by sharing the parts of ourselves that we revere. And for women that align with a more masculine presence, they are making a statement that challenges the limitations of traditional dressing and engages with the tension between expectation and presentation.

For Rowe, duality has been a common thread—both within herself and her work. Describing her art as “large scale, abstract, and black”, Diana wants everyone to see themselves in her art. Her connection to fashion has played a major role in her career; her first major gig was creating designs Neiman Marcus’s window displays, opening doors for future collaborators like Bergdorf Goodman and Art Basel. Through partnering with these brands, Diana was exposed to the luxury side of menswear and became enamored with the fine tailoring and straighter silhouettes.

diana carla rowe
Diana Carla Rowe. Top by J.Crew, vintage shorts, shoes and tie by Prada, and socks by Muji.Karl Ferguson Jr.

Over years of reinventing themselves, these creators found comfort—and confidence—by embracing the masculine elements of fashion along with the feminine. “This is the most comfortable I’ve ever been in my style,” Renee shares, with Nicole echoing her sentiment. “The more comfortable you are as a person,” she says, “[the more] your style will adapt into something so unique.”

Menswear is in an interesting position right now, with more eyes watching the space than ever. While tradition has its merits, these women are proof that you can find yourself in any space, so long as it feels authentic to you.

Photographer: Karl Ferguson Jr.
Makeup: Zoe Constandidis

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