Nothing beats the sort of euphoria felt by a small town gay-boi moving to the big city. Stepping off the plane (or the Virgin train), and inhaling that smog-ridden oxygen for the first time as an official citizen of London which somehow feels like a breath of fresh air. Your time has finally come to let your hair down, die it a cotton-candy hue or even treat yourself to an eyebrow slit as an official farewell to your country boy beginnings; now a mere distant memory. Moving to London isn’t just a sexual liberation (you’d be lying to yourself if you said you don’t remember the sheer joy you felt opening Grindr for the first time in the capital), but an opportunity to push the boat out a bit more in terms of what you choose to wear.
I can name quite a few of my gay pals who turned up to their uni halls practically a Topman ambassador, only to chuck their beloved not-too-skinny jeans and hi-tops for a wardrobe akin to that of a Kylie Minogue tour dancer just a few months later. From mesh crop tops and silk, sugary-pink flares, right through to PVC short shorts and Buffalo platforms on their feet – it’s a uniform that simultaneously tells that: firstly, they’re a Charli XCX stan, and secondly, they’ve officially left the old them behind in a past life. But are they actually past lives? What happens when you have to get back on that plane, back on that Virgin train, and head back home for the Christmas holidays?
Having to tone things down and attempt to shapeshift back into your old, normie self, seems like a much more difficult task than the endurance it took to complete the Pokemon-like evolution to the fierce queen you are today. You can’t exactly sport the leather harness with matching dog-collar that you’ve been religiously wearing to Dalston Superstore every weekend to the family game of Monopoly, right? I guess you could just bite the bullet and be a bore for the eight or so days you’re spending at your childhood home? Shade in that eyebrow slit, put on a pair of trackies and buy a neutral-toned box dye to mask your lavender locks whilst you’re sat eating Christmas dinner. That’s not to say you have to be so militant in your approach. You could just morph twinges of your new-found fashion faves with whatever fragments of your former self are left rotting at the bottom of your wardrobe. Keep the silky flares, but swap out the mesh crop-top for a Christmas jumper, or wear the Buffalos, just now pair them with jeans instead of your hot pants – it is your family home living room after all, not the Spinning Around music video.
I say all this out of a personal frustration I can’t seem to shift. Whenever I make the excursion back up’t North for the festive season, I loathe having to second guess what I choose to pack. Yet, time and time again, I find myself picking the more subtle, and frankly more boring, pieces from my wardrobe to hark back home with. When you move to the big city, it’s supposed to be a declaration of your independence; a time for you to fully flex your wings and finally become at peace with the person you were always meant to be. But with every minute spent on the train, I find myself morphing back into some of the bland fashions that I cringed at the thought of ever once wearing – mostly out of fear of being misunderstood.
This year will be different. Heading into the new decade, it’s time for some serious change. What’s the point toning things down in your former humble abode? After all, it’s the place where you did most of the groundwork in building yourself into the glamazon of tomorrow. So this holiday season, wear that harness you dearly love with pride. Let your loved ones smell the potent sweat smell stuck to the leather from all those nights spent at your local queer bar; it’s the scent of freedom. Alexa, play Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy.