The Daily Illini

Don’t let your appearance define your masculinity

By Tyler Panlilio, Opinions Editor

I’ve always been into fashion. Even from a young whippersnapper age of 10, I was kind of obsessed with Polo shirts and Bermuda shorts (not the best look admittedly, but hey, I was 10).

At some point in middle school, I stopped caring about how I looked. It made sense to just wear basketball shorts and a Disney World T-shirt because looking fresh wasn’t really a priority for most other students — unless you were popular, which I wasn’t. In high school though, I started dressing nice again. Cardigans, chinos and nice sweaters were my go-to clothes to wear.

And unfortunately, I’ve been called gay in high school for dressing like that. At the time, it definitely made me question my masculinity. It wasn’t like I was getting bullied for it, but people just thought that about me, probably based solely on the fact I tried looking nice for school. And you would think it stops in college, but I’m sure a few people think I am whenever I walk down Green Street wearing my work clothes.

In retrospect, it’s not that big of a deal. Even though I remember instances like these, it’s not like it keeps me up at night. Would I have preferred people to stop assuming my sexuality? Yes. But am I mad at them because they didn’t? No.

And to be honest, I definitely felt the need to be manly just a few months ago; I was trying to impress my ex-girlfriend’s dad by wearing baggy jeans and clothes from Carhartt. No disrespect to Carhartt, though; their clothes are really well made. It’s just not for me.

A few months later and I feel more like myself than ever. I’m rocking earth tones because I want to. I put product in my hair and blow dry it every morning because I want to, and I don’t care if a friend says my hair looks the same with or without. I regularly talk about fashion, cooking and decorating my apartment this year with furniture from Ikea.

Close friends have helped me realize this and TV shows like “Queer Eye” and “Master of None” came around in perfect timing to solidify me being comfortable with my interests. In fact, it’s a huge relief to talk about your interests with friends and not feel ashamed to do so. I usually kept a lot of hobbies and interests in because it always seemed like guys were supposed to talk about sports or drinking or whatever else constitutes manliness.

But I do think people are getting better at it. From what I’ve seen, it’s becoming less of an issue where both guys and girls are expected to like what they should traditionally be interested in, and that’s a good thing.

I genuinely hope it gets to a point where a girl can rock a buzz cut and play rugby and a guy can like interior design and fine wine and no one would assume anything about either of them.

Tyler is a junior in Media.

[email protected]

About the Writer
Tyler Panlilio, Opinions Editor

I’m a junior majoring in journalism from Naperville. Before being opinions editor, I was a columnist and assistant editor to the section. I like movies, banana bread and the smell outside after it rains.

[email protected]

Leave a Comment