I’m a millennial, but I make a point to understand and respect Gen-Z culture and style because, in a lot of ways, they’re kind of amazing. Research has shown that Generation Z is extremely diverse, and seems generally interested in the ways in which people interact with each other. According to Pew research based on a survey from late 2018, roughly a third of Gen Zers know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns, they overwhelmingly support interracial and same-sex marriage, and they believe things like forms should offer options beyond “man” and “woman” to be more inclusive. Queer Gen-Zers are especially interesting to me because of the way that they’re using style to reflect their gender and sexual identities, with one trend standing out: that they’ve started to ditch millennial lesbian culture’s proclivity for backward snapbacks in favor of visors.
Lesbian culture isn’t disappearing—it’s adapting. And that’s not a bad thing. As a queer person, I spend a lot of time thinking about being queer—what does it even mean, to me, and to the community itself, and to the larger world? What does queerness look like? How do I make sure people know I’m queer, but only the right people? Being queer is questioning a lot, and doing so constantly up against a heteronormative society that doesn’t really give you any sort of guide at all. In a time where lesbians and queer women are still regularly asked questions like, “Which one of you is the guy?” and “If you like women who dress like guys, why not just date one?” it often feels like, to be a queer woman, you have to be on the defensive. But when we’re not, and even as we are, we’re building our own worlds, on our own terms. And one piece of that is style.
The Power of Lesbian Style
Style has always been impactful within the LGBTQ community. In 2004, the New York Times published “The Subtle Power of Lesbian Style,” in which author Guy Trebay explored the idea that, despite often being stereotyped as having no fashion sense, lesbians were responsible for several major trends from the early 2000s, from shag haircuts to newsboy caps. Sites like DapperQ and Autostraddle craft style content specifically for lesbians and queer women because there is such a need for and interest in it. Considering that style is one of the only ways we have to signal to each other that, yes, I’m gay, so please come be my friend or make out with me, it’s a significant piece of the culture.
In some parts of the internet exists a discourse that says that, because Gen-Z is so fluid, there’s a sense of loss felt among some lesbians who worry that lesbian identity is disappearing. This discourse is complicated—the queer community is constantly being encouraged to fight to decide what’s “right” or “wrong”, and a lot of that ends up coming from trolls who are creating problems where none exist simply because they hate LGBTQ people—and there’s a value in recognizing, point blank, that it’s impossible to distill because there is no one right way to be a queer woman. But despite their fluidity, many members of Gen-Z do identify as lesbians, or as another identity that falls beneath the queer umbrella. The visible culture in the form of style has simply shifted, leading to one thing I’ve found very interesting: a lot of young lesbians wearing visors.
TikTok, Gen-Z & the Resurgence of Visors
Take the app TikTok, for example. With trends like “Dyke Check,” TikTok’s audience is building and retaining a lesbian culture of its own. With less and less of this demographic bothering with Facebook or Twitter, and beginning to stray away from Instagram, they’re building communities in new ways on TikTok.
TikTok trends essentially work like this: a sound gets popularized by a user, and there’s a specific thing you’re supposed to do to the sound. Sometimes it’s a dance, but sometimes it’s an expression you’re supposed to make, an edit you should apply, or a story you’re supposed to tell. Most users don’t make their own sounds, instead relying on sounds from an original poster or from elsewhere in popular culture. In this case, the sound says, “Ay yo, dyke check,” and at this point the user makes a transition—the bulk of TikTok is all about the transition, or the moment the screen shifts whether with a built-in feature that allows the user to zoom or sparkle or whatever they choose or through an obvious change, like a new outfit or location. For many of these women, this transition involves a hat. Either she puts on a backwards baseball cap or snapback, tugs on a beanie, or, more and more recently, a visor.
These Gen-Zers style visors in a number of different ways. Some of these women wear them in your typical, straightforward fashion, while others flip the visor around in a way that calls out backwards-baseball-cap-wearing-lesbians. Too, I’ve seen several young women style the visors by turning them backward and flipping them upside down, basically breaking every rule of a “normal” way to wear a visor. Some wear their hair down, but most style them with a messy bun peeking through. It feels ~swaggy~ in the way that it felt swaggy to me when girls in college would make out with me in their backwards snapbacks—the look drips with confidence.
Currently, the “Ay yo, dyke check” sound has nearly 5000 posts, and the majority of them feature queer young women in hats, many in visors. Commenters often say things like, “I thought I was straight,” a refrain commonly seen in the queer threads of TikTok. There’s something notable about the fact that this demographic is carving out space in a way that, all at once, feels brand new, and like more of the same. Something as simple as a visor can be a way to signal to the world that you’re here, you’re queer, and you really don’t care what mainstream fashion thinks a woman should or shouldn’t be, because you’re already breaking the boundaries—simply by being queer.