Talking Style with Q
Quianna Chaney shares details about her style journey, her experiences shopping for men's clothes, and her advice for unique individuals trying to find their authentic style.
It was summertime in Chicago of 2016. Quianna Chaney (Q) and I were chatting during a car ride. The conversation came up about women wearing men’s clothes and questioning the idea that masculine clothing is only for men. That conversation led to the interview that follows.
I first met Q in 2008 while I was working for the WNBA Chicago Sky, when she was drafted as a rookie guard for the team. (Q currently plays professional basketball overseas.) If I had to briefly describe Q as a person off the court, I would say she is fun, down to earth, and loves life.
Even back then we both had an appreciation for each other’s style. Since then Q’s style has evolved and she has become more comfortable in expressing who she is through her clothing.
Here’s what she had to say about her style journey beginning in high school, her experiences shopping for and wearing men’s clothing, and her advice for unique individuals trying to find their authentic style.
T.C.: How do define your style?
Q: Hmmm, good question. My style would be a little bit of a mix. You know the tomboy style. Just fitted clothes, I don’t like the baggy clothes or anything.
That’s pretty much what I’m comfortable with…just fitted clothes. Not too tight and not too loose. A lot of my clothes come from overseas because their male clothes fit tighter than American male clothing. But they have a relaxed fit, so when I put them on me its going to fall and curve in the right areas. That’s why I like to buy stuff overseas because it actually really fits my body.
“College was when I realized that I could do my own thing. That I didn’t have to wear what everybody else wore because it was hot. I realized that I could just wear what I wanted...”
T.C.: How has you style evolved? Do you dress different now since when you were in high school or college?
Q: Yea, because back then I didn’t have a sense of my own style. It was kind of what you see is what you do. Like okay, that’s what’s in, so I’m going to do that. When I was in high school I just followed the trends, and wore what was hot. Not knowing that I could just wear what I wanted to and set my own trends. In high school you had to dress like everyone else so that you didn’t get teased or you get talked about. For most of high school I wore uniforms, so wearing the trends only came into play when I went to games and stuff outside of school. Uniforms were the only thing that saved me in high school. If I wasn’t in uniform I would have struggled a lot more than I did.
In college, I kind of started out doing the same thing; wearing what everybody else did. But eventually I just started getting into my own style. College was when I realized that I could do my own thing. That I didn’t have to wear what everybody else wore because it was hot. I realized that I could just wear what I wanted, match stuff up and just flow with that. Who cared if I didn’t dress like everyone else? It wasn’t that big of a deal in college. As I got older I learned that I could come into my own style and do my own thing…that’s fashion. Everyone can have their own sense of fashion. All you need is one person to look at what you’re wearing and say, “Oh, okay, that’s pretty cute, that’s tight,” and then your good to go.
T.C.: How did you dress in high school? Was your style feminine, masculine, or a mix?
Q: My style was more so a mix because as an athlete, I was able to get away with it more. People just thought I was a tomboy because I was an athlete. People didn’t say that I was gay or a stud, that wasn’t what we had to deal with back then. It wasn’t as difficult as it is today; now people have to label you. Back then people just saw that as what athletes wear. The clothes I wore didn’t automatically put me in the gay category. And I didn’t have to distance myself from that if I didn’t want anyone to know that I was gay. So I kind of got away with a lot of stuff simply because I played basketball.
T.C.: How did you dress for professional or more formal events?
Q: At that time I was still doing what everyone else was doing. I along with the girls that I did know were gay and masculine didn’t know that it was okay to wear a pants suit. We still saw ourselves as females so we are just going to wear a dress, because everyone else was wearing it. We didn’t see any women wearing pants suits, so we didn’t know we could try it. So I just wore a dress, “only during that time,” when it was time to attend those events.
T.C.: Did you feel uncomfortable when you did have to wear a dress?
Q: It really didn’t make me feel any type of way to wear a dress. I mean I knew that I could pull it off, wearing a dress per se. It was just more so if people were going to think I’m sexy or cute. People never so me in a dress at first it was shocking. So when they saw me in a dress they would say, “okay, ya know, Q, you are pretty cute in a dress, you can kind of like rock the dress look.” I wasn’t scared or nervous about wearing a dress. If needed to do it I would do it, it wasn’t a big deal. To wear as now I’m getting away from all that stuff, because now I want to wear pants suits. There is probably one dress in my closet now, as compared to having four or five. I have been slowly pulling them out and giving them away now, because I am comfortable just wearing pants suits.
T.C.: When did you start that transition of being more comfortable to wear a pants suit?
Q: That had to be a little bit after college, so maybe when I was 24 or 25.
T.C.: What helped you come to that?
Q: Seeing more women in pants suits. When I was coming up, my mom told me that I couldn’t wear pants to church; I always had to wear dresses and skirts. So, I had the mindset that women can’t wear a pants suit. But as I got older and started seeing women wear pants suits on interviews and all that kind of stuff. That’s when I realized it was okay to wear a pants suit. After that, I ended up eventually just getting out and wearing them and it wasn’t a problem. My mom raised me to wear dresses, but as I got older she told me that I could wear what I wanted to wear. But when I was with her, I had to wear a dress. Once I got older and saw more women wearing pants suits; is when I pretty much start filling my closet with a lot of pants suits instead of jerseys. I was getting there slowly.
T.C.: So when you say pants suits…were they women’s pants suits?
Q: They were women cut at the time.
T.C.: Is that different now?
Q: Yes, I don’t have women cut pants suits now.
T.C.: When did you switch from wearing women’s pants suits, to wearing men’s cuts?
Q: When I just happened to try a pair on, just decided to put a set on one day. I’ve seen a lot of people switching that up; getting men’s clothes and just tailoring them to fit their body. It’s hard for me to fit in some women’s pants suits. It was easier when I was growing up, before my body was fully matured as it is now. Now that I have blossomed, it is hard for me to find suits that will actually fit my curves. So, no I just go and get a men’s suit and get it tailored to fit.
T.C.: What has your experience been like shopping for men’s clothing and getting them tailored? Do you have any people treat you different?
Q: Oh no, it was a regular experience. I guess it depends on who you get. The guy that I worked with was really happy that I was getting a tailored suit from him. He said, “This would be cute on you.” As opposed to when I worked with a woman; she had to give her opinion and kept trying to put me in a women’s cut suit. Even though I kept saying that I liked the men’s cut better. If I had to pick, I like dealing with men because you tell them what you want they’re not trying to put you in the opposite. The woman I had kept trying to put me in a women’s suit and kept telling me how she thought it would be cute. I had to keep repeating to her what I wanted. The men that I have worked with have just been happy and excited to fit me in a men’s suit.
T.C.: Was this a store that sells clothes off the rack or did you go to a custom tailor?
Q: When I was shopping at express, one of the guys that worked there told me about a tailor that he knows. He gave me the number and the name of the shop. I stopped by to see what they had. They had a lot of tailored suits and did pretty much anything that you wanted.
T.C.: How do your parents feel about you wearing men’s clothing?
Q: They didn’t say anything at all. My mom still wears men’s clothes. She wears shorts and stuff, not suits or anything like that. She is completely into dresses when it comes to that. As far as pants, shorts, and shirts for causal wear; she will just get a men’s extra large. She has the same type of body that I have, so if she were to get a plus size in women’s clothes, it would just look different on her. The men’s shirts fit her better. That’s how she dresses, so I haven’t gotten questioned about the way I dress at all.
T.C.: What advice would you have for someone trying to wear clothes that fit who they are more versus what society tells them to wear?
"Society wants to tell you which way to walk, talk, and to dress this type of way. You have to wake up every morning and look in the mirror and be happy with yourself."
Q: Be who you are. Now society has changed to where everything is pretty much acceptable. And even if it wasn’t, you have to live your life. You have to be happy. Society wants to tell you which way to walk, talk, and to dress this type of way. You have to wake up every morning and look in the mirror and be happy with yourself. So, if you want to wear basketball shorts every damn day, then wear basketball shorts every damn day. But at a certain point you may have to realize that in certain areas you may have to grow up and dress professionally. So in that case you might have to put on a suit if you don’t like putting on suits. Find a suit that suits you. People can wear clothes that you can tell that that’s them. I can pick out clothes and say, “Okay, this is that person. She would wear this because that’s her.” People get tattoos because it fits them. So wear clothes that suit and fit you, so you don’t have any problem at all. Just be comfortable and wear what you want to wear. Find yourself. It’s pretty much about finding your identity, your own style, brand, and what you want to do. You don’t have to worry about what everyone else wears and all that kind of stuff. What that next person wears might not fit you or might not suit you. You have to find your own style.
T.C.: We talked a little bit about this over the summer and I wanted to revisit it today. How do you feel about wearing ties?
Q: I’m not ready to wear a tie yet, but I have tried one on. I am getting there slowly but surely. I don’t know if the tie is me, that’s why I haven’t fully jumped into that yet. Of course, you don’t know if it’s for you until you try it. Now I’m just waiting one day to try it I guess. To see how it fits.
T.C.: I remember you making the comment, “who said that a tie is masculine?” It was a comment to that effect.
Q: Right. That was the thing; that was the problem when I saw women wearing them. I was just like, “Well women are wearing ties now so who says a man is the only one who can wear a tie?” Why cant a tie be feminine? How could you make a feminine tie? Can I turn this tie…no. A tie is a tie. The only thing I can probably do is get a pink tie or a feminine color one; but a tie is still a tie. It doesn’t matter who wears it. It’s still going to be a tie; you can’t change it. I just haven’t reached out yet to that tie thing. I want to get there though.
T.C.: Okay, we are going to try that together.
Q: Not the bow tie though. I can’t go to that, I just need the regular tie. Okay, I don’t need any bowties just yet.
T.C.: Baby steps.
Q: Yea, baby steps.
T.C.: Do you feel like you have a personal brand and how does that effect how you dress in certain situations?
Q: Hmm…let me think, my brand effecting how I dress…. No, I wouldn’t say it really affects me at all. I am at the point to where I am comfortable with my style. Like I said, I am slowly getting away from wearing dresses. I couldn’t tell you the last time I wore a dress. So, I don’t think what I wear really effects me now. I may have gone to wearing more fitting shirts that allow you to see that I have a chest, you can say.
It’s really hard with me having dreads; because sometimes you just deal with people who just don’t take the time out to look before they speak. They just assume that you are a male without really looking at you. You can see that I still have female bone structure and my voice is still feminine. That’s what I struggle with, when people address me as a guy when I’m wearing my comfortable clothes (menswear). When people don’t take the time to look at me and notice that I am a female wearing guy’s clothes. It doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be addressed as a male just because I’m wearing guy’s clothes. I’m just comfortable wearing them, that is who I am. That’s what I struggle with as far as my brand and choosing the clothes that I wear when I go out in public. I worry about whether people are going to take the time to look at me and figure out that I am a female; and not just assume that I am a male because of what I have on. If I am putting on men’s clothes, I will fix my hair in a different was so they can still see that I’m a female. Whereas if I have on female clothes, I will fix my hair in a way that you can tell that I’m still masculine. I’m trying to balance it out to where I’m still comfortable in what I’m doing. I’m not just going to completely dress like a female just to please society so they can understand what I am. That’s the struggle right now. Sometimes I just want to do what I want to do; but I still don’t want anybody to think that I’m a male when I’m in men’s clothing.
T.C.: How do you deal with that when it happens? If you’re in a store and someone calls you sir, how do you react to that?
Q: Sometimes it depends on the day I’m having. Also, like I said, I have to realize that some people are what we would call ignorant or just not knowing. I’m not saying that they are stupid; they just don’t have the knowledge behind what they are doing or what they are about to say. On a bad day I may say something or on a good day I just may say, “excuse me.” Then they will say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that. I wasn’t looking. I just assumed because of the dreads.” I get that all the time. Right now I’m to the point to where, as long as they catch themselves after I say something, I’m fine. But if they just want to sit there and continue to call me a male, that’s when I have a problem. Normally they will catch themselves after I have said excuse me or I say something.
T.C.: Just to set up my next question I want to reiterate what you just said. You wear masculine clothes, but you still consider yourself a female?
T.C.: Do you have any comments for people who are confused about that idea of, “I see a woman who is wearing masculine clothes, so maybe she wants to be a man?” Can you speak to how that is not the case for you?
Q: Yes, that’s far from the case for me. I’m just comfortable in men’s clothes. I love my body, so I’m not trying to change that at all. So like I said, it’s just really hard when you are dealing with folks that are thinking, “Hey, she wants to be a guy because she’s in guy clothes.” No, this is just me being comfortable in what I’m wearing.
I’m struggling with that today. I don’t know if there is anything that person can really do besides just keep talking about it, keep putting out blogs. Consistently talk about it so people know that this is an issue. People should address people the way they want to be addressed. Not just going by their clothes.
Now that leads to another point, you have some girls out there that dress like a male and want to be a male. So, I don’t have a problem with people asking me what do I want to be called. People ask me what my preference is anyway. Why not ask me what do I want to be considered as, a female or male? Just ask the question instead of just assuming that I want to be considered a male cause I’m in male clothes. I would rather deal with that, then for someone to look at me and just assume that I want to be called a male.
People will say, “Okay, she is in male clothes. So hey, we are going to call her a boy. We are going to call her a guy or Mr. Q.” I wish you would. (laughter) I just hope that people would just ask. If your not sure, just ask. I will feel a lot better than someone assuming. I would have more respect for you if you just ask, instead of just going along with what you don’t know.
T.C.: Cool, thank you. That’s all my questions unless you have any last words.
Q: I was at the store in the checkout line with my mom. I was behind her and the cashier said “Next person, next sir.”
I didn’t think she was talking to me, because I know I’m not a dude, I just have on basketball clothes. My hair was down at the time, so it still didn’t dawn on me that she was talking to me. Again she said, “Sir, excuse me sir.”
I still didn’t pay her any attention; I think I was texting on my phone or something. For the third time she said, “Excuse me sir.” Then she tapped the thing and I looked at her. Then I looked up at her, but it still hadn’t registered that she called me sir. It didn’t dawn me until after the fact.
Then she said, “OH! I’m sooo sorry. I…I’m so sorry. The dreads and…” At this point I’m still confused so I looked at my mom. My mom said, “She called you sir.” I remember saying, “Oh.” Because it didn’t register, I didn’t even hear it because I probably was focused on something else.
The cashier was very apologetic. She really apologized until she pretty much was done ringing me up. Then we left the store and she was still apologizing. But it still didn’t register to me until after the fact that she really called me sir. I don’t know if I didn’t notice it because I was busy. I said to myself, “this didn’t really happen.”
After that, I started really paying attention to things when I’m about to check out. I’m not really on my phone or anything like that. I really want them to look at me and see me before they classify me as a male without looking at me. So I will start holding conversations and say, “hey, how are you doing?” Before that sir comes out. Before they get a chance to call me that. Then when it comes time for them to address me, they know I am a female. So now I will just sort of stop them before they get a chance to call me sir, by having a conversation with them.
Some days I just like playing and I will just go up there and not say anything. Just to see who is going to call me a male on that day? Lets see how many times I am going to get referred to as a male today.
That was the very first incident and I kind of missed it though. But the fact that she was willing to apologize the whole time, up until I left the store.I was just really like, “Okay.” I didn’t catch it but the fact that you cared enough to continue to apologize about something.
Another thing that makes it harder is that you do have some women that dress hardcore. So, I’m not sure what people are supposed to do. Stare you down and look? I guess that is when you are starting to confuse them, and they don’t know what you are. So that’s why people should just ask. I don’t think anybody would get offended. For example, if they are a female that dresses really masculine and wants to be referred to as a male. I don’t think they would get offended if you asked what they identify as. I think we are at a point where it is okay to ask.
T.C.: How many times do you get called sir? Is that something that happens a lot?
Q: No, not really. It may happen once or twice a week. I definitely get called a sir if I have a cap on…that’s just…I’m going to be called a guy then. But, maybe just once or twice a week I will be called sir.