Holly Rose Swinyard is a self-proclaimed fashion experimentalist who writes about non binary fashion.
Of all the fashions I follow and engage with, I think that this Chap look is the most me. Despite having a very definite male/female divide – Chaps and Chapettes, though there are many ongoing attempts to introduce Chapex, or just to degender Chap as a fashion term – I have found that not only do I love the fashion, but the community is the most accepting of any of the fashion communities. Fun, rambunctious, and downright splendid in their taste and style, these Chaps welcome all with open arms and are more than willing to teach and convert everyone they meet to the Way of Tweed.
I do find myself in more exciting and interesting places when herringbone adorns my person. I’ve never been more comfortable than in a pair of plus fours
As a nonbinary Chap, I have carved out a little style corner for myself. I inhabit a space of roguish vagabonds, elfin children, ragamuffins, urchins and, unashamedly, Bertie Wooster. I feel that this style has no gender for me; it’s not a male version of a female fashion like Lolita, or a shapeless, ethereal creature like Mori or Strega; it’s a release into a place where I am purely myself.
My character over the years has been very much informed by the What-hos! of Bertram Wilberforce Wooster and the Great Snakes! of Tintin, so I’m not surprised that I feel so at home in the mould of Chap. I’ve always dreamed of toddling off on some wacky adventure in my tweeds and brogues. And perhaps I am: I do find myself in much more exciting and interesting places when herringbone adorns my person. I have never been more comfortable, physically and emotionally, than I am in a pair of plus fours or breeches. Chap has given me a real outlet for expressing myself rather than just my gender.
I love how expressive and over the top I can be in my other fashions – they allow me a different outlet for different needs – but Chap is me. I am Chap.
Plus Twos/Fours were a staple of the gentleman’s wardrobe back in the day. They were sportswear, for golf or cycling, loose fitting and comfortable, usually made from wool and tweed. You can get some for hunting but they aren’t cheap and often use less than good fabrics. My personal recommendation would be to look for vintage ones, on eBay or in vintage shops, or to make your own, which is what I’ve done. I love a good herringbone and dislike every tweed piece being green – I mean, come on, there’s so much to choose from!
Proper, knitted jumpers being in fashion is one of the best things ever to happen, and I hope it lasts for a good few years – if only so I can stock up! You can actually get them pretty cheaply as well. It’s worth shopping around to find one that you like and will go with plus fours. You don’t want to be running around in an orange jumper and green breeks, now do you? (I kind of really do, but I am a bad influence).
My current favourites for all things knitwear are Fat Face and The White Stuff. Both have a great selection of men’s and women’s clothes (so you can definitely find your size no matter where in the gender wobble you are), and are both in the middle of the high street pricing range.
The socks are actually just school socks that I picked up in M&S. They are very comfy and you can get them in loads of colours to complement your outfit. You may be lucky and find some on your local high street but if not, they are easy enough to order online.
The shirt. Now, I could be flippant and say, “A shirt is a shirt” and move on. And honestly, I basically am. If you have the cash, go a bit more upmarket, but everyone should be getting something well made, well fitting and not so cheap it’s see-through. A good shirt makes a wardrobe. Do not skimp on the shirt just because it might not be seen.
The hat is a vintage flat cap I picked up in Vintage to Vogue in Bath – the best vintage shop in the world. It’s a blue herringbone to match the Plus Twos, because coordination is always key. The gloves, on the other hand, were a last-minute addition because it was far too cold (in March) not to wear them. At least they’re grey, I suppose.
The coat and shoes. Unlike a style like Lolita where you want everything to be matchy-matchy, Chap has a more everyday, wearable feel, so an overcoat of any colour will work perfectly well – within reason, obviously – as will a good pair of boots, brogues, Oxfords or monk straps, though I have been thoroughly admonished for not polishing these ones.