How to Look More Masculine - Gender Inclusive Guide

Woman presenting masculine

By Charlie Lewis - October 2023

Masculinity is a term that encompasses a social construct and type of gender expression. Masculine expression is something all people can participate in if they choose to do so regardless of their gender identity or sex assigned at birth.

Those curious about or wanting to explore masculinity and outward masculine expression without relying on gender-exclusive definitions of masculinity might be seeking guidance. This expansive guide is for anyone who wants to appear masculine outwardly. It will provide tips for presenting yourself in a way that reads as masculine. It is a jumping-off point but by no means exhaustive or restrictive when considering your masculine presentation.

Gender Expression and Masculinity

Gender expression, sometimes also called gender performance, refers to how a person’s outward behavior, interests, mannerisms, and appearance relate to and express/display their gender identity. It is not the same thing as gender identity or sexual orientation. This presentation can be masculine, feminine, androgynous, mixed, or undefined. If you are interested in exploring your gender expression though fashion and beauty, you can read more on this particular subject in this guide. 

Masculinity is a category of gender expression, however, when thinking of masculinity, it can be helpful to consider the plural form of masculinities. This is because there is no one form of masculine expression, and different cultures, societies, and social groups have endless variations of masculinity and masculine expression. There is no one way to be masculine, and if you identify with or have curiosity about masculinity, there is no one prescriptive way to present that.

Why Someone May Want to Present Masculine

Though throughout time masculinity has become societally most associated with those identified as men and boys, masculinity has a deep history for people of all genders.

Masculinity can be attractive to people for many reasons, some associate it with strength, steadiness, directness, and being active. For some presenting masculinely allows them to feel attractive and feel comfortable in their skin. They may like how those around them react to them when presenting masculinity, and the confidence it gives them moving through the world.

Some feel fluidity between masculinity and femininity and want to go back and forth between both expressions. Others may combine masculine and feminine features/traits to subvert binary gendered expectations and express several parts of themselves simultaneously.

All women can present masculinely if they so choose. There is a long and rich history of women’s masculine expression, both within the queer women’s community and outside of it.

Trans men/FTM identifying men often identify with masculinity and will present masculinely to feel affirmed in their gender and experience gender euphoria. Unfortunately, transgender men often have had to fight to present themselves masculinely due to societal norms or laws against being transgender.

Non-binary, agender, and those who are undifferentiated in terms of gender can also play with masculinity and femininity without having to do so as part of a binary gender.

Common Terms Associated With Masculine Presentation

Different societies, groups, and cultures have an infinite number of terms associated with masculinity. Below are a few terms that come from groups of all genders to describe masculine expression, and those who express themselves in a masculine manner.


Terms like “butch” are most often associated with lesbian women who present masculinely. The historical context of the term has been fairly exclusively tied to queer women’s culture. Women and those who identify with lesbian culture have long used masculine expression as a way to feel comfortable as themselves, and as a way to signal to other queer women that they are part of the same community. Though “butch” and “femme” are sometimes seen as opposite ends of the spectrum of queer/lesbian expression, there have always been those who find themselves comfortable with expressing masculinity and femininity together, sometimes being called “futch” for the combo of butch and femme.


Words like “tomboy” have been used to describe children/young people who are seen as girls who exhibit masculine traits and expressions, regardless of their sexuality. Tomboy can be used as a self-descriptor, or can be ascribed to those who do not express themselves in a way that would be considered traditionally feminine. The term has been in use with it’s current definition since the 16th century.


In addition to the masculinity most associated with cis-gender heterosexual men, gay male culture has categories of expression such as “fem” and “masc.” There can be a bit of a hierarchy in gay men’s spaces, with mascs being seen as more valid in their manhood for performing masculinity in a more “traditional” form. Many of those in the gay male community have begun to call out the issues inherent with prizing those identified as “masc” over those who are seen as more feminine in presentation, and have fought to make space for all forms of queer masculine presentation.

Trans-masc, Maculine of center, Demi-boy, etc.

Terms like ‘trans-masc’, ‘masculine of center’ ‘demi-boy’ ‘boi’, and many others indicate someone who identifies with masculinity in some way but does not necessarily identify as a man. These terms have been developed in the LGBTQIAS+ and gender non-conforming community over the last century, as people have begun more openly exploring gender expression that goes beyond the binary, and finding ways to describe their gender experience and relationship to masculinity.

How To Find Your Masculine Style

A good start in finding a style that works for you is to pay attention to the styles you see in the world, in media, and online. Watch those in your community, characters, and actors on television and in movies, and friends and influencers online, and find styles which resonate with you. The exploration phase is a good time to be playful, as you might find yourself surprised by your tastes and desires.

You can use apps to see how you would look with various haircuts, facial shape, and facial hair styles. It’s also good to have grace with yourself and to make space for the potential feelings of dysphoria, euphoria, or any other things that may come up for you while exploring masculine expression.

Masculine Clothing

Clothing is often considered one of the main tools utilized in gender expression/presentation. Personal style is infinitely varied, but below are some tips on how to find a way of dressing that makes you feel affirmed in your gender/masculinity.

Know your body

Bodies have a diverse range of shapes, and no two people have the same body experience. It can be difficult if you have dysphoria to spend time focusing on your body’s shape. However, knowing how clothing fits you allows you to use it to your advantage to achieve the shape/appearance you’re looking for when presenting masculinely.

Consider loose fits

If you have breast tissue or a body shape that causes dysphoria or is something you’d prefer to conceal, loose-fitting t-shirts will help hide your shape. They let your body shape appear to have straighter lines, rather than visible curves. It can also be fun to find colorful or patterned t-shirts that are expressive and also draw the eye away from what’s under the shirt.

Button-ups are your friend when presenting masculinely. They are often associated with masculine fashion, formal wear, and business attire. They also make it easy to wear a binder, pull your chest tissue to the side with tape, or just generally give you a flatter appearance in front with or without binding.

Look out for trends

Look into both current fashion trends, as well as vintage/retro trends to find what flows best for you. There is an ocean of trends to draw inspiration from, and only you know what aligns most with your gender identity and personal expression.

Do not overlook the pant sizing

If you are transitioning from wearing “women’s” sizing, wearing pants sold for men can be a bit confusing when compared to the numerical and S-XXL type sizes. Most masculine-style pants have a hip measurement and a length measurement. To find your size, use a flexible tape measure to get the size of your hips and the length of your legs/inseam. You can read more on pant sizing in this guide.

Once you have the right sizing, you can explore which styles of pants work for you. You can also take time to figure out which pants help conceal shape or allow for padding, compression shorts, or a packer underneath.


You can also accessorize to add flare to your masculine outfits. Ties can be useful accessory to pair with a tucked-in button-up and a suit jacket or cardigan. You can use different types of hats including bucket hats, baseball caps, Stetson/rimmed hats as well as fleece beanies for fun masculine expression (and good for covering a bad hair day). Cross-body bags can give you masculine style and practicality. These are just some of the ways you can accessorize.

Masculine Face

Just like with body shape and style, all faces can be masculine. These are some tips for helping your face to appear more masculine according to current societal standards/expectations. All of these tips presented below can be played with and customized for your own comfort and expression.

Apply makeup

Makeup is a powerful tool for transformation and a non-permanent way to change your outward appearance. It can be used to create facial hair and to create a more masculine shape. For more in-depth information on masculine makeup, we have an article specifically about using makeup for masculine presentation.

Using contour and highlight makeup is a great way to change the appearance and shape of your face/features. Contour can be used to make the jaw and cheekbones more angular, the brow wider and lower, and to make the chin and nose more prominent. Contour can also be used to change the hairline, and create a false Adam's apple.

Consider prosthetics

If you want to go beyond just using makeup and contour to change your appearance, makeup-based prosthetics are also an option. You can purchase pre-made prosthetics to add to your chin, cheeks, nose, or other parts of your body. You can also use products such as liquid latex to create your own prosthetics. Using these products, you can create the illusion of a wider/more square face or add skin details to appear more masculine.

Think about facial hair

As mentioned above, if you’re unable to grow facial hair, or simply want to choose when you do or don’t have it, or change the style, makeup is a great way to create the appearance of facial hair. You can use things like eye-brow and eyelash mascara to darken existing hairs. You can use powder and a brush to build layers of dark makeup to create the illusion of shadow. You can also use a stippling sponge and facepaint to create a realistic-looking stubble.

You can also purchase prosthetic mustaches and beards which either attach to your face with adhesive or are tied around the head/ears like a mask. Another option is getting false hair that can be applied one to two pieces at a time to build the facial hair appearance you desire.

If you want to work on growing facial hair, keeping the face clean and moisturized, as well as using beard oil when hair does start coming in are good ways to encourage healthy hair growth on your face. Stimulating the follicles through a brief daily massage can also help encourage facial hair growth.

Masculine Hair

Haircut/style is a large part of how many people express both their sense of style and as a part of their gender expression. Like with other aspects of style/expression, no hairstyle is exclusive to masculinity or femininity, but below we share some tips that may help you in your presentation journey.

Think beyond short hair

Historically, those identified as masculine have had long hair, outlandish powdered wigs, short hair, and often no hair. In the lesbian/queer women’s community, short hair has often been a symbol of belonging for many and an expression of masculinity for the wearer. However, many butch and masc women rock long hair. In many cultures as well as in legends, long masculine hair is seen as a source of power. It’s all about what makes you feel confident and affirmed in your gender/presentation.

Play with different hairstyles

If you’ve felt limited in your expression previously by conceived notions of what’s appropriate for certain genders, you might be new to finding a style/styles that express you best. As you explore your masculine expression, trying different hairstyles and even hair colors will allow you to both find what works best for you (depending on the upkeep). There’s no reason to stop playing it up either. A new hairstyle can always help you feel fresh and might inspire you to make other changes to your appearance!

Masculine Nail Art

Nail art for all genders is becoming more acceptable, and the world of masculine nail art has really exploded in the past few years. Here are a few considerations when trying out masculine nail art styles.

Consider acrylics as well as nail polish

Some venturing into the world of nail art will feel intimidated by wearing longer acrylics over simply using nail polish and appliques. There’s no wrong way to begin, but there are different experiences/pros and cons to using either method. Acrylics give you more room to play with shape and will retain the designs longer than natural nails but cost more and make using your hands/fingers a challenge.  

Consider geometric and matte

Geometric nail designs are very popular for masculine nails, as they are eye-catching and engaging to look at. Whether a grid, wavy lines, or other geometric patterns, these tend to allow for a more artistic flair. For masculine nail art, manicurists are also often choosing to go with matte polish, as opposed to the classic shiny/satiny style. These allow the nails to remain understated but still allow for all sorts of interesting designs.

Masculine Body Shape

There is no one body shape(s) that is inherently masculine, just as there are no body types/shapes inherently feminine. Too often, for both cis and trans men, as well as non-binary people and masculine-presenting women, we are sold the idea that thin, muscular, flat-chested individuals are the only acceptable form of masculine bodies. If you feel affirmed in your gender with the way your body already looks, there is no need to change to fit the expectations of others. However, for some having a body shape that reads as masculine to the world around them, or for whom having certain body parts a certain shape is important. These are some options based on common expectations of what is seen as masculine.

Padding can be your friend

In changing the shape of your body, you can find or create prosthetic pieces or different types of padding to add under or over your clothing. This includes items such as muscle suits, breastplates that create the illusion of a flat/nude chest, and shoulder/hip pads. These pieces can help your body reflect what you would like to see to feel affirmed in your gender expression without having to make permanent changes to your body.

Consider chest binding

Body types/sizes/shapes are not tied to any one gender or form of presentation. When considering the idea of a masculine chest, most think of a flattened upper chest area with pectoral muscles and fairly evenly distributed breast tissue. If you are not starting with a chest like this, but feel dysphoria around having visible breast tissue, or just prefer to occasionally have a flat chest, binding is a proven method for achieving this.

Binders refer to compression garments made specifically for flattening the chest. They come in many styles, sizes, and colors/patterns so you can find one that works for you. For a more in-depth look at binders, check out our article on the subject.

Trans tape and body-suitable tapes such as KT tape also allow for many types of body transformation. They allow you to change the tightness of your skin, muscles, and tissues, using tension instead of compression. Check out our in-depth guide to using trans tape for binding.

Add weights to your training

Adding certain exercises to your workout routine can allow the body to change somewhat over time, with the goal of changing body shape to align with what feels most comfortable for your body. Push-ups and bench presses, as well as their many variations, are a good starting point for pectoral exercises. The results of these exercises can make it easier to bind or to increase the appearance of a flat chest. To build muscles in your bicep, which can help create the appearance of broad shoulders and a wider torso, curls with hand weights can be helpful. If you are interested in reading more about gym confidence and clothing as a trans and/or non binary person, this guide may help you.

Learn how to pack

The term “packing” refers to using prosthetics or other tools, generally referred to as “packers” to create a bulge that mimics that of a natal penis. One can pack for reasons related to dysphoria around the genitals without the need for the packer to be visible to others. Anyone who wishes to add heft to their pelvic region can use a packer. Packers come in many shapes and sizes, with some made of silicone which resembles natal pansies, and others made of fabric/stuffing. You can even use everyday objects like socks to begin your packing journey.  

Masculine Style Influencers to Follow

The following are influencers who embrace an expansive view of masculinity and masculine expression. They all have an interest in style/fashion and find ways to express themselves despite societal pressures/expectations. Their styles and presentation can be a good jumping-off point/inspiration for developing your masculine expression.

Kenny Ethan Jones (he/him)

Kenny Ethan Jones wears many hats, both those of a fashionable variety as well as the many roles he fulfills. He’s a model, writer, activist, and public speaker. He takes traditional men’s style and embellishes it with bold patterns and stylish accessories. His career began with the historic achievement of being the first transgender man to front a period campaign for Pink Parcel’s IM ON campaign.

He’s a great person to follow if you’re looking for understated but elevated masculine fashion inspiration. Kenny has written for several publications about the trans experience. If you’re looking for both styled looks and introspection on what it means to be a trans man in the world of fashion, he’s your guy.

Justin Livingston (he/him)

NYC-based fashion influencer Justin Livingston brings bold colors and a mix of materials and silhouettes to the table. He finds fashion-forward ways to combine styles that are traditionally considered both masculine and feminine to create a look that is uniquely his. He also sews and designs some of his pieces.

He’s a good influencer to follow if you’re looking for fashion with a playful vibe that can stand up to the wear and scrutiny of street fashion. He will often share his inspirations behind certain looks and also where he sources his pieces from.

Ziggy Zaddy (she/her)

An influencer and TikTok dance star, Ziggy was listed as one of Dapper Q’s “Most Stylish” in 2022. She brings colorful vintage-inspired looks that have a good blend of masculine and feminine style. As a queer influencer, she makes sure to incorporate queerness into her fashion choices.

She rocks suits and button-ups as well as crop tops and jerseys, adorned with fashionable accessories like sunglasses, necklaces, hats, and headbands. She’s a great person to follow if you’re looking for a masculine presentation that takes up space in more traditionally feminine spaces.

Tevin “Milo” Evans (he/him)

Tevin is a model, stylist, actor, influencer, and podcast host. He brands himself as #fatchuckbass, and it’s his mission to make space in the masculine fashion world for fat people. He’s been recently featured in Vogue.

He brings an elevated and dapper vibe to his fashion, along with bright colorful ensembles. He’s a great influencer to watch if you’re looking for plus-size fashion that allows traditionally feminine pieces to co-exist with dressed-up masculine style.


There are infinite ways to present masculinely, and there is room for all kinds of masculinities. Whether you identify as a man, trans-masculine, non-binary, or a woman or trans-feminine, if you are interested in presenting masculinely, you should go for it. You might find a new side of yourself, or connect with the person who’s already there.


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Charlie Lewis (he/him/his) is a queer non-binary writer and filmmaker based out of Portland, OR.