Review: Jam Body Tank, aka Compression Tank, aka Faux-Binder

jamrws01-tank_1Rounderwear contacted me offering products for review, and while their bubble-butt gay boy underwear is pretty cute, I wasn’t sure it was for me exactly. Then, the Body Tank sections caught my eye, and I requested to take a look at the Jam Body Tank.

Glad I did. I’ve worn it frequently since it arrived.

I really don’t like full-on compression shirts. They make it hard for me to breathe. They knock the wind outta me after walking a block or two, or up one flight of stairs. They shove my chest up into my collarbone and sometimes make me feel like my neck isn’t free enough, like I’m suffocating. They make my stomach feel all weird (and some other digestion things you probably don’t want to know about). I don’t like the feeling of wearing one.

I sure do like how my silhouette looks when I do, however.

So, I picked up a “muscle shirt” a while ago, which is basically a regular tee shirt on top and then an elastic band that covers the stomach, and I wear that over my usual binder (aka sports bra—my current pick being Enell) when I want to have a smoother silhouette, or when I want to wear a button-down. It’s not as intense as my compression shirt, but it still makes a difference.

This Jam Body Tank is a lot like that, except instead of being half-shirt half-elastic, it’s all elastic. It’s a lot more comfortable than a compression shirt, but it’s not quite as effective. It doesn’t create the same straight(er) lines that a compression shirt does, but it does still help, AND I can breathe! Yes!

Here’s the description from the Rounderwear site:

Seamless compression tank that provides back support and definition to the muscles. Its detailed design and construction help pull back the shoulders, straighten the back and slim down the waist.

92% Polyamide Sorbtek 8% Elastane

• Improves shape and posture
• Slims down
• Reduces back pain
• Controls body temperature
• Machine wash

I don’t feel it pulling back the shoulders or straightening my back, but maybe I already have good posture? Kind of doubt it, since I’ve got a long history of shoulder trouble. I also haven’t noticed any sort of “body temperature” control, but maybe it knows something I don’t.

What does seem to be true is that it “provides support” and “improves shape” and “slims down.” Basically, it’s Spanx for men. And butches, and whomever might want to slim down their curves into a more linear shape.

I’m very glad to have something other than that compression shirt to wear to “slim down” my shape and make it a bit more masculine, especially for long conference days like I had this past weekend. Wearing the compression shirt for a whole day (or two or four days in a row) is hard on my body. I’m glad for the chance to review it, I didn’t realize products like these are out there and I’m going to keep an eye out for more like this.

“You’re Into That?” and Another Photo of Me

Somehow in May I had two beautiful photographs of me, both taken by professional photographers, published. And in case you aren’t following me in the regular social media places, or by my RSS feed on mrsexsmith.com, I figured I’d share ’em here.

Photo by Bil Wadman, ontakingphotos.com

The first is by Bill Wadman who first took my photo for 365Portraits.com in 2007. (I wasn’t ‘out’ as Sinclair then so I kept it under my other name.) A few weeks ago, he tweeted that he was bored and wanted to take portraits, and I replied, how about me? And it was on. He came over and we chatted about what I was planning to do that weekend, which was to attend a BDSM erotic energy retreat. He paused a second: “You’re into that?” Me: “Yep. In fact, I have some good equipment if you’d like to see it …” and out came my flogger. After he saw my new (since his last shot of me, anyway) tattoo, the shot soon made itself.

Speaking of the tattoo: many people have asked me what it is. It’s a ruler, it measures 6″, and if you measure from the flat palm of my hand, it measures 8″. There are numerous meanings to it (as with all the best tattoos, don’t you think?): I’m a graphic designer, for one. I’ll always have 6″ with me (ha ha) and I can measure high heels a lot easier this way. I can now measure how far into you I can reach. I’ve been thinking about this tattoo for a while, since I saw a photo of someone who had one on Flickr years ago, but the thing that made me go and do it was taking the Buddhist Refuge Vow in spring 2010. During the meditations, it came to me that this path, the Buddhist path, is actually incredibly linear, and has been walked hundreds of thousands of times for thousands of years. Considering that so, so much of my life is about forging my own path, making my own direction, this felt so incredibly comforting and I knew it was time to get the tattoo.

Photo by Yi Ching Lin, www.yichinglin.com

This next shot was for the DapperQ He Said/We Said May edition, the shoot for which happened in April, with photos by Yi Ching Lin. I was there with four other models, all of whom were reinterpreting a current high-fashion men’s runway look in our own way. The photos turned out beautifully. Susan Herr, DapperQ hirself, has called this photo “the best butch photo of all time,” and I am very pleased with how it turned out.

There are others over at DapperQ.com from this shoot, and there’s a video of all 5 of us models talking about our fashion inspiration as well.

Ask Me Anything: Origins of ‘Sugarbutch’, and Butch Identity Advice

Kyle asked:

Where did ‘Sugarbutch’ come from? Is it a nickname? A term of endearment? A random word paired with ‘butch’?

And, because I’m feeling greedy/generous, another question, this one a little more serious. What is one piece of advice you’d give to a newly identifying butch. Would it be something about relationships? Or maybe fashion related? Something deeper about identity, gender and sexuality? And if you don’t want to be limited to one piece of advice, go for it.

I’m not sure I have explained “sugarbutch” before. It is a term my first girlfriend used to say, as in, “You’re not really butch, you’re kind of sugar-butch,” as a way to soften the “butch” part. When I started this site I knew I was butch, but I was still having trouble claiming it without any qualifiers or clarifications, which is why I used the “sugar” part. It makes it sweeter (ha ha), less harsh. Five years later, I don’t think “butch” needs to be made sweeter or less harsh, or rather I think the stereotype of butch may need to be, but that I don’t need to present it that way. I can let the complications of butch identity come through just by being who I am rather than qualifying my language.

Secondly … advice. Actually I have a somewhat recent performance poetry piece called “Unsolicited Advice to a New Butch” (also known as The Butch Poem) which I’ve been performing a bit, I did it first at Butch Voices Portland last year (which is why I thought for a second that that was a trick question, Kyle, since you were there! But you couldn’t stay for the spoken word performance, I think you were already headed back to Seattle by then). I haven’t posted it online yet. I’d like to post it as a video instead of as text, but I haven’t had the chance to record it yet.

One piece of advice is hard. I could have one piece of advice on all the topics you mentioned—relationships, sex, fashion, identity. But I’ll just jump into it by saying: Examine your identity alignment assumptions. Examine your misogyny and masculine privilege. Make the label conform to you, don’t conform to it. Gender should not dictate your personality, hobbies, emotional landscape, or interests, so like what you like and don’t worry that it’s not “butch enough.”

Ultimately: do what feels right to you. Deconstruct societal restrictions and listen to your own inner self. Date who you want to date, sleep with who you want to sleep with, keep your hair how you want to keep your hair, wear what you want to wear. Give yourself permission to experiment (especially with fashion and adornment—hair and clothes are very temporary!). Don’t be afraid to expand the definition of a label if you feel like it has some resonance. Don’t be afraid to experiment, collect the data, and then change things as needed in the future. Whatever or whoever you are right now, it could be the same in five or ten years or it could be completely different, and that’s okay. Don’t take it all so seriously. There is more to you than just this identity, this is just one part of who you are. Work on all the parts (like in the integrated life matrix) and commit to evolving into your Self over and over.

I’d be curious to hear other folks’ answer to that question, though—what advice would YOU give to a new butch? What advice do you wish you had? What’d you learn the hard way? What was the best piece of advice you received?