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@dykeyspice

This Instagram documents the butch aesthetics of 90s popstars

But seriously, why did all these apparently straight women look so gay?

The Spice Girls may have all come out as full-on Tories (sob), but there’s a new member on the block who is certainly much more left-leaning: meet @dykeyspice, your new fave. It’s the Instagram account detailing all the butch dyke aesthetics rocked by girlband members and popstars of the 90s and it’s, honestly, quite remarkable that nobody really noticed it before.

“There’s usually some kind of tension between something very oversized (e.g. jeans) and something very tight, like a vest or crop top,” says Martha Summers, the South London architectural designer behind the account. “It’s usually off-the-rack looking items; builders or combat boots, denim jackets, sportswear and football shirt, and then what makes it even gayer is these items are often customised or have the sleeves cut off.”

@dykeyspice is a rereading of the straight pop icons of our childhood through a gay lens. “You can find pop fashions from most eras to read as queer, but the 90s and early 00s just felt especially dykey in a way I found relatable personally,” the founder explains. “It was a kind tomboyishness that was a commercial product of third-wave feminism, and 90s ladette culture cleaned up for young girls. All this denim and leather, utility gear, dungarees, cargo pants, massive boots, vests and cropped hair, with some glitter and diamanté thrown in for good measure.”

That’s why Summers started the account, to marry that past feeling of deep obsession with these women to her queerness now – especially her muse, Mel C, who had to deny rumours that her personal assistant was really her girlfriend. “I saw all these women, the majority of whom were straight, in these outfits that seemed born right out of lesbian culture, and it was sort of hilarious on the one hand, but also weirdly fulfilling,” she says. “I was completely closeted from ages 15-25, and it’s actually been strangely meaningful to reread the pop culture of my childhood as super gay, at least aesthetically.”

Martha’s reading of this aesthetic is both hilarious and very poignant for communities who are famously erased from mass pop culture. While @dykeyspice is for us all to enjoy, it’s really for gay women to celebrate themselves in. “Dyke is a reclaimed slur, it’s a special word to me. It’s a word that helped me understand myself as a woman, understand what kind of a woman I am. I am a butch dyke,” the founder concludes. “It’s part aesthetic, part atmosphere, which is why it can be read into images of the outfits of primarily heterosexual popstars from the late 1990s… maybe.”