IF YOU’RE looking for a place to shop that’s both trendy and inclusive, Civvies should be your first stop.
The secondhand apparel store has been a Broughton Street staple for years, offering thrifters cool digs while also making space for its marginalized shoppers.
Recently, Civvies removed gender designation from their racks, instead sorting their clothing by type.
Store manager Rainé Rainé said the change happened shortly after he began working there.
“I was like, ‘Okay, this has to go,’” he laughs.
For cisgender folks — people whose gender identity corresponds with their birth sex — the importance of non-gendered shopping might not be obvious at first.
“For any gender-nonconforming person, not having to out yourself by how you shop is really important,” he says. “Like going into the store and shopping in a section that doesn’t match what people perceive your gender expression as can be really stressful. Simultaneously, [it’s hard] for people who are very invested in gender roles. A lot of men will literally walk in, they will not touch the clothing, they won’t look at it, but they’ll look at the entire downstairs and say, ‘Oh, this is all women’s clothing; the men’s clothing must be upstairs.’ So it’s really challenging people to be more intentional about their shopping experience and take more time to actually look at and feel how the clothing feels to them, as opposed to just deciding, ‘This is not my section,’ instead of sticking to these gender lines that don’t mean anything.”
As outlined on the website, Civvies prioritizes the comfort of its queer, trans and intersex shoppers, both by the layout of the and by the staff itself.
“Most of the people that work here are gender non-conforming or trans, and that has been that way increasingly since I started working there,” says Rainé. “And the people who are not are good allies that are willing to speak in a way that represents the overall store mission, even if it’s not directly affecting them.”
Broughton Street is a major tourist area and receives a lot of foot traffic, putting Civvies in the perfect position to spread their message. The store permanently carries the messages “Clothing for All Genders” and “Support Local Businesses on Broughton” in its storefront, but the display window also carries a rotating message.
Recently, it said, “We Are Shopping on Stolen Land” and “No Human is Illegal.”
The display has received mixed reviews.
“A lot of people loved it,” Rainé says. “There are definitely people who came in and were like, ‘Yeah, I’m actually not going to shop here.’ But I’m not a business person by trade, so it’s not my priority. I’m obviously trying to use what resources we have available to take up space. There are so few businesses on this block that are local, let alone ones willing to put their business on the line to represent what our community is about. That’s disappointing, but it pushes me to make sure that’s a priority.”
Another Civvies’ priority is offering a music venue that’s accessible for all.
Civvies’ story is intertwined with music. Its founder, Robyn Reeder, started Civvies in 2006 and was a prolific musician in the local scene.
“[A music venue] was definitely a big reason for pushing the expansion,” says Rainé. “I think having music at Civvies was a big part of Robyn’s original vision for the store.”
After Reeder passed away in 2015, the live music offerings at Civvies dwindled a bit, but Rainé is helping to bring that back. He has previous experience booking shows and knows Sept. 12 headliner Machine Girl through those connections.
“There’s a lot of places I will never book a show,” says Rainé. “I also don’t really appreciate how many shows here are oriented towards bar culture and are inaccessible to people who are under 21, especially since there are so many young people here. Being able to have a space where we can have events that include those people is really important.” (For Sean Kelly’s look at all-ages venues, click here.)
In addition to Machine Girl, Civvies will host Greef and Sundog Sept. 17 and ChokedUp Nov. 7. Cunabear will also perform in the shop on every second Saturday.
Rainé wants to make sure anyone who wants to perform has a space to do so.
“If anyone is ever interested in having a space to show their work, who can’t afford to pay a $400 gallery fee or who is too young to be able to play in a bar, or it feels like maybe someone doesn’t take them seriously because they’ve never played a show before,” says Rainé, “hit us up.”