Binding Without a Binder

What is chest binding and why do people wear them?

Chest binding, or also referred to as binding,  is when chest tissue is compressed or minimized to make the chest area appear flat with the help of a garment, which is usually called a binder. Although some trans and nonbinary individuals use chest binding, it is not necessary for everyone or exclusively for those who are trans, androgynous, or nonbinary. The decision to bind one’s chest doesn’t actually indicate or determine identity. Chest binding is for anyone who wants to flatten or minimize the appearance of their chest, either occasionally or regularly.

There are a variety of reasons why someone would choose to bind their chest. 

Some of the most common reasons that someone may use a chest binder may include:

  • to reduce chest size due to obesity or a health condition such as gynecomastia
  • For cosplay, role-play, or drag
  • managing chest or gender dysphoria and social dysphoria
  • aesthetic preference
  • to feel safe in public
  • to help with healing after chest surgery
  • to conceal or minimize one’s chest for a flatter appearance
  • to support mental health
  • to affirm gender identity or expression
  • to fit into clothes designed for “men” with more ease
  • to present or be perceived as masculine or a man

Is it safe to use a binder? 

Even though there are risks, binding is considered safe if done carefully and responsibly. It is never recommended to use tape, ace bandages, or other DIY materials when looking to flatten your chest. A binder should not be worn for extended periods of time and it is not recommended you wear a binder while sleeping or during strong activity such as working out. If you’re not feeling well or have shortness of breath, you should give your body a rest from binding as it can cause your body harm. A binder should always be clean and dry, so when you're not wearing it, make sure to wash it. Like any other underwear or undergarment, you should make sure it is always clean and dry when wearing it. 

97% of people who commonly wear a binder have reported at least 1 negative outcome from binding. 

The most commonly reported side effects included:

  • back pain
  • overheating
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • itching
  • poor posture
  • shoulder pain

People with larger chests were more likely to report skin issues such as:

  • tenderness
  • tissue changes
  • itching
  • acne

What alternatives are there to binding?

 If you don’t want to wear a binder or want to have options for days when you want to give your body a rest from wearing a binder, there are a few things you can try. 

The most common products and strategies people use to bind include:

Layering your clothes

Layering clothing can be a comfortable way to hide or neutralize the chest without having to wear a binder. A tight-fitting undershirt or tank top can help keep things from moving around too much, allowing you to also wear a loser t-shirt over it. You can also try an open button down shirt over the tank or undershirt for some added layering. Dark colors like blacks, browns, and navy blue help to camouflage curves and help the focal point off your chest. Dark colors can help cover up and de-emphasize your chest visually. Lighter solid colors can sometimes bring more attention to your chest because there's nothing to distract the eye. You can also try patterns, vertical stripes or lines, plaid, or a graphic that fits your style.

Compression tops

If you want to flatten your chest as much as possible without wearing a binder, the next best thing to a binder is a compression top. Compression tops create a flattening effect without being as restrictive as a binder so you’re able to wear it for longer periods of time without the physical dangers or side effects. Compression tops are now available in different cuts and lengths and when combined with our first idea of layering, they can be the perfect solution for everyday wear. When it comes to compression tops it's important to remember to make sure you find the right size for you. If a compression top doesn’t fit nice and snug on the body, it won’t have as much of a flattening effect as it could. You should never wear a size too small for you either because then you run the risk of causing yourself harm. 

Kinetic tapes 

Kinetic tapes designed for skin adhesion and tissue support are another way you can accomplish the look a binder can give you without the need to wear one. This tape is designed to be worn on the body so it’s made to move with you and doesn’t restrict your range of motion. If you use the kinetic tape correctly, it can be much safer than wearing a binder. Note it’s important you only use kinetic tape that is made to be used on the body. Never use duck tape or other tapes not made to be used on skin and that do not have the flexibility to move with you. 

At the end of the day, it’s all about your gender euphoria! Wear what makes you feel great and what celebrates you and helps you show up as your true authentic self. 


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