Chicago style icons: A Violet fusion of punk and queerness

Cover Photo of Violet
Zack Violet lays in his trademark cheetah jacket with matching cheetah leggings and boots accompanied with a black corset in West Ridge Jan. 27. (Lauren Baker/MEDILL)

By Lauren Baker

Zack Violet is known for creating both atmospheres and outfits that go against the grain. Violet, who likes to be referred to as “they”,  is redefining queer fashion here in Chicago. Anita Dolce Vita defines queer fashion as “undefinable because it is specific to the individual” and is “systematically rooted in gender non-conformity”. From their trademark long cheetah trench coat to the brightly painted galaxy leggings, the outfits Violet creates speaks to the idea of clothing becoming genderfluid and queer.

Violet says “taking careful attention and love and care to set yourself up for feeling the way that you know, want. Or at least opening up to the feelings that you want.” Violet goes on to say that “how you look is really important and being true to what’s inside of you is super important to me.

Musician Zack Violet
Zack Violet is wearing galaxy leggings with brown leather jacket with purple accessories near their apartment in West Ridge
Jan. 27. (Lauren Baker/MEDILL)

Violet describes their style as “kinky, queer, gender fluid and freakish”, and admits they have been dressing up since childhood. Born in Michigan but currently living in Chicago, Violet respects the need for gender fluidity. Take for example their name. Violet chose the name “Zack Violet”  as a combination of a traditional masculine and feminine names, allowing others to chose the way they feel most comfortable identifying them. College theatre classmate Jasmine Lake adds “[Zach] owns it. That’s what people are attracted to whether they know it or not. Someone who is unafraid and unapologetic about who they are; queer or not”.

When they were in high school, Violet began to realize the true power of being themselves.  Their eclectic style sticks out even in the neighborhood they live in. Violet, who says being a rock star is  their full time job but works a job serving brunch on the weekends,  lives in the part of Westridge where the majority of residents are Hispanic, Middle Eastern and Indian. As the fashionista and I walked to a local park to photograph one of their outfits, a neighbor walked past us. Violet wore a bright yellow mumu, striped tights, blue shoes with rainbow colored gloves, white lipstick, an auburn wig and sci-fi themed glasses.

A Close Up of Violet
Zack Violet stares with their bright white lips, green make up and sci-fi sun glasses in West Ridge Jan. 27(Lauren Baker/MEDILL)

Violet’s heels clicked on the pavement with pure attitude. Without hesitation, the neighbor quickly walked passed us, trying not to make eye contact. I asked Violet about their interaction in the neighborhood they live in. Their response was simple: “they don’t speak much”; they create their personal style independently from what other people think. But this interaction falls short of how Violet perceives the idea of being queer here in Chicago. Violet says “there is an amazingly open, wonderfully supportive and incredibly diverse queer population here in Chicago.”

The contrast of this interaction to supportive queer population only enhances the connections Violet creates with themselves. To them, clothing is not designated to a specific gender; it’s all just clothing.

A few days earlier, I asked  their roommate Megan Morris about Violet’s Style. She described their style as “malleable, queer and just this like punkish demiurgic, just like this creative unidimensional dope ass style! Just like this style that screams I don’t give a [expletive]!”.

Violet's Everyday Look
Zack Violet shows off their everyday style in a park in WestRidge Jan. 27. (Lauren Baker/MEDILL)

Along with studying theatre in college, music has been a huge part of their identity.  Violet expressed heavily on how much their style is the “physical representation” of their music.

Violet is currently the frontman of a hard rock band from hell called where they perform as a self-described “demon dominatrix” and wear clothing that is “dark kinky and sexual”.

As for queer fashion here in Chicago, Violet expressed positivity for the future. They said, “I see queer and African American fashion evolving fastest and most gloriously. I strongly feel that as we awaken deeper and deeper to our own simultaneous infinite unity and uniqueness: fashion is bound to reflect the evolution of our consciousness.”

Zack Violet lies in their trademark cheetah jacket with matching cheetah leggings and boots, accompanied with a black corset in West Ridge Jan. 27. (Lauren Baker/MEDILL)