This week’s blog post has been a long time coming, and it features Chloe, a.k.a. Baldy – the sole owner of pole wear and activewear brand, Hoodlum Fang. Read on to find out about the story behind one of the most colourful and unique pole brands out there, what being ‘badass’ means to Chloe and how coming out as non-binary has influenced their pole dance journey.
How I Met Chloe
I met Chloe, like many dancers in my network, at Floorplay 2018, when we were competing in the same category. They were genuinely one of the loveliest people I got to meet that night (even if I didn’t see their performance because they were right before me and I was too nervous), and I’ve been following them ever since, in awe with their brand Hoodlum Fang’s growth and their pole dance and personal journey. They say: “I’m non-binary and prefer to go by them/they for pronouns but I don’t mind her/he because, screw gender, am I right?”
Chloe have really bloomed, as a voice in the pole dance industry, and as a person and as a dancer. I wanted to share their journey on the blog so that they can inspire you too.
Especially when governments here in the UK and in the US are taking positions to stop people self-identifying as their chosen gender identity or, even worse, to erase trans rights from healthcare, it’s extremely important to be clued up about why our society’s binary approach to everything doesn’t work for everyone. With even celebrities unhelpfully coming in to say what people should or shouldn’t identify as, it’s clear we need new role models.
Plus, as a cis woman, I’ve often wondered how the male gaze and traditional gender roles influence me as a person and as a dancer. I’ve had a lot of people from a gender non-conforming background ask me about starting pole, and I thought that no one better than Chloe could help them find a role model to follow.
Tell us a bit about Hoodlum Fang. When and why did you launch it?
Hoodlum Fang was founded in September 2013 when I had just finished studying Fashion and Textiles at University. At the time, the career choices for fashion were either move to London and work for a designer or start your own business. I chose the latter.
Hoodlum Fang started while I was learning to skate with my local Roller Derby team, The Portsmouth Roller Wenches (@portsmouthrollerwenches on IG). I had never really been active or into sport as a child so when I started buying activewear I found it hard to find leggings that fit my body shape. At the time I had a small waist, wide hips and thick thighs and was about a UK size 14 (ridiculous in itself that I found it hard to find clothes when I was pretty much the average size in the UK at the time).
My final collection at university was a very commercial collection mostly consisting of streetwear and leggings, so I decided to just make my own from some of my own textiles I had designed for my final collection. My friends at the time all wanted some too and from there, the little cottage industry of Hoodlum Fang was born.
Hoodlum Fang is immediately identifiable for its unique prints and colours. Where does your inspiration come from?
Mostly from my love of all things dark, skulls and nature. I’m very much into my metal music and the goth scene, love tattoos, witchy things and my house plants so my print designs are kind of a mix of all those things.
Lockdown has been a challenge for a lot of brands. How did it affect you personally and Hoodlum Fang as a business?
Lockdown at the start was very tricky and slightly terrifying as like everyone else, I didn’t know what was really happening. Luckily Hoodlum Fang is based at home so I didn’t have to worry about not being able to go to my place of work. The only real issue that I faced was our print supplier shutting down but a few weeks before lockdown I was in the process of sourcing some Eco fabric instead for our products to be more environmentally conscious. So lockdown really made me push through with that and now about 80% of the product range is made from Recycled Polyester.
From a personal perspective, lockdown for me has been a chance to really thrive. I have started teaching online classes as before I didn’t really have a place I could teach as Portsmouth is a bit sparse when it comes to Exotic pole. I also started cooking more, baking, getting even more into my gardening. I also worked on myself and who I am as a person.
I’ve had the chance to take classes online with some of my idols, as well as some of my friends I’ve met from the Filthy Friday community (@pdfilthyfriday) who are less well known but are some fantastic teachers (big props to Misty at Flying Ballerina (@mistypoledancer) & Nadia at GFFDamian (@raven.shemoans).
You have recently started teaching some very exciting classes. Can you tell me a bit more about Floorcore and your freestyle classes?
Floorcore is a floorwork class that teaches sexy choreography to heavier metal and rock songs. As someone who is heavily into metal music, I sometimes find it hard when I take a choreo class and it’s really not my type of music, I tend to not feel the movement as well and I tend to just take it as a chance to learn tricks and tips rather than dance.
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New Class: Freestyle Squad 💜✨ My newest online class is starting this Thursday and I am so excited to roll around on the floor with some badass babes & help start them on their freestyle journey (my favourite part of pole dancing) 😍 There are only a few spaces left (I’m super humbled at the amazing folx who have already booked on, you guys mean so much to me) 🖤 Suitable for all levels and dance styles, heels or no heels, totally your dance ✨
I thought that there must be more people like me who struggle dancing to music that they’re not feeling, so I started Floorcore and it’s been a great success. I sold out my first two classes and I’ve got students from all over the country across a range of abilities. I really do enjoy teaching as well, I get such a buzz seeing the smiling faces of my students when they get to do choreo to a song they really love.
Freestyle Squad is a class I hold very close to my heart, and even though it’s only just started and I’ve only got a couple of students (people still find freestyle scary so I understand that, but it’s not scary I promise) my students so far seem to be loving it and really growing into their style and their confidence to just dance.
It’s very much a low pressure class, you learn some exercises that get your brain thinking and so far I haven’t had any students who have had mind blanks while dancing so I must be on the right track. Freestyle is so important in so many ways, from being a cathartic way to dance and let off some steam, or if you need to choreograph a routine for a competition, it’s an invaluable tool and I’m hoping to be there as guidance.
You recently came out as non-binary. How has this translated into your dancing and your identity as a pole dancer?
It was actually more during lockdown that I ‘came out’ (as in I changed my pronouns on Facebook, that’s the traditional way to come out, right?) but I’ve always known from a very young age that I wasn’t really into the binary of gender. I cut my hair short when I was 14 and didn’t ever grow it again. I shaved my hair bald when I was 23-24 and haven’t grown it any longer than a grade 4 in the last five years.
As a pole dancer, it has made me more confident more than anything. I’ve realised that I don’t have to be put into this box of how a pole dancer should look, how they should be sexy with flowing hair and cute underwear sets. I can be me and be a badass. My fashion style is quite sporty so I own that, I’m not really a fan of lingerie, and that’s OK. I try to be an advocate for non binary folx in the pole industry, showing that we can do what we want, dance how we want to dance and we exist. That pole, especially exotic pole, is for everyone, not just cis women. Props again to the Filthy Friday community run by Beanie The Jet for helping me realise this.
What does ‘sexy’ mean to you?
This is a tough one for me. I have been single and haven’t bothered with dating for the past two years after a really shit break up and living situation so sexy to me is very much about me, not anyone else. I don’t dance how I dance for the male gaze, I dance for me. I prefer to replace the word ‘sexy’ with ‘badass’ because it’s how I feel when I dance or when I just exist, to be honest. So badass to me is wacking on my favourite heels, putting on a banging track and just having a good freestyle dance. Sexy can be whatever you want it to be.
Is there anything you’d like to tell to other non-binary or gender non-conforming people wishing to start pole dancing?
Firstly, do it! Also, when choosing the studio, be upfront with people about who you are and what you stand for. This is where you’ll find your people, who will have your back. I have been to lots of different studios in my area in my time and some of them just did not get it. You don’t need to educate people as we all have Google in our pockets, you just need them to understand and accept you for who you are, no questions because you’re valid.
And if they struggle with that, then that’s not the studio for you. There are lots of non-binary and trans pole dancers on Instagram so seek them out, have a chat with them about where to start as some of them may have insights into studios that are inclusive and those you should stay away from. If in doubt, come find me and I’ll help you. If you’re a bit like I was when I started pole, I wasn’t really sure of myself, had a bit of self hatred and I felt uncomfortable in existing but I wasn’t quite sure why, then pole dancing will help you find out why and let you feel and accept yourself.
What are you hoping the future will bring for both your classes and Hoodlum Fang?
I have never been one of those people who sets out a five year plan, my business plans are awful, haha!
I would like my online classes to continue as I think it’s great to teach and learn from people from all across the country, and the world. I’m hoping lockdown doesn’t make people just go back to the way we were, back into the safety net of our studios and that we open up a bit more. I’ll be running my online classes all the time that there are people who want to learn from me.
Hoodlum Fang wise, I want to work on doing more photo shoots as it’s something that’s been left on the back burner for a couple of years now while it’s gotten busier. I’d like to do more collaborations on prints, I’ve had the idea of collaborating with tattoo artists for a few years. Other than that, I’m just carrying on how I always have.
Any last words of wisdom?
Black Trans Lives Matter <3. Also, here are some charities I’ve been donating to/raising awareness of:
Inclusion Resources from @pdfilthyfriday‘s Q&A with Chloe (massive thanks to @rubi.noxx for collating this!)
It’s important that gender non-conforming polers feel welcome and seen. In @pdfilthyfriday’s Q&A, Chloe shared some helpful tips for instructors, brands and studios in order for them to become inclusive in their language and mindful of their customers. They suggested to revisit branding, advertising, products, sizing, etc. to ensure they are remaining inclusive. Here are some of those tips (collated by @pdfilthyfriday’s amazing @rubi.noxx).
- Pronoun usage for studios and instructors: “Instructors, ask your students what pronouns they prefer! Include in medical information when signing up for classes, etc.”
- Language & adjectives for studios, instructors and brands: “Instructors and brands – be mindful of the language you use when describing your students (e.g. feminine and masculine specific adjectives).”
- Referring to people in a group: “E.g. ‘Hey ladies!’ isn’t inclusive language… try: ‘Hey everyone!’, ‘Hey all!’, ‘Hey folx!’, ‘Hey party people!’ – there are endless other options!).”
Trans/queer pole Instagram accounts to follow:
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- Shop Hoodlum Fang here.
- Follow Chloe on Instagram here.
- Side note – if you too are worried about the current conservative turn in people’s ability to self-identify according to their gender preference, take a look at this Google doc to see how you can help.