The first time I went to P-Town, I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven… Or, maybe Gay Disney World. Everywhere I looked was one queer person after another. Stores and hotels are blanketed in rainbow flags. Drag Queens ride bikes in glorious 6″ heels down Commercial Street. And best of all, there’s a sort of tangible sense that you belong. But with cute little shop fronts and coffee joints and clubs squashed together like circuit boys at a rave, finding your way can be a little overwhelming. I’ve only been going to P-Town for a handful of years now, but because my girlfriend’s family has a place there, we’re sort of considered mini-locals (and not just because neither Jill or I top 5’2″). So, I’ve taken it apon myself to play tour guide, and give you a butch’s how-to guide for doing-up the great Gay Mecca in style.
Because really, this is the most important part of any vacation, right? Okay well, maybe not THE most, but fuck, it’s up there. There are a lot of little chintzy women’s shops in town. But there are also a lot of GREAT menswear selections.
Board Stiff is a great little surf shop located on Commercial Street (where most of this stuff is). They carry a variety of products from O’Niel, Hurley, and other swimwear brands, as well as about a billion different kinds of flip flops. Everything here goes for retail price (like everywhere in P-Town), so don’t expect to be blown away by any mid-season sales. But if you’re looking for a new pair of board shorts or Reefs while you’re on vacation, this is the place to do it. Check them out at www.boardstiffprovincetown.com.
Kiss and Makeup:
Both Jill and I are obsessed with this place. Kiss and Makeup is hands down the place to go in Provincetown for any kind of hair or skin product. They carry some of my favorite men’s brands, like Billy Jealousy (try their energizing facial scrub), Clinque, and Ursa Major. But they also rock the local stuff. The last time I went in there, the extremely well-groomed and helpful guy behind the counter introduced me to Previse, a Provincetown based skin care brand that he was happy to offer me full sized samples of (review to come). Christine and her crew are also one of the few stores I’ve found anywhere to carry Malin and Goetz– a skin care line that makes some amazing hair care products (like my favorite, their styling cream, and their pomade). The staff here is fantastic. They’re always beyond helpful and friendly, and if you’re lucky, you might even get to meet Christine’s adorable dog Paddington. Until Kiss and Makeup came to town, there really was nowhere to go if you forgot your moisturizer, hair wax, or high end shampoo. No more Axe Hair for you, friends! Fear not, Kiss and Makeup is here!
Of course if you’re going to P-Town, you’re going to want to pick up some kind of swanky t-shirt, right? How else will you make your other queer friends ridiculously envious? There are about a billion grimy t-shirt stores on Commercial Street about on par with those you’d find on Myrtle Beach. And that’s fine. But what if you want a shirt you’ll actually wear again? Tim Scapes is the joint. Tim is really more of an artist than a t-shirt guy. All of his designs are done with duct tape, and then screen printed onto t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, bags, etc, creating a cool, dapper souvenir that won’t end up in your Goodwill pile. I, personally, own a sweatshirt, a t-shirt, and a tanktop, and I am currently eyeing my 2014 purchase– an adorable navy American Apparel t-shirt with a small white anchor design on the left chest. Did I mention that Tim’s only uses high end shirts from American Apparel? Which means one thing, kids… FIT FIT FIT! That’s right– no more sloppy, oversized “I Heart P-Town” shirts. And hey. Tim’s even carries hooded sweatshirts for dogs… Now, even your pets can be dapper.
Item is one of the higher end menswear stores in Provincetown. But if you have a little money burning a hole in your pocket, this is the place to get rid of it at! The selection is small but mighty, with a nautical theme throughout. You’ll find all kinds of flat front shorts, casual button downs, belts, and my favorite, understated, JFK-Goes-to-the-Cape-esque jewelry. Be warned though, nothing in Item is cheap. You’re going to pay at least $80 for anything in here, including the bracelets. Basically, if I had a laughable amount of disposable income (and believe me, someday I would like to), I’d shop my heart out here. Check them out on Facebook here.
I would wear absolutely everything in BodyBody. Everything. Unlike Item, which is a little more on the casual side of things, Item carries more ties, button downs and polos. Last summer, Jill’s parents bought me a shirt and tie from BodyBody for my birthday. Word has it that Jill’s mom went right in, told the sales clerk she was looking for a gift for her girlfriend’s daughter. Not only did this not phase him (this is P-Town, after all), but he also knew exactly what style and fit to take her to that would look good on a woman. Needless to say, he was right. The shirt fits like a dream. Besides their extensive clothing collection, ranging from khakis to t-shirts, BodyBody also has the sexiest shoe extravaganza in P-Town. Right now, they’re carrying a pair of honey colored double monk straps that have taught me the meaning of shoe lust. BodyBody isn’t Butch on a Budget friendly, either (wow talk about alliteration!). But everything is high quality, designer garments that you’ll love for years down the road. Follow their Facebook page here.
MAP is tucked away at the tail end of Commercial, out toward the West End of town, and can be easy to miss. It’s small, and if you aren’t looking, or aren’t walking up that far, you’re going to be sorry. This store is unlike any other store in P-Town. it carries an impressive array of vintage belt buckles, leather goods, and Levis. Pretty much everything in here screams Steve McQueen. Because nearly everything is legit, often handmade vintage items, MAP can be pricey. I fell in love with a calf skin chain wallet behind the counter the other day, and when the owner told me it was going for $325, I almost fell over. But even if you don’t have a wad of cash to spend on a pair of jeans, MAP is absolutely worth the look. Check out their Facebook page.
This is the wallet at MAP I’d sell my first born for… But maybe not for over $300.
There are a lot of clubs in P-Town. And I mean, a lot. Sadly, most of them are focused on gay men. If you’re fine with that, then look no further. But if you’re feeling like being surrounded by a sea-full of ladies, there are a few things to do:
Pied is the only girl bar in town (shockingly enough). The times I’ve been in there, it’s been pretty dead. But because the pickings are slim for lesbian clubs, I’d suggest trying your hand here around 11:30pm. They have a great patio that doesn’t get too crowded, so if you’re like me, and don’t always enjoy sweaty people grabbing you by the shoulders to push through you over loud, ear-shattering bass, this may be a nice alternative.
Lesbian Nightlife is a fantastic organization that does a lot of great womens’ events in town, and throughout the country. They host the Memorial Day Weekend parties every year, and often have killer guests like Kiyomi from The Real L Word. They throw a great event. Unfortunately, they aren’t in P-Town all summer…Visit their website and sign up for events in your area.
Tea Dance at the Boat Slip:
Basically, a Tea Dance is where the whole town shows up in the afternoon, drinks rum punch from plastic cups and dances their asses off. And the Boat Slip is really the only place to do this. From 4pm-7pm everyday, you can have a mini party with just about everyone in P-Town. The Boat Slip has great music, a couple of pools (which aren’t open during Tea to avoid any drunk drownings), and cold drinks, and it’s a good start to the evening.
Look Things Up!
The best thing you can do for entertainment in P-Town is Google that shit. There are often themed parties, drag shows and comedians going on, and this is the best way to find out. Of course, you can always walk through Commercial Street and wait for someone to hand you a flyer… They always will.
You have to eat, right? There are a thousand places to do that in P-Town. Sounds easy. But like those t-shirt shops, it can get exhausting trying to sort through a sea of sandwiches and lobster rolls. These are a few of my favorite things.
Jill and I like this place partly because it’s so close to our house. We usually go for the coffee, but they also carry a delicious selection of pastries, cookies and cakes. I’ve also found that their lunches are some of the best in town. Relish offers a variety of sandwiches (a glorified chicken salad with pears that I pretty much died over, a caprease style, tuna), and you have the option of getting any of them without bread (if you’re on a low-carb, beginning of summer diet like me). They’re cupcakes are tremendous, and they’ll even do custom cakes for events. Check out their menu at http://www.ptownrelish.com.
These are truly the best cupcakes in town… and maybe in the world. Scott started out selling his cakes on the streets, until some whiney nay-sayer threw a fit and complained. And thus, his slogan Legalize Gay Cupcakes was born (note: he sells t-shirts that say this. They’re adorable). Scottcakes only does vanilla cake. That’s it. When we asked him about it last summer, he said he wants to do one thing really well before he tries to venture out and do anything else. I can respect a man striving for perfection. For Jill’s birthday last year, I wanted to order some cupcakes from Scott. He was willing not only to make and sell them for me in October, but also to deliver them for a small fee.
I hope this helps give a little direction for your next trip to the great Provincetown. Now go do it up. And keep it handsome.