Pictured above: Gc2b binders
Disclaimer: Binders can pose health risks if sized or worn incorrectly. This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. If in doubt, consult a doctor.
Chest binding is a way of flattening the chest using constrictive materials. It’s most popular among FTM (female to male) trans people and is an affordable alternative to expensive hormone treatment and surgery. Binders can cost between $20 and $200 (~£15-£147 / ~18€-179€) and come in a variety of styles. No one should ever bind with bandages or tape; binding can be dangerous if done improperly.
Buying a binder for the first time can be a bit intimidating, so here are a few things you should know before buying one.
Finding the perfect bra takes a lot of trial and error; the same is true for binders. Unfortunately, you can’t spend a day trying on different styles and sizes until you find the perfect fit, as binders aren’t typically sold in stores. Gc2b, Underworks, and F2M are some of the most popular sites to buy a chest binder. There may be a local small business that sells them, but I wouldn’t count on it. You’ll have to commit to a binder and buy it online before you can try it on, so make sure that you are meticulous when fitting yourself!
Finding your binder size:
Just like your bra size, your binder size will vary depending on the brand and type of binder you purchase. Some shops sell custom binders, but these can be a bit more expensive (check out T-Kingdom if you’re looking for a custom size). Most online shops that sell binders will have instructions on how to fit yourself for their product, but here are some common ways to find your binder size:
Use a cloth measuring tape and measure right under your bust at the top of your ribcage. Keep it snug, but don’t make it too tight. A binder that is too small could harm you. Next, measure the widest part of your bust. Add your measurements together and divide that number by two. Reference the size chart using that number to find your binder size.
Other sites will only use the measurement of the widest part of your breasts. Again, keep the measuring tape snug, but not too tight. Then reference the sizing chart.
Some sites will have charts that convert your bra size to your binder size. I do not recommend using this method. Bra sizes vary by style and brand and will not always correlate to your binder size. Always go a size up if you are unsure. A binder that’s too big is always better than one that’s too small.
Binder styles and prices:
Chest binders come in a few different styles. Generally shaped like tank tops, you can find binders in a variety of lengths and cuts. They can have hooks, zippers or velcro, or be pullovers. I would recommend sticking with velcro or pullover binders as the hooks and zippers are easily warped and broken. Binders are typically white, black, grey, or nude. (Gc2b, one of the more popular places to buy a binder, sells nude binders in a variety of skin tones.)
The average price range is $30-$80 (~£22-£59 / 27€-72€) depending on the style. Some binders can be extremely pricey, but don’t think that a higher price tag always means a better product. There are plenty of affordable binders that work very well and are comfortable, usually costing $30.00-$45.00 (~£22-33 / 27€-40€). I would strongly recommend against buying the $7.00 (~£5 / ~6€) binders off of Amazon and eBay. A low-quality binder can be extremely damaging to your body.
Alternatives to binders:
For people who have not/cannot come out as trans or don’t have the money for a binder, sports bras and minimisers are great alternatives. Some people prefer to wear sports bras to a binder because they are less restrictive, but still flatten the chest. Minimisers are bras designed for women with a full bust. These bras make the breasts look smaller, but they will not make your chest as flat as a binder will.
There are also tons of sites for secondhand binders (and clothing) for trans people. These sites usually sell binders at a radically reduced price, only cost you the shipping, or operate on trades. In A Bind and Replace The Ace are two of the best sites that I have found for secondhand and donated binders. There are also a lot of Facebook groups and Tumblr pages dedicated to getting trans people clothing – check out TTCE for example.
Binders aren’t the most comfortable things to wear, but they shouldn’t be painful. You shouldn’t be fighting to breathe or have severe marks, bruises, or cuts as a result of binding. Do not wear your binder to bed or when exercising; they shouldn’t be worn for more than eight hours a day.
Note: Binding does not dictate your gender. Not everyone who binds their chest is trans, and not all trans men bind their chests.
Have any questions about chest binders? Leave them in the comments below!