Cyberpunk 2077’s Edgerunners update brings new quests, an anime tie-in, and a bunch of new guns I won’t use, but the most important thing it’s brought to my second playthrough of CD Projekt Red’s dystopian open world is the Wardrobe Transmog update that lets you create outfits that aren’t affected by the game’s equipment systems. This means you can wear whatever you want without losing the stat boosts of uglier clothes.
It might sound like a small change, but in my second playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077, I’ve latched onto the fashion in a way I didn’t before, largely because of how it tied defensive stats to what clothing main character V was wearing. The first time I explored its open world of Night City, I was jaded toward the game altogether, and mostly just put on whatever clothes I had that would make numbers go up. It’s a first-person game, as well, so most of the time you can’t see what you’re wearing at all.
But this time, fashion has not only been what I’ve spent most of my money on in Night City, it’s also felt central to my identifying with V as a self-insert protagonist as a gay man who likes when his characters dress in ways he does or wishes he could. I’ve spent so much time in Photo Mode in Cyberpunk 2077 because I can’t stop dressing my V in loud, stylish outfits, even if some of them clash and look impractical. I do this largely because that’s where a lot of my own style has landed. There’s something about putting colors and pieces together that don’t quite match that appeals to me, and not many games let me find disparate pieces of clothing and still somehow make them into an intentional, if flamboyant outfit. And I think once I stopped caring about stats, I honed in on my V’s clothes as a means of self-expression, whether that was in bright colors, unconventional pieces, or putting it all together to make something more provocative than the game’s crime-ridden streets had come to expect of the average merc. But now with this update, I can get the best of both worlds.
For some context, if I were to go with best stats as the basis for my Cyberpunk 2077 outfit without using the Transmog update, this is what the different pieces in my inventory would create:
Yeah, it’s ugly and clashing, but not in a way that feels like it has any intent. My V just looks like his outfit was determined by a random generator that had different Cyberpunk 2077 clothing assigned to every value. Making my V’s outfits with style in mind may have led to some more difficult encounters (not helped by my stealth-driven build affecting my survivability broadly), but as his fashion sense felt like an extension of mine, it was hard to not get attached to some of the outfits I made for him, as they, like a lot of Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City, spoke to things I lacked in my own small town life.
Even as a relatively well-adjusted gay man in his late 20s, every now and then I’m reminded that I still live in a small town full of small minds. Earlier this week, I was getting ready to go out and grab dinner, then looked at my outfit and realized I should probably change. It wasn’t that I was wearing something that would draw too much attention to me. It was just a simple black button-up and black pants, but the jacket I had on was once described by a friend as if someone “made a jacket out of my great grandma’s tablecloth.” It was a slightly puffy jacket adorned with faded roses of different colors. It was gaudy, too big for me, and I loved it. But I stared at the outfit in the mirror long enough to know it would probably be best for me to wear somewhere else, and switched into a denim jacket before I left my house.
More Cyberpunk 2077:
- Cyberpunk 2077 Leaves Last-Gen Behind, Hopefully That Will Fix Some Things
- Cyberpunk 2077’s Romance Update is Small, But Meaningful
- Fear of a Yellow Planet: Why We Need to Actually Understand Cyberpunk
Keeping in mind that this town I’ve lived in my whole life is the kind of place where a man has the Confederate Flag tattooed to the back of his head and is met with no judgment in public, it took me well into my mid 20s to start experimenting with fashion. Some of it was money (and good lord, I don’t know how anyone has the money to never repeat outfits), some of it was lacking in stores in my area that sold stylish clothes, but there was also a fear of scrutiny from my peers and so I wore primarily band t-shirts all through high school.
With my own money and some maturity in my belt, I started wearing nicer clothes in college, but with all my plaid and flannel, my aesthetic was often lumped in with that of a lumberjack. It wasn’t really until I was in the latter half of my 20s that I started to experiment with new styles, even looking in the women’s sections of stores and feeling comfortable enough in my own gender identity to try and lean into the clashing colors and styles of just finding pieces I liked and throwing them into an expressive, fabulous outfit. Sometimes I still walk around in a button-up and one-colored pants, but whenever I can, I’ve started leaning harder into outfits that are loud and emphasize colors I hadn’t worn in over a decade.
As I started traveling to cities and meeting more queer people, I became more comfortable in expressing my flamboyance visually, rather than just existing as an embodiment of it. Whether that be wearing a replica of Harley Quinn’s ribbon vest from Birds of Prey to a PAX panel or a crop top jacket over a rose-covered button up. Since I picked the Streetkid origin story in Cyberpunk 2077, my V felt like Night City was his home, and he was comfortable presenting himself as vibrant and flashy. I still haven’t viewed any specific place like V talks about Night City, but when I fly out to cities I often dream of, it’s a lot easier to imagine existing with the same unabashed pride. But when I’m back “home” in a town in the middle of nowhere, I still find myself hanging up those elaborate jackets for one that won’t draw the attention of a homophobic passerby. Sometimes I’ll say “fuck it,” and wear something flashy and busy and own it. But then there are some days where it just feels easier not to bother.
In a lot of ways, Cyberpunk 2077 has felt like a surrogate for the city life I’ve never gotten to live. As V, I drive through the bustling city where possibilities seem endless, only for the next quest to remind me that’s just a fantasy in Night City. That’s probably true of any real-world city, but CD Projekt Red’s creation feels like the amalgamation of places I’d rather be, and V a version of myself I’d rather show to the world. I exist as a gay man in a lot of games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, but sometimes the setting feels so asynchronous with real life that, as I’ve gotten older, games simply letting me be in a relationship with a man doesn’t feel like it captures everything about being queer. And despite its myriad flaws, I think that’s what Cyberpunk 2077 has felt like as I’ve replayed it over the past few months.
Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City is a lot of things, and calling it a queer haven would be dismissive of how shitty the game’s systems are to trans people. That’s on top of weird instances of bisexual erasure, and a rigidness to how it perceives sexuality that makes existing as anyone in Night City a collection of caveats and asterisks. But somehow, I feel more like myself when I see V dressed in bold outfits of clashing styles and colors, walking past skyscrapers that tower over anything in this small town. It’s an unintentional reminder that in some places, people express themselves however they want, other people mind their own business, and as terrifying as it is to stand in the middle of the chaos, there are quiet spaces of belonging to be found.