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Orlando Florida, USA, cloth sculpture, fabric art, artistic design, hand-made clothesMen's Skirts. This is an era of gender equality. In some households, it's
the women who wear the pants. Why, then, aren't more men showing off their legs in skirts? The problem is that in recent history there has been a feminine connotation
linked to the skirt, even though men had worn them for centuries, according to
Andrew Bolton, associate curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art. "Men feel if they wear it (a skirt), their masculinity will be called
into question. But if you've even seen a man in a skirt, the first thing you
think of is male genitalia," he said. Roman gladiators, for example,
proudly displayed their legs for all to see in short, skirted suits of armor as
a sign of their virility. Bolton organized the newest exhibit at the Costume Institute, Bravehearts:
Men in Skirts, which opens Tuesday and runs through Feb. 8, 2004. French
designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, who has been known to send a men's skirt or two
down the runway, is the sponsor. "Historically, men had the panache when it came to getting
had the lace, they had the makeup. They dressed exuberantly, it wasn't
considered either masculine or feminine. Look at Louis XIV or the Greeks in
togas," Mr.Gaultier said, "I'm not trying to put all men in skirts. I just want to give them the
freedom to wear a skirt if they want to. Women fought for years to wear
trousers. "The Met was to have a gala in Mr.Gaultier's honor Monday night. He planned to
wear a long, pleated black skirt with a classic white shirt, a black tie and a
tuxedo jacket. "Really, it's very conservative," he said. Skirts on display in the exhibit include modern kaftans from Miguel Adrover
and Roberto Cavalli leather punk-rock outfits by Vivienne Westwood; androgynous
coats and "mini-shirts" inspired by David Bowie and Mick Jagger from
the 1970s; and Courtney Love's baby doll dress, worn by her late husband, Kurt
Cobain, on stage in the early 1990s."These definitely were skirts worn to provoke a response," said
Bolton with a laugh during a tour of the exhibit. Historical pieces, such as tribal grass skirts, Greek and Hungarian folk
costumes and traditional Scottish "belted plaids," large pieces of
fabric slung over the shoulder and then wrapped around the waist as kilts, are
featured as well. Bolton included three skirts he ordered on the web as part of an Internet
campaign called Men Against Trouser Tyranny, which argues that skirts are more
comfortable and practical, he explained. John Galliano's version of a papal outfit, for the Christian Dior Haute
Couture collection, also is showcased. The text accompanying the glittery gold
coat dress explains that ecclesiastical garments often feature skirt bottoms
because they distinguish religious leaders from ordinary men, and "deny and
deflect" the wearers' sexual presence. That's basically the same argument made for the traditional christening gowns
that even little 21st-century boys wear. "Children are supposed to be
asexual. By wearing the same clothes, it reduces children's sexual
awareness," Bolton said. The shift in attitude toward men in skirts began as early as the 14th
century, which is when men and women's clothes really began to look different,
according to Bolton; the effeminate stigma really is something fairly new,
developed over the last 150 years as strict dress codes and gender rules were
adopted with industrialization. The hippies of the 1960s started to erase the branding, with help from unisex
outfits by Rudi Gernreich. Today's hip-hoppers also helped change
stereotypes. Men in pareros and sarongs, at least on the beach, also are becoming more
common and accepted. Bolton said he hopes the exhibit at least provokes questions - if not a
change in wardrobe for the average man. "Men's clothing has become so
standardized that there's no fun in it anymore. Let's put some fun back in
fashion. "I'm tired of this question of questioning a man's
motives because he wants to wear a skirt, and panty-hose. In the early days of women wearing pants, was there
ever a question if they got a thrill out of trying to be a man? We have our own individual reasons for wanting to do
what we do. It really doesn't matter what they are. Just do it if you enjoy it.
You're not hurting anyone and it's not illegal, .By Charlie Porter
By Charlie Porter
They're breezy, they're sexy and they're easy to
wear. So why, asks an exhibition in New York, don't men wear skirts?
the next man you see wearing a skirt. Not a kilt, sarong or kaften but a pencil
skirt to just above the knee. Everything else he is wearing will be from his
regular wardrobe, maybe a sweatshirt and some bashed-up trainers, or a shirt,
tie and brogues. It doesn't work, does it?
If the man you're
imagining in a skirt is your partner, you might think he'll look sweet, that the
skirt will show off his best features. In the privacy of your bedroom, you could
possibly persuade him to put one on for you. But don't ask him to then go and
buy a litre of milk from the corner shop, fabric flapping about his legs.
However radical you think yourself, whatever open-minded stances you take on
sexuality and no-nconformism, you would more than likely laugh at him or, worse,
feel ashamed. It is a curious by-product of the last century that while the
Western world grew more liberal with each decade, men's clothes became more
restricted in silhouette. We may think that jeans and T-shirts are modern and
progressive but they are just versions of age-old work clothes and undergarments
in technically advanced fabrics before 1900, European men wore skirted garments
regularly. Around the world today, a huge number of men from different cultures
wear clothes on their lower half that are not divided into two branches. At many
of the major fashion houses, skirts for men turn up on the catwalk season after
season. Yet off the catwalk, if it's not split it's an object of derision, An
exhibition on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York,
Bravehearts: Men In Skirts, looks at these clothes, both from the past and the
present, some of which are incredibly beautiful and amazingly realized. The show
- which is not at all about drag but, rather, about skirts in a masculine
context - will probably be hard-pushed to convince men to wear them. Indeed, the
exhibition may well tell us more about why men don't wear skirts than why they
do. It may also reveal why we think men's wear is stuck in a rut and whether it
is likely to escape it.
"If a man does wear a skirt, you're very much
aware of him as a sexual presence," says Andrew Bolton, the joint Victoria
and Albert/London College of Fashion research fellow and curator of the
exhibition, which began at the V&A in 2002. "But the recent tradition
of men's dress is to be as invisible as possible. It's about blending in and
being anonymous, rather than standing out."
Men clearly don't want to be thought of as a sexual
presence in the specific, blatant way a skirt projects. If a skirted garment is
worn, there has to be some reason behind it - the kilt as a defiant symbol of
Scottish national pride, the sarong as a fantasy garment to project an image of
a life lived in luxury. Most men who wear such clothes will think about their
meaning before putting them on, something they would never do with their regular
office-bound trouser suit or weekend pair of khakis. In day-to-day life, the
skirt is just not an option.
There must be deep-seated reasons for this, since
Bolton says that the few men who do wear skirts consider them to be the natural
choice. "A lot of men talk about how comfortable they are, how breezy they
are," he says. "They talk about how masculine they feel when they wear
a skirt. They're very much aware of their bodies, how they walk and how they
sit. And it's in summer that skirts make the most obvious sense."
Bolton started to research the subject after he saw a
man on the London Underground in a conservative, pin-striped skirted suit.
"I was amazed by the variety of people's responses," he remembers,
"which varied from laughter to actual verbal abuse - one man shouted, 'You
queer bugger', as he left the Tube, which I thought was a bit odd, because the
man wearing the skirt was kissing his girlfriend at the time."
According to Bolton, between the 17th and the late-19th
century, "skirt" was a masculine word, the male version of
"petticoat". "Skirt" referred to the lower portion of a
man's coat, which, at various stages, fluctuated in width, sometimes billowing
and dress-like, at others hanging straight from the waist.
However, as Bolton concedes, the contemporary skirt is
in a "no way forward situation". After all, it can't just be a case of
swapping trousers for skirts, since doing so shifts the entire emphasis of a
man's style. What would men wear skirts with? Would they try to make their legs
more attractive? Would they get paranoid about their knees? What underwear would
best retain their modesty?
Rather than anguishing over the failure of men to grasp
the various possibilities available to them clothes-wise, the reasons why they
stick with what they know are much more revealing. "The show is questioning
why there are so few forms acceptable for men's wardrobes, while with women's it
seems endless," says Bolton.
Indeed, in 2002 the catwalks provided a classic example
of just this difference. For the first time Junya Watanabe, famed for his
body-morphing women's wear, designed a collection for men. Instead of pushing
the boundaries of shape and structure as he has done with women, he sent out a
series of beautifully cut jeans and tops that didn't deviate from the silhouette
of our perceived norm.
Watanabe explained the modern trouser is one of the
most perfect examples of accomplished design and so he was interested only in
creating the best version possible. In other words, he wasn't interested in
designing a skirt for men and therefore attempting to shift the male into a new
By following this train of thought, men are let off the
hook - they don't have to consider wearing skirts, because the traditional male
outfit still fascinates the designers who try to master it.
From this viewpoint, men's wear is not stuck in a rut,
it is just obsessed with entirely separate intricacies of design necessitated by
the difference in body shape between men and women. It means that rather than merge and adopt the
sensibilities of the opposite sex, good men's wear doesn't need to have anything
to do with the precocious flair and glamour of women's wear. So, although men's
wear designers will include kilts, sarongs or skirts in their catwalk designs to
gain extra coverage, for the foreseeable future the core of their business will
not be switching from trouser to skirt suits.
I’m not much of a culture vulture; if there’s an
exhibition on in the city I am living in I’ll put it down in my diary and
sometimes I will actually drag myself over there and see what’s on offer.
It’s a hit and miss policy that has allowed me to see and to miss some
impressive shows and to witness some pretty tacky ones, among which I include
the pathetic display four or five years ago at the London Millennium Dome.
Very rarely do I make the effort to see an exhibition in another city. The last
time I did so was in 2002, when I Eurostarred to Paris to see Alair Gomes’
photos in some small gallery south of the Seine. I went partly because I had
known him when I lived in Rio, partly because he had taken some photos of me and
I was curious to know if I was up there for public display (I wasn’t), and
partly to see the extent to which black and white photos of of be-speedoed and
sometimes naked men can transcend the sexual to become art.
So I looked at the pictures and read the commentaries, by Gomes and others, and
said to myself “yeah, yeah, intellectualise as much as you want, but you know
and I know that the only reason why I’m and most of those around me are
standing here is because we are seeing hunky young men in little or no clothing
and we’re fantasising leaping into bed with them or at the very least pinning
them up against the nearest wall or palm tree and letting nature take its
Moving on... The most recent exhibition that I have failed to see closed at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last month. “Bravehearts: Men in
Skirts”. Sponsored by Jean-Paul Gaultier (who else? award that man several
gold stars), it “look[ed] at designers and individuals who have appropriated
the skirt as a means of injecting novelty into male fashion, as a means of
transgressing moral and social codes, and as a means of redefining an ideal
masculinity. In an unprecedented survey of "men in skirts" in
historical and cross-cultural contexts, the exhibition feature[d] more than 100
items, balancing items drawn from The Costume Institute's permanent collection
with loans from cultural institutions and fashion houses in Europe and
America.” (text taken from the pitifully minimal information that languishes
on the Met’s website like flotsam on the beach after an ebb tide.)
My first – in many ways irrational – quibble is the conflation of kilts and
skirts. It’s not surprising that most people consider there is no difference
between them, but as a Scot I grew up in a society where kilts are common enough
to arouse no comment, but where they and skirts are as different as trousers and
shorts. A skirt is everyday wear for women while the kilt is predominantly
formal wear for men, equivalent to the tuxedo more than the suit. That
doesn't mean I was enamoured of the kilt. As a child I was often made to wear
one in situations where all others my age were in shorts or trousers (even
in the Scottish capital), which almost put me off the kilt for life. Only now,
in the unlikely case I were to settle in the land of my birth, do I suspect I
might voluntarily wear one again. And if I were to do so, it would be not with
the traditional formal jacket, sporran and sgian dhu (the dagger stuck
into the long socks) but more likely with a t-shirt or sweater and boots. In
other words, I would mutate the kilt into a skirt.
The fact is, it is only in the last couple of years that I have come to
appreciate men in skirts (which explains why I missed the Met exhibition when it
was on in London in 2002). I like to wear them and to see good-looking men in
skirts. But I am seldom so attired. I do not wear one in Bangkok because when
living abroad I tend to dress within locally acceptable parameters. In London I
do not have that excuse but I do not have the courage to make a skirt daily wear
and only put one on in situations where extremes of clothing are expected,
including gay pride events and the more exotic nightclubs. Although here too I
suspect that my attitude is changing and one day that courage may emerge…
Note that I am talking about a particular kind of skirt. My usual preference is
for short, no longer than knee length and of lightweight fabric. On formal
occasions I would go for an ankle-length sarong, the equivalent of a woman’s
evening dress and worn properly it suggesting formality, wealth, intelligence
and wit. (I lay claim to about 30% of these properties.)
The comfort of short skirts should speak for itself. (Long skirts, like all
formal clothes, are never intended for comfort.) Except when it is very cold and
the thickness of a kilt or a longer skirt becomes preferable, short skirts allow
the legs to breathe and allow more freedom of movement. It is not that you want
to do a high kick or are even capable of doing so, but trousers or a long skirt
prevent you from ever giving in to that urge, while short skirts allow perfect
freedom to do so. The freedom that comes with a skirt may be subconscious, but
it’s definitely there.
The sexual element to skirt-wearing is also obvious. Although underwear is
appropriate in public – I prefer to sit in the underground without exposing my
genitals to those sitting opposite – in private, lack of underwear under a
skirt constantly reminds a man of the pleasure of his sexuality. (In comparison,
lack of underwear under trousers can be just irritating.) This is not a subject
that needs to be discussed with one’s mother or neighbour, but it is a
significant factor in deciding what clothes one wears and when.
And sexuality is a major factor for the viewer. I always appreciate the sight of
good masculine legs and, just as heterosexual men appreciate the view of
women’s underwear, so too I get brief – in both sense of the word –
pleasure from glimpses of the slip or jockeys worn by a man in a skirt. The
other evening I was with the current squeeze, who had dressed in drag to
celebrate his friend’s birthday. He made a very striking woman, but my
response to his long hair and make-up was only aesthetic. On the other hand, the
fact that his minidress stopped half-way down his thighs was a definite turn-on
and my hand was more than once tempted to stray into what trousers would have
made forbidden and / or difficult territory.
I am not the only pro-skirt man on the planet, nor are we all gay. The opening
of the Met exhibition last year was celebrated by a small parade of New York men
in skirts. And some, presumably heterosexual, women also appreciate men in
skirts, if the comment on the Horsefeathers’ site (see next paragraph) is
representative. Several websites are devoted to men in skirts, among them
Kiltmen and Seattle-based Utilikilts. The former gives you an entertaining
full-blown rant on why men should wear skirts and the latter is an interesting
commercial site. (Please don’t laugh at the phrase “The Utility Kilt offers
the Utility Patented Pleat System #6,282,723 which separates our product from
any other Mens Unbifurcated Garment on the market today.” They may have a
patent and be pentasyllabic, but they don't understand how to use your basic
While writing this article, I googled “Men in skirts” and “exhibition”
and came up with 600+ entries. The Met’s site came first and was followed by
an entry for Horsefeathers, where a remarkably camp commentary berates the
Museum for its promotion of bisexuality and androgyny. It’s actually quite a
funny piece as it trips over its own observations in its attempt to see
conspiracy where none probably exists.
For example HF argues that “in every culture each sex evolves its own
conventional gender configurations enabling men and women to distinguish each
other by length of garment, by color or pattern, or by accessories. There is no
built-in ambiguity about gender in the traditional evolution of clothes no
matter what the culture.” Such statement raises more questions than they
answer; (a) is it true about gender differentiation? (b) if it is true, why do
people think it matters? (c) if it does matter, why the concern over men in
skirts but not women in trousers?
And, of course, note the assumption, shared by others whose fingers hit the
keyboard before the brain is engaged, that a man in a skirt is somehow blurring
gender boundaries. Just as women are indubitably women when they wear trousers,
most men in skirts cannot be mistaken for anything but men. In fact, a man in a
skirt that reveals muscular and / or hairy legs, combined with the flat chest of
a t-shirt or regular shirt is presents a much more masculine figure than one in
Even if skirts did feminise men, clothing is only one of many gender markers.
Body size and shape, facial appearance, voice, mannerisms all indicate for the
observer one or other gender. Look at a hundred photos of people’s faces and
you will be able to specify sex in all but a handful of cases. Despite
Horsefeathers’ paranoia, ambiguous clothing does not destroy sexual
And even if sexual distinctions are blurred, so what? Although they may be
critical to those who are uncertain of their sexual identity or sexuality, there
is no proof that gender distinctions in clothing contribute to society’s
well-being. In fact, it can be easily demonstrated that that insistence on rigid
divisions between the sexes harms rather than benefits society. (Look at the
abuses that occur in ultra-conservative Christian communities in Utah and
neighbouring states in the US or in strictly Muslim societies.)
Horsefeathers writes articulately*, but his essay is a typical example of
conservative thinking – thinking which, as I have argued before, is ultimately
rooted in fear. (click here) Not physical fear, but fear of change, of
flexibility, of the unknown. His – I’m assuming HF is a he – whole outlook
on life is based on a series of premises that create a social structure that
provides him with security - men are men and dress as men, women are women etc.
When changes are proposed that are incompatible with that social structure - eg
sexual identity might not be that important - his worldview is threatened.
Rather than accept the possibility that such changes may be innocuous or
desirable he has to condemn them.
At least HF recognises that some change is inevitable and even uses that word
that scares so many US conservatives almost as much as liberalism – evolution.
But he does so in a way that suggests that for him change is only acceptable
when it is very clear movement in one direction in very narrow parameters. Of
course he justifies his argument by claiming that society as a whole is
threatened, but assuming one’s own beliefs are valid for society as a whole is
a common failure in many commentators.
All I can say to Horsefeathers is, lighten up; society is not going to fall
apart because some or many men decide that skirts are more comfortable and / or
erotic than trousers. if you really want to talk about how society is
threatened, let’s look at George W Bush’s critical failure to offer an
effective response to terrorism. That's a really scary topic.
* But without understanding the difference between “its” and
No question about it.
No question about it.
It's one of the last remaining taboos in American
culture- men dressing like women. There are all sorts of theories on why
this one has lasted while others have fadded away. What do you think the
This has been answered a long time ago. We have known for a very long time what
the reason is - at least back to the 1970's anyways.
Why it is "wrong", and why the "taboo" remains are 2
As far as being wrong, it is biblically traditional to prohibit men from wearing
mens clothes, and women from wearing mens clothes. However, since women now wear
mens clothes, that arguement doesnt hold up.
One poster said it is ugly. The fact is, that womens bodies are beautiful, and
beautiful clothes go with beautiful bodies. Of course, that doesnt explain ugly
fat women, or men who are in fantastic shape.
The real reason, and the reason for the taboo in American society, is that our
society considers men and women to be NOT equal. Dont forget, that the ERA never
passed - women do not have equal rights. Women are not equal under our
Constitution. No matter what people might "say", in fact, they dont
consider men and women to be equal, legally, or socially.
Consiously, or subconsiously, most people consider women to be inferior.
Therefore, when women dress in pants, emulate men, look mannish, wear short
hair, or wear mens clothes, it is a step up.
Parents are actually proud of their "tomboys" who emulate males, male
behavior, and male appearance. This goes for both women and men. Both mothers
and fathers brag about daughters/girls who are tomboys, who do boy things, and
who dress and play like boys. Fathers proudly take their tomboy looking girls
everywhere in the neighborhood, and show them off.
On the other hand, if men were to emulate women, become effeminite, wear skirts
or dresses, or copy in any way feminine behavior, then it is considered
"degrading", and a step down on the social scale. Those people
consider men who take on mannerisms or appearance of females to be repulsive and
shameful, because when men emulate women, they are stepping down in the social
The same parents who brag about their daughters wearing pants, playing
baseball, playing with toy trucks, climbing trees, and going fishing with their
fathers, are worried and ashamed of their sons who wear dresses, wears
nail polish and makeup, play with dolls, and wear ribbons in their hair. Both
mothers and fathers feel this way subconsiously. Parents with sons who wear long
curly hair with ribbons in it, red nail polish, patent leather shoes, and pretty
dresses with crinoline pettycoats, are not taken all over the neighborhood and
to stores and to church looking like that, and you wont see any photos on
fathers desks of their sons in pretty pink dresses.
Tomboys are bragged about and showed off to everyone because they are emulating
a higher (male) social standing.
Janeboys are shameful and hidden and scorned and make fun of because they are
degrading themselves, lowering themselves, by emulating a lower social class
Even into adulthood, many women today still brag about how they used to be
tomboys in jeans when they were growing up. Not many men brag about how they
were Janegirls in dresses growing up.
Lots of women also brag that they are not "girly girls. Not many men brag
that they are not masculine.
Many husbands and boyfrinds actually like it when their women engage or
participate in traditional "male" sports or activities, but very
few/none wives or girlfriends like it when thier men engage in feminine
We will never have true equality until mothers and fathers brag equally, and
gleefully show off to everyone about both their tomboy daughters in dungerees
and their Janeboy sons in pretty crinolines. Until the same number of fathers
buying their sons dresses is equal to the number of mothers who buy their
daughters jeans, you wont see true equality, and the taboo will remain.
January 23, 2009, 2:03 pm
Skirts And Skorts For Men–Will
At the trend-setting men’s wear shows this week in
Paris and Milan, skirt-like skorts for men have popped up on some runways.
Yohji Yamamoto’s version was so
long, flowing and full that his culottes definitely straddled the skirt/pants
line, while Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen showed
more tailored styles in which the culottes silhouette was more defined.
Similar looks have been percolating in fashion
circles recently — Mr. Yamamoto unveiled skirts for men at his
September runway show for the Y-3 label for Adidas.
And, Marc Jacobs has been appearing at high-profile events and parties wearing
skirts or skorts since early fall. The designer, who donned a skirt yet again
for the Louis Vuitton’s men’s show in Paris Thursday,
took a bow wearing a pair of tartan skorts at his Marc
by Marc Jacobs runway show in September and just two weeks ago
was photographed at a New York screening of “Defiance” in
Retailers have been skeptical of the trend, however. Colby
McWilliams, Neiman Marcus‘ men’s fashion
director, for example, said he didn’t buy any men’s skirts for spring,
noting that the daring look is likely to be a hard sell, especially during a
Readers, what do you think of skirts for men? Would
you try the look?