Try a Short Skirt rather than shorts.
It True That Men Used To Wear Skirts etc?!
Yes, all the time in bygone times! The Romans wore skirts and conquered half the planet! Before the invention of trousers (about 300 years ago), men worldwide wore various forms of robes, dresses and skirts. Gradually after the invention of trousers, unbifurcated clothing became gradually associated with femininity - Why?! Skirted garments remained for some time though even if they were only worn on formal occasions.
As little as 100 years ago, Boys and Girls up to the age of 13 were dressed identically in dresses. Trousers are a very new invention and it still amazes me that men took to them so keenly with scant regard to the comfort that they were leaving behind.
What About Non Westernised Cultures, Did They Ditch Their Skirts As Well?
No, perhaps it was the heat, but in many countries within Asia, The Middle East, Africa as well as many Pacific islands, skirts for men is still considered normal attire. And of course, there are the Scots (so maybe the heat has nothing to do with it!)
In early 2000 when Fiji was in the news over the Military Coup the whole world saw men in skirts! Actually, these were not skirts, but rather the traditional Sulu - A normally colourful wrap around calf length skirt like garment worn by both men and women. The Sulu is the main item of clothing worn in Fiji. Its worn both for work and play.
Goto Thailand, Malaysia, Bali or Indonesia and discover that many men in these countries dress in colourful sarongs.
In India, Pakistan and various Arab countries, men wear dress like garments such as the Caftan and Djellaba.
The Scottish and Irish still wear their kilts. Skirted men are also normal in many african countries
How Long Have Women Been Wearing Trousers
Believe it or not, Trousers for women have only been accepted for about 50 years!! During the second world war while the men were away, the women were working in the factories fueling the war effort. Skirts are not particularly practical when working with moving machinery, so the women wore trousers while at work (but still wore skirts outside work!). After the war, women were not so keen to give up their trousers and so a select few continued to wear them. They still had a hard time getting trousers accepted as normal womens attire but 5 years later, women in trousers was a common sight and was considered normal.
The Men in skirts movement is currently at the same stage as the women in trousers movement was 50 years ago. If we manage to acheive complete acceptance in the 5 years that it took women then I will be overjoyed, but somehow I feel that our societies' inbuilt preducices against men in anything other than trousers means that we men will have to wait longer for our fashion freedom.
It was arguable the humble denim jeans trouser helped women as it was the first trouser to be marketed as unisex. I believe that a denim skirt would stand the best chance as being accepted as a unisex garment - but the fashion houses that have introduced skirts for men still created junk and then wondered why it did not sell.
Can I buy skirts today that were designed for men?
Many fashion houses have tried producing mens skirts over the past 5 years. Some sold, some did not, and unfortunately, none of these manufacturers kept up the momentum or marketed the product very well.
Over the last 5 Years, H&M, C&A, Topman, Tommy Halfinger, The Gap, Levis, Hermer, Mountain Hardware, Utilikilts, New Yorker, WWW.SkortMan.com and many independants have produced designs for mens skirts or Kilts.
Currently, Men In Time, Mountain Hardware, Utilikilts, 21st Century Kilts, AMOK, MIDAS Clothing and New Yorker , WWW.SkortMan.com have mens skirts and kilts available.
Why Rock the Boat?
This is the sort of question that only a man who has not tried clothing without a crotch would ask! The answer is for the most part, Comfort. Ask most skirt wearing women why they choose skirts over shorts or trousers and comfort is the answer you will get. As one fellow skirt wearer once said "A man in trousers is like an aircraft with the undercarrage down, and the undercarrage doors closed!" - Ouch! We got the whole man/women, trousers/skirt thing the wrong way around - trousers being anatomically correct for women, and anatomically incorrect for men.
There are of course other reasons why skirts are worn, they are a fun garment with infinite style possibilities. They could also be described as sensual.
Is It Just About Unbifurcated Clothing?
No, but this is an obvious place to start! This website is a vehicle to discuss anything in life where men are unessesarily limited. Mens lib if you like. Women have spent the past 200 years fighting for their rights. They have been successfull to the extent that todays women is as respected as todays man.
Unfortunately, men have not been fighting to maintain their rights, and while women have gone forward, men have gone backwards. Take a look at the forums and discover the wide range of Fashion Freedom and mens social subjects that we discuss.
Why are men so implacably wedded to trousers? Once, frock coats were de rigueur; today, a man in a skirt is an oddity. Can a challenging new exhibition at the V&A and the shock tactics of a few contemporary designers change all that?
|Imagine the next man you see
wearing a skirt. Not a kilt, sarong or kaftan, but a pencil skirt to
just above the knee. Don't turn him into a transvestite; in fact,
avoid all thought of make-up or wigs that would disguise him.
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 own bedroom, you could probably convince him to put one on for you. But try and ask him to do so and then go and buy a pint of milk from the corner shop, fabric flapping about his legs in public.
However radical you think yourself, whatever
open-minded stances you take on sexuality and nonconformism, you would more than
likely laugh at him or, worse, feel ashamed.
It is a curious by-product of the last century, where the western world grew more liberal with each successive decade, that men's clothes have become conversely more restricted in silhouette. We may think that our jeans and T-shirt are modern and progressive, but they are just versions of age-old work clothes and undergarments in technically advanced fabrics. Before 1900, British 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 bifurcated, or divided into two branches. At many of the major fashion houses, skirts for men turn up on the catwalk season after season. Yet in Britain, if it's not split, it's an object of derision.
At the Victoria & Albert Museum in London next month, an exhibition called Men In Skirts will look at these clothes both from the past and the present, some of which are incredibly beautiful and amazingly realised. But 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 that menswear is stuck in a rut, and whether it is ever going to escape from it.
"If a man does wear a skirt, you're very much aware of him as a sexual presence," says Andrew Bolton, curator of the exhibition and the joint V&A/London College of Fashion research fellow. "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. When I was in Marks & Spencer recently, there was a guy with his girlfriend going through the men's clothes, and he said, 'That's fairly innocuous, I'll buy that.'"
Men clearly don't want to be thought of as a sexual presence in the way a skirt allows them to be specifically blatant. 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." Yet such talk sounds like the reasoning of naturists, who present sound arguments for nudity that convince no one, no matter how often they are repeated.
Bolton says that he 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." It shows that, to us as a nation, the thought of a man in a skirt is extraordinary - to such an extent that any man wearing one will face humiliation and insult. It seems so wrong to us that it becomes more an issue of politics than of fashion for the wearer to prove that he is in the right.
The V&A's exhibition of 60 outfits will feature examples of male skirts in both a historical and social context. Alongside the babydoll dress worn by Kurt Cobain and Vivienne Westwood's classic apron bondage trousers will be an overview of skirts past, from a time when wearing such an outfit did not raise eyebrows. 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. Also in the 17th century, men for a while wore "petticoat breeches", a form of divided skirt, as court dress. It was taken for granted that young boys wore dresses until at least the age of seven, for reasons of either hygiene, or a belief at the time that it was wrong to risk sexualising the child by denoting its masculine or feminine identity.
Eventually, in the 19th century, the frock coat became the last gasp of popular men's skirted garment, as a mark of middle-class respectability in the Victorian era, before the practical and easy-to-wear boxy shape of the office-bound suit turned such elaborate coats from everyday wear to irrelevant costume.
The word "skirt", once a natural part
of conversation about men's clothing, became so rare that it was resurrected in
the late 20th century as a tool of shock. The kilt became a staple of the punk
uniform; later, skirts denoted the ambiguity of the New Romantics in the club
scene of the early 1980s, before its use in the high-fashion style of Buffalo,
the most masculine, and therefore startling, use of the men's skirt to date.
Buffalo, the mid-1980s style movement most famous for discovering the model Nick Kamen, made overtly sexual objects of butch men who were photographed wearing skirts with an unashamed ease. In shoots for the Face and i-D magazines, a group of stylists and photographers, led by Ray Petri and Jamie Morgan, set the style for the shockingly masculine way that skirts are shown on the catwalks today.
|"Jean Paul Gaultier
openly credits Buffalo as a source for his first collection that
featured men in skirts," says Bolton. Gaultier, alongside
Westwood for her kilts and Alexander McQueen for his frock coats, is
the contemporary designer most associated with male skirted garments.
Indeed, Gaultier, who will have a special section of the exhibition dedicated to him, is famous for wearing a kilt when fulfilling the role of kinky co-presenter on (UK) Channel 4's Eurotrash. His interpretation of the skirt continues on the same lines - a muscular man defiant in his choice of dress. It is a relentlessly striking image, and one that is miles away from how most men see themselves.
"Commercially, a lot of these
designers don't sell the skirts," says Bolton. "They're made
only for the catwalk, and they are there as a statement and a
spectacle, rather than as a commercial viability."
Jean Paul Gaultier
Indeed, Westwood has two linen kilts and a dress in her latest menswear collection, but they will only be made to order, not for sale off-the-peg. They are included in the catwalk show to provide a subversive edge, but Westwood is a savvy enough businesswoman not to put the kilts into mass-production.
The exhibition also features examples of skirted garments from modern designers such as Burberry, Paul Smith, Maharishi, Anna Sui and Yohji Yamamoto. But, 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 the skirt with? Would they try to make their legs more attractive? Would they get paranoid about their knees? Would wearing high heels help them achieve a more graceful posture? What underwear would best retain their modesty? What would be the etiquette around others lifting them up in the air - a no-go, as it is for women, or free-for-all, as seems to apply to men in kilts?
Rather than anguishing over the general 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 the idea why there are so few forms acceptable for men's wardrobe, while with women's it seems endless," says Bolton.
Indeed, this season the catwalks provided a classic example of just this difference. For the first time, Junya Watanabe, a Comme des Garçons protégé famed for his body-morphing womenswear, designed a collection for men - but instead of pushing back the boundaries of shape and structure in male design as he has done in female, he sent out a series of beautifully cut jeans and tops that in no way deviated from the silhouette of our perceived norm. The reason? For Watanabe, says a spokesperson, the modern trouser is one of the most perfect examples of accomplished design, and so he is interested only in creating the best version possible. In other words, to design a skirt for men, and therefore to attempt to shift the male into a new social context, is not his current preoccupation.
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, the one in which men feel safe, still fascinates the designers who try to master it. From this viewpoint, menswear 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. There is also the problem of how to style a skirt, not least because such a radical departure in shape would throw the entire wardrobe off-kilter. It means that rather than merge and adopt the sensibilities of the opposite sex, good menswear doesn't need to have anything to do with the precocious flair and glamour of womenswear. So, although menswear 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 never switch from trouser to skirt suits.
We can put the continued acceptance of skirts on men in other cultures down to tradition, but there are specifics to this that explain why such wear is prevalent elsewhere but not here. "Many garments are to do with the particular traditions of weaving," says Bolton, "which made it easier to get a width of cloth and drape it, as it was in ancient Greece or Rome." So, while elsewhere in the world conditions have made skirted garments a natural choice, the climate in the UK is too cold both to wear the garment and to harvest a fabric for a light enough cloth.
But that still leaves unexplained those curious examples of skirted garments that defy such arguments - most notably, the kilt, which is worn in Scotland or by anyone trying to evoke Scottish rigour as a confirmation of what Bolton calls "hyper-masculinity". The kilt started life as a piece of pleated fabric that was belted at the waist, forming a skirt below and a mass of material above that could either be draped or wrapped around the body. It gained its powerful connotations when it was banned by the British government from 1746-1782, after the Jacobite Rising of 1745, when it was believed that the way to rid the land of Highlanders was to destroy all their clothing and weapons.
|The repeal of the ban
brought an inevitable revival in the kilt, the defiant echoes of which
still carry today both as a mark of allegiance to Scotland and as a
symbol of a proud warrior. It is also the skirt that turns up most on
celebrities, and was recently sported by Samuel L Jackson, and so
became the main visual reference, in the film The 51st State; it's
also variously worn by Robbie Williams, Ewan McGregor, Sean Connery
and Jonathan Ross.
Indeed, celebrities in skirts seem to conform to the catwalk way of thinking that occasionally being seen in a shocking outfit will instantly raise your profile. After all, it worked for David Beckham in his sarong - a one-off photo opportunity that left the tabloids talking of nothing else for days. And although the inherent irony of the early 1990s grunge ethic would not have allowed Kurt Cobain of Nirvana to admit that his dress was attention-seeking, it was clearly worn for that purpose - by appearing in public in a feminine outfit, he was both gaining populist coverage while also sending out the message that his now-massive band was still in touch with its underground, radical roots.
That said, celebrities aren't the only ones. Look closely at the clothing habits of contemporary men, and you'll find examples of skirted outfits that are hiding from being labelled as such. Most men wear a dressing gown, which is basically a wrap-dress rendered in towelling. They even call it a "gown", and continue to be blind to its effeminate meaning (according to the New Oxford Dictionary, it's "a long dress, typically having a close-fitting bodice and a flared or flowing skirt"). On the beach, at the gym or in adverts for shower products, men will happily wrap a towel around their waist. Around football grounds, fans tie their team or national flag at the waist and walk around freely, even though if they did the same with a skirt of the same size and shape they would not feel safe. (This look was even an inspiration for John Galliano, who sent soccer kit skirts down the catwalk for his spring/summer 2001 show.)
"It is basically fear why men don't wear a skirt," says Bolton, who admits to not owning any himself. "I think that various groups have accepted it, where it's worn as a deliberate 'Look at me, I'm exploring these boundaries and deliberately trying to provoke a reaction'. But people have to justify it as well - it's a male skirt, it's a male dress, it's a kilt. But in generic vocabulary, it's just a skirt."
Indeed, the whims of modern designers are such that men are not forced to confront their prejudices about skirted garments - but this does not mean that those prejudices do not exist. Inevitably, it will be unshakeable national characteristics that keep men out of skirts. "A lot of the time, there's an underlying homophobia against the garments that are being produced," says Bolton, "by the fact that the wearer is adamant about excusing it, that 'It's not gay'. But why can't it be? The garments themselves might be very extreme, but the discourse that goes around it is very conservative. Hopefully, this exhibition will expand the argument a little bit further."