Let's embrace the man skirt

KATHLEEN LEE-JOE
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2013
man skirt
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MR MINI: J.W. Anderson's menswear A/W 13 show got people talking about blokes in skirts, again.

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I've long been an advocate for men in skirts and dresses, but the moment I saw J.W. Anderson's display of boob tubes, mini dresses and thigh-skimming, ruffle-hemmed 'skorts' at the recent London shows, I knew it would do nothing to further my cause. The collection, though subversive and gender-bending, spoke nothing to the real appeal of wearing an unbifurcated garment - comfort and functionality. 

As us ladies can concur, skirts and dresses are stylish, practical and easy to wear. While we enjoy this option alongside other items on the rack such as slacks, suspenders and ties, men still lack access to the full repertoire of clothing worn by women. Throughout the history of Western dress, women have borrowed elements of men's clothing and worn them damn well. Why, then, are we so resistant to the reverse? Are we not man enough to accept the man-skirt?

It hadn't always been this way. Once upon an ancient time, the Greeks and Romans saw exposure of the male leg as a sign of prowess, virility and hyper-masculinity, a notion picked up by the Scots with their invention of the kilt.  The punk, grunge and glam-rock movements adopted the man-skirt as a symbol of transgression and self-expression. While hippies see it as an item of the utopian wardrobe in which gender distinctions cease to exist.

Designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, Alexander McQueen, Yohji Yamamoto and Dries van Noten have all tried to bring it back after it went into retirement in the Victorian era. The New York Times reported it as a trend in 2009. And 2004. And 1993. And back in 1984. The Sartorialist has gone one step further, debating appropriate skirt lengths for men. And yet the taboo surrounding man-skirts remains, despite #KanyesSkirt's, A$AP Rocky's and Marc Jacob's best efforts to motion a revival. Aren't men entitled to enjoy the same sartorial freedom as women, without their manhood being scrutinized or questioned?

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The current state of men's fashion is utterly yawn-inducing. The only lower-body garments deemed acceptable are pants and shorts, inferior to skirts and dresses in both toilet-going and air-flow circulating capabilities. While everybody gets into a huff about gender-specific toys, gender-specific garments continue to dominate the menswear catwalks. Charlie Porter from the London Financial Times wrote a piece about it recently, summing up society's stance with, "[H]owever radical you think yourself, whatever open-minded stances you take on sexuality and non-conformism, you would more than likely laugh at him or, worse, feel ashamed." A sadly all-too-common view perpetuated by closed minds and outdated ideas of gender normativity.

Over time, fashion has become a catalyst for transgressing social codes. And to me, the man-skirt is the next logical step. You shouldn't have to be a gay fashion icon or ballin' rapper to wear one. Accepting man-skirts and dresses once and for all would be a way of injecting some much-needed novelty into men's fashion, while redefining ideas of beauty and masculinity.

And then there's the comfort factor which, at the end of the day, is the only thing that's going to convince some of them. As I overheard one male shopper whisper to another male shopper while fiddling with a zip-front women's skirt, "That means easy access, dude."

- Daily Life

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