The return of the man-skirt

Last updated 10:47 24/07/2014
Man skirt
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THE CONVERTS: Jared Leto rocked a skirt/pant combo at the iHeartRadio Music Awards, regular skirt-wearer Marc Jacobs showed off his pins in an a-line black number, and a model worked clashing patterns on the Alexandre Herchcovitch runway earlier this year.

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Menswear is in a tizz over skirts again. Despite howls of protest, celebrities are flaunting "man-skirts", and more than the usual radical sprinkle appeared on runways in London, Milan and Paris during last month's spring 2015 menswear shows.

The trend is polarising fashion followers. "Leave this one to the ladies," Sydney menswear designer Brent Wilson said this week. "Why not?" countered a typical commenter on US-based Facebook page Let Men Wear Skirts.

It's not the first time man-skirts have ruffled conservative male feathers. Skirts have flounced in and out of menswear since French designer Jacques Esterel proposed a kilt-bottomed business suit in 1966 and, later, Jean Paul Gaultier showed the first of many frock-like options in his "And God Created Man" collection of 1985.

But as quickly as man-skirts tend to appear on fashion's fringe, usually flapping around the hairy legs of rockstars and radicals such as Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Robbie Williams and fashion greats Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen, they're shoved back out by conservative masculine culture. Too sissy? Too bloody right, is the average bloke's answer. Until now.

A new generation of young men is now reportedly more comfortable with its masculinity and its so-called feminine side than any generation since 1966. The reasons are complex: the rise of gay culture, multiculturalism and metrosexual man. But the result is obvious. Man-skirts are no big deal for these young blokes, just another cool wardrobe option. 

Pop stars Justin Bieber and Austin Mahone, and 16-year-old actor Jaden Smith, precocious son of Will, are regularly listed among the most influential of young celebrities today. Their nonchalance about menswear's voluminous skirt-like garments is obvious in every paparazzi snap.

Often their "skirts" are actually oversized tops, or the kind of skirt-like garments quickly becoming fashion counterpoints, especially on European runways and streets, for menswear's decade-long trend of lean tailoring and slim silhouettes.

Bieber, Mahone, Smith and their generation grew up in dropped-crotch pants, oversized T-shirts and sloppy skatewear. For them, it's a small step to fashion's new looks: oversized, raglan-sleeve Tees and singlets, graphic-patterned frock coats, man-skirts and knee-shorts gathered so generously the low crotch is hidden to resemble a skirt.

Groundbreaker menswear brands including Agi & Sam, Givenchy, Rick Owens, Dolce & Gabbana and many others showed these man-skirts and skirt-like garments for spring 2015.

It's true, however, that menswear trends move at a notoriously glacial pace. Any change is met with resistance and new looks evolve painfully slowly. In the past two years, for instance, many high-profile early adopters of the man-skirt, particularly those older than Smith's generation, have paid the price for wearing this menswear phenomenon.

Popular rapper Kanye West, for example, whipped up controversy with his now infamous black Givenchy leather man-skirt. Media and fans who saw him wearing it at a 2012 concert were polarised into "hot" and "not" camps. West was defiant about the protesters at first, but crumbled when a fellow rapper ridiculed him. He reportedly requested that all photos of him wearing the skirt be erased.

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But other influential male celebrities have continued to frock on. Diddy, Jared Leto, Vin Diesel, Omar Epps and many more have been snapped recently in man-skirts styled with ruched trousers underneath, or boxer boots or chunky high-tops. Many others have also swapped trousers, on occasion, for the less controversial Scottish kilt.

It could be the start of an evolution that will see man-skirts swinging on the same racks as tailored trousers in two, five or 10 years. Or it could be another flash in the fashion pan, as predicted by Brent Wilson. "I'm an advocate for people embracing their own sense of style," he says. "But I'm also quite old-fashioned ... unless it's part of your heritage or religion, leave this one to the ladies. [It's] another fad that has come and gone and been on the runways and celebrities many times before."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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