Why Won't Men Wear Skirts?
This week's column is an opinion piece. It's about Men in Skirts. My opinion is, men should wear skirts.
Not just in the goth club, not just at Burning Man, not just kilts. Men should wear skirts lots more than they do. Why? Because it looks good, and I like it.
And why don't men wear skirts? Why is it so hard for me to get my boyfriends to wear skirts for everyday wear? There's a huge advantage to wearing skirts, guys—most girls love it. It's instant panty-remover, just like wearing eyeliner. If you wear a skirt girls will totally hit on you. Isn't that a powerful incentive?
Not long ago I was in the bedroom of a beautiful boy (as I often am) and he was showing me his skirts. He has an impressive collection of long black twill gothy skirts, the kind that look fabulous on tall slim boys, with and without bondage straps and buckles and zippers. He mentioned one issue with skirt-wearing for men while showing me a skirt in a softer jersey fabric—demonstrated by a frank gesture involving a poking knuckle: men's skirts should generally be of, shall we say, stiffer fabrics, to lie smoothly in front! He related a story of an experience at a club, where a fellow admired his "Man-Skirt" or "One-Legged Pant," studiously avoiding any reference to actual skirts on men. The boy showed the admirer the label of the skirt, which was something like "Club Girl," and explained, "It's a skirt. I'm wearing a skirt. I'm comfortable with that."
There is a groundswell of support for men's skirts this season. As everyone knows, British high street retailer turned US mass-market trendsetter H&M is selling men's skirts for Spring 2010.
Etro, Comme des Garcons, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen all brought out skirts for men in their collections in 2009. There are innumerable articles declaring the trend "official." Runway photographer Peter Stiger has a nice roundup of catwalk shots on his site showing some examples. French fashion roundup France 24 produced this adorable video about the history of men's skirts and their recent revival:
Could the tipping point actually be reached this time? Is there enough cultural impetus behind the trend to make skirts for men acceptable in the West? God, I hope so, but I've hoped in vain before.
There are pictures in my family photo albums of my hippie parents' bearded friends wearing their girlfriends' dresses, from the '70s. I remember in 1981 sitting in front of Stuyvesant High School with a guy named Larry Chua (now a novelist, punk rock journalist and NYU professor). Larry came to school every day in full Boy George regalia—lipstick, eyeliner, plaid skirt, safety pins. He looked fantastic—I adored him. Even in the East Village, he was shocking. In the '80s my boyfriend Rob used to wear my skirts around the apartment in the New York summer heat, and on one occasion was drunk enough to walk all the way from Chelsea to Soho, past the Latino gangsters at 16th Street, the hookers and pimps at 14th, and the bridge and tunnel bar-crawlers on Waverly Street in one of my hippie batik skirts. Guy friends of mine wore skirts at Grateful Dead shows in the '80s; grunge boys wore plaid skirts when I was in art school in the '90s. My second husband, when we were first married in '99, used to wear my dresses to clubs. My housemate B. says when she was in Episcopalian prep school, a boy took advantage of a loophole in the school's dress code and wore skirts to school every day. The girls loved him, of course.
But the ground gained was lost, in the mainstream at least, after September 11th. Although progress has been slowly but consistently made in genderqueer awareness, mainstream gender roles polarized in the wake of the bombings. Women's clothing became ultra-feminine, retro, ruffly and lacy. Men's clothes reverted to their usual blandness. Every restaurant had macaroni and cheese on the menu, every girl had a charming flowered sweater from Anthropologie, and club guys stopped wearing glitter.
Only now are things loosening up again. Utilikilts, the ten-year-old Seattle-based company, has popularized kilts for alternative guys by providing them with pockets and a manly punk-rock socially responsible ethos. Their kilts are beautifully made, look great, and are a practical gateway drug to get your man into skirts, but as my housemate B. pointed out, they can be a cop-out for guys who hesitate to wear an actual skirt. Still, it's a start! And guys look great in kilts. Guys of all body types—stouter gentleman look classic and rugged in a kilt.
If you want to find the H&M manskirts, you'll have to go to their "Trend" stores, a select group of stores in NY and LA only, with a special "Trend" section. However, there are other sources for skirts cut for the male body. For the slim-hipped goth boy, the British company DracInABox sells long men's skirts with delicious bondage straps. The Black Angel, also in the UK, has an excellent selection of bondage skirts and club skirts as well.
The UK men's latex fetishwear site Dvote.com has a gorgeous pleated kilt in latex, available in a million colors including gunmetal with black pleat insert detail. Sadly, neither Shrine nor Lip Service, the two main manufacturers of men's gothic clothing in the US, does a male skirt. (Or a Unisex Unbifurcated Garment, as the useful kilt site Kiltmen.com calls them.) For men who'd like to pursue the skirt-wearing lifestyle, there's a charming chat site called The Skirt Café, where men can discuss their skirt-related experiences.
But honestly guys, don't bother to read about it. Order a skirt online, wear it to a club or a party, and just let the girls crawl all over you. That's my advice. Or you could consider it a request.