Skirts for Men

a personal view


I guess that like so many men I first got interested in skirts for myself by wearing a towel. In my case it was after swimming on those beaches that don't allow total freedom. After a swim a wet bathing outfit gets cold and clammy. So off with the kit and wrap a towel around. I've wandered around many a beach wearing only a towel as a wrap (i.e. skirt) without any bad comment from my wife or anyone else. I also wear a kneelength nightshirt in bed instead of pyjamas, and often breakfast wearing this with a pair of underpants and a jumper (=sweater), even on the patio in summer.

So, I got to thinking; This is good and feels nice. Why don't men wear skirts these days? My personal view is that it is primarily a practical thing which has become cultural. Read some clothes history . Men were the ones who rode horses, dug ditches, ploughed fields, smelted iron and so on, particularly from the 19th Century on. The trouser (US pants) was eminently practical in these circumstances, particularly in cooler climates. What was practical became 'the norm' for men across Europe and was then exported to North America and the Antipodes. When there becomes a norm for male dress it is a brave man who will buck the trend, particularly where social acceptance, and more importantly, job and postion depend on conformity. Even non -conformists like punks and hippies still stuck religiously to pants! In most cultures the male is seen as the dominant sex and so, to wear clothing with a female association causes men to feel socially lower status. The reverse is also true, which is why modern women are wearing so many 'male' clothes. This factor alone is a powerful brake on male skirt wearing.

It is interesting that men in warmer areas like Africa and Asia wear or have worn skirts (e.g. Egyptians, Polynesians, Greeks]. These guys are no fools and know the comfort that a skirt brings in the warmer weather. The crazy thing is that the skirt is better for a man's anatomy and the trouser is better for a woman's anatomy. Women are now wearing the trousers, so let us men start wearing the skirts!

Men's wear v Women's wear

woman in a suitsp This is a simple one.
Women can wear anything. A woman can wear a 3 piece pinstripe trouser suit complete with shirt and tie to the office and then change to a frilly evening dress complete with highheel backless shoes for a night out. Women wear jeans, men's shirts, dungarees, waistcoats, caps, etc., etc. As Eddie Izzard has pointed out: women are not capable of cross dressing.

Men can wear shirts, long or short sleeved, in all varieties except frilly. They can wear trousers (=pants) in any length from shorts to full length, maybe even with a floral pattern (That's liberal, man!). Shoes, trainers and sandals should be sturdy and 'manlike', with or without socks. Finally, if a man is cold he can don a jumper, sweater, or cardigan. A look through any mail order clothes catalogue will show the women's section is many, many times bigger than the men's, and if need be she can delve into the men's section too.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm happy for the gals to wear anything they wish, from nothing on up. I just think us guys are being cheated. All we're asking for is for the skirt to form part of a man's wardrobe - and a man's skirt to boot. There are just a very few garments for men that don't have two legs. I've already mentioned the nightshirt (very difficult to find these days). The dressing gown and bath robe also come to mind. All very much indoor apparel though.

Wikepedia states: In Western culture, skirts and dresses are usually considered women's clothing. However, there are exceptions. The kilt is considered a traditional men's garment in Scotland, and is growing in fashion in other parts of the world. Additionally, garments which are identified as skirts are being proposed as men's clothing by some of the trendier fashion houses such as Jean-Paul Gaultier.

The kilt

kilt The ray of sunshine for men. Here is an item of skirtlike clothing designed for and worn by men. Although Scotland can be a very cold place, especially in winter, the kilt is made from thick warm woolen material. On my visits to Scotland I haven't seen that many guys wearing kilts except at gatherings like Highland games and tattoos. The good news is that young Scots and Irish are starting to wear kilts as a show of national pride, particularly on the Saturday night out and football matches. It would take too long to explain the history of the Scots and the kilt so I won't bother.(try the 'kilts' in the Links page) However, us non celtic men are faced with a dilemma: We can wear a kilt but face all the usual comments that come with them, including "Why are you wearing that? You're not Scottish". So what? You don't have to be an American prospector to wear jeans, and our women have no such qualms when wearing an item. It's all grist to her fashion mill.

Kilts are also fiendishly expensive. Nevertheless, this is a man's garment and there are more affordable versions beginning to appear. One version in particular merits a mention: the "Breacan". This is a modern lightweight kilt by Kinloch Anderson . Its available in 2 tartans and is designed for sport and leisure. Price in 2003 was GBP165 plus postage. Campbell Kilts also do a very competitive range of made to measure kilts. At the end of 2001 I managed to find a lightweight kilt in London, England very cheaply, so be on the lookout. I have also bought kilts from Hector Russell (see below) and eBay ( a black polyester and a military). More recently (2007) cheaper kilts are appearing in polyester or acrylic. While lacking the qualities of a real wool kilt, some of the better ones are quite adequate, and prices are much more affordable.

"The Scottish kilt was just for everyday wear... for battle, we donned full-sequinned dresses adorned with frills and lace!"
           -Groundskeeper Willy: The Simpsons

What have I found to wear

I bought a sarong in navy blue, with a white pattern along the edge (Argos Additions ) at only GBP8.00 . (No longer on sale). It is a 100% cotton material and is made by a company called "Union River".This is easy to put on, very comfortable, and great for the beach or seaside. OK for the garden and indoors too, but not for around town or in the country.

I started out by wearing a black pleated skirt around the house and garden. It was one of my wife's castoffs which I rescued before it went to the charity shop. It had belt loops and came below the knee, and had a satin lining. I only put it on when my wife was not around, but it was very comfortable and pleasing to wear. I usually didn't wear socks with it as they didn't look right. Unfortunately it has now worn out, and also I want to wear 'men's skirts', so it's gone.

A recent look around the local shops showed that both denim & cord jeans skirts are widely available in an assortment of lengths and colours. Sadly, most of them fasten on the ladies' side, but all have pockets and front fly. After a search I ended up with a 21 inch length, 5 pocket denim skirt, for the princely sum of GBP2.00 from the Salvation Army charity shop. Bargain! I've also bought an ankle length denim skirt at GBP12.00 , which was excellent for cooler weather, but suffers from a lack of pockets. Both these denim skirts are made for women, but are in a man's style. After much deliberation I have now given away the long skirt. It was too wide at the hips and patently a woman's skirt. I found a replacement recently in a charity shop for only GBP5.00. This virtually new denim skirt by Marks & Spencer, has pockets and is a much better fit. I have worn this to the shps and received only curious looks. I also bought a beige, heavy cotton, ankle length skirt, with drawstring waist and side pockets from the same place, again cheaply.

In December 2001 I was in London, England and spotted a sale on at the 'Cashmere' shop in The Strand. On offer were men's kilts at a price of only GBP59.95 . The range was limited in terms of available tartans but I settled on a Black Watch one in my size. These are lightweight wool kilts made in Scotland, with leather straps, and come down to the knee ( on me anyway).This is the garment that I have been regularly wearing. In 2004 I sent for another of these by mail. What a disappointment! The quality was not the same and the amount of material had been reduced, perhaps to keep down cost. This latter kilt was disposed of, but the original is still going strong.
After the first kilt, following a link from Tom's Café (now Skirtcafé) I ended up at Campbell Kilts . I ordered a casual kilt at GBP140 (EUR224) made to measure. It is very well made of 13 oz wool, and extremely comfortable. There is something indescribably good about striding along in a a kilt in the great outdoors. (and no, I don't go 'regimental' !!).
UltiKilt A subsequest purchase is an ' Ulti-Kilt ' from an Italian source. This is a lightweight wool-like kilt with Velcro fastenings, available in two colors. It is fairly short and is intended to be worn for fun or when playing Ultimate Frisbee. The best news is the price - only EUR20. This is a perfect summer or vacation skirt.
A fairly recent kilt is an 'Economy' kilt from Hector Russell:- 5 yards of 10oz Black Stewart tartan and very well made. The price was also good - GBP99.(Sadly, this range is no longer available). The wool is very soft and quite warm enough. My latest additions (2006/7) are from eBay:- a plain black polyester one at around GBP25, an ex Gordon Highlanders military kilt at under GBP46, and a Burberry pattern acrylic at only GBP15. I use the poly kilt for DIY and gardening, as it can be put through the washing machine.

A very good female friend returned from New Zealand and presented me with a lavalava. It is colored bright blue and yellow in a strong cotton cloth. According to her they are extremely popular among the male youth out there. I had hoped to obtain some photos when she returned. This skirt has now been retired as my wife thought it overly garish. The good news is that she has made me two replacements; one in a muted browns/ochres and one in blue/white vertical wavy stripes. These two I wore throughout the long, hot summer of 2003.

During the summer I was presented with a Thai tubular sarong by my next door neighbor, who had been out in Hong Kong. This skirt is in a loose weave dark cotton, with a patterned waistband. Not long ago, I bought some African patterned cotton cloth in South Africa and this has made a very good short sarong. (just below the knee). A mostly white sarong from Kikoy has also joined the ensemble, followed recently by a check pattern tube sarong from Java. All in all I'm not short of sarongs!

I while ago I added to the wardrobe a Macabi Adventure skirt in stone color. This cost me USD54in a sale, and it is light, cool and very comfortable. I'd certainly recommend this skirt for Summer wear. It also has pockets!! (Sad note: I moved house in 2005 and since then I cannot find the Macabi. We sent a lot of stuff to the charity shops before moving and it looks as though the Macabi got mixed in. C'est la vie). Good news! In Autumn 2006 Macabi once again had a sale and I was able to replace my missing skirt at the same price.

As for the rest of the ensemble, I just wear what I would wear with trousers or shorts. I tend to wear kneelength socks with the kilts, and have found that M&S women's over-the-knee black socks are excellent. I turn them down to just below the knee. I have had a handbag for years, bought after a trip to France where nearly all the men have them. Lots of room for glasses, pens, money, keys, phone, comb and so on. Again this is OK in Britain too. If you're worried try putting a Canon or Nikon badge prominently on your handbag. It magically transforms it into a camera case and no-one will raise an eybrow, even the rednecks. I haven't bothered though.
I've now bought a sporran to go with the kilts, as it's a pain not having anywhere for keys and money, and the handbag doesn't "go"..

My advice is to be manly in your skirt wearing: Wear men's clothes for the rest of your stuff. Don't wear tights (=pantyhose)*, or makeup or high heels, and don't mince along. Just dress and behave as if you were wearing trousers but wear your skirt instead. After all we are not trying to be women here. I would also suggest that acceptability is gained in small steps, so go for 'manly' colors and textures. A blue denim or brown cord skirt is likely to be more accepted than a flowing floral print number. However, at the end of the day it's up to you - go with whatever you feel comfortable with.

*I'm willing to be corrected on this as it seems tights/pantyhose are regularly being worn by men with their trousers/pants. The main reason is to keep warm in Winter. Policemen and fishermen are keen users apparently, and several companies provide suitable supplies for men. Eat your heart out Robin Hood!

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content ©MMI-MMVIII Barry Telendor
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