Skirting the issue

Prejudices against men who choose to wear a skirt are firmly rooted in the western culture. Such a decision is often associated with assumptions of cross-dressing or homosexuality. It is no surprise then that the closest many men ever get to sporting a skirt is the traditional Scottish dress of a kilt. 

One man who is trying to break this prejudice and encourage men to wear skirts is Tim Stannard. He says: “I find that the majority of people think that wearing a skirt equates to cross-dressing, although I find that women are more ready to see the injustice in that assumption, when you point out that they happily wear men’s clothes.”


Jay Dezelic designs skirts for men, as well as wearing them. Photo: @jdez

Stannard, who is a husband and a grandfather, opted to include skirts in his wardrobe over a decade ago. On the whole he finds that people are not willing to accept his choice of clothing – it embarrasses his family and has even lost him business.

He set up a website to try and spread the message that it is acceptable for men to wear skirts. However, when his clients came across his website not all of them reacted positively. Stannard then felt he had to set up a new domain under a
nickname to avoid “alienating and driving away business”.

Now semi-retired, Stannard is more open with his identity, but he believes that he is only one of a few to be so open: “Very few men who wear or want to wear a skirt will admit it. Most keep their names a secret. That is a very sad state of affairs, don’t you think?”

The Linc held a small survey, consisting of 80 women, which found that only one in eight women know any men who wear skirts. This could be down to a small number of men wearing skirts, or not being open about their decision to.

The survey also discovered that almost half of the women surveyed, 49%, would assume a man was wearing a skirt as a joke or a bet amongst friends. 39% of the women asked would guess that a man wearing a skirt was a transvestite and only four people, 5% of those asked, would think that men would wear the item for comfort reasons.

However, Stannard’s desire to wear a skirt is strongest when the weather is hot, as he finds them more comfortable than shorts.

“The first skirt-like garments I wore were sarongs; I found them much cooler than shorts and mainly wore them on holiday. Reactions varied from embarrassed silence to no reaction at all. Somewhere in between were a few friends who thought it was a great idea.”

Stannard has now been running his website for around ten years, receiving between 1,500 and 8,000 hits a day. Most visitors are pulled in during the hot weather it seems, Stannard explains this as “when you consider the male anatomy, to have a seam trying to cut you in half is madness”.

He has to take into account his family’s feelings when he dresses in a skirt, saying that it “always has been and always will be an issue for them”.

“Anything that makes a person stand out from the crowd will embarrass their family.”

Jon Rowlinson, a guitarist in punk rock band “Sicknurse”, was drawn to the skirt out of jealousy. His desire to wear a skirt started at the age of just 11, sparked by envy of his sister’s expansive wardrobe: “I just couldn’t figure out why my sister had wonderful, diverse clothes and I was forced into drab pants. I bought my own skirts when I started work and wore them in secret until I was sick of living my life in a closet.”

Luckily Rowlinson has not encountered the same level of prejudice as Stannard, possibly because he mixes in a more open-minded section of society. He has received positive reactions from everyone, including his band members: “They love me wearing a skirt as they view it as a poke in the eye of society… I think musicians are more open to diversity anyway. The band became a good platform to wear a skirt in public. At first I would change for the stage and leave it on afterwards. Soon I was wearing them all night and even for other people’s gigs.”

Despite Rawlinson’s positive experiences from wearing a skirt, he is still frequently reminded that not the whole of society is ready to accept men who wear skirts: “A friend of mine invited me to her silver wedding and asked me to leave the skirt at home because her father is a devout Muslim. Normally I would have refused, but I bit the bullet on that one.”

Progress appeared to be on the horizon when men’s skirts featured heavily on the catwalk last year. As a reaction to this H&M announced that their men’s spring/summer 2010 collection would include skirts. However, those skirts never made it to the high street. 

Even some of the designers behind the controversial fashion item freely admit that skirts for men will not be hitting the high street any time soon.

Jay Dezelic, who has been designing skirts for men for the past six years, says the reason for this is that “most men these days are kind of drones when it comes to fashion. However, I do expect that the demand for men’s skirts will continue to increase as more men discover that skirts are often more comfortable to wear.”

Dezelic, who is based in the US city Seattle, is aware that his work is for a niche market: “My designs are not for everyone. Not even for most. I make things that really only appeal to a small percentage of people who have the confidence to break tradition and stand out as unique individuals.”

The key to a rise in popularity in skirts for men, Dezelic argues, could be down to women: “When men figure out that many women are attracted to guys in skirts for the same anatomical reasons guys are attracted to women in skirts, then maybe that will trigger a fundamental fashion shift for the masses.”

Contrary to this a disappointing 83% of the women asked in The Linc’s survey said that they would be put off dating a man if he wore a skirt. 

At the moment, it seems that traditional male pride is restricting many men from taking the plunge. However, Dezelic suggests that wearing a skirt might actually boost some aspects of the male ego.

“Wearing a skirt for the first time is a test of confidence – maybe like the thrill of accomplishing a dare. Being able to achieve what others fear gives a sense of winning something.”

Appealing to the traditional male trait of competitiveness may convince some men that it is worth slipping into a skirt. Combine this with the amount of confidence (or balls, if you will), it takes for a man to go out in public wearing a skirt and perhaps it seems less of a ‘girly’ idea after all.

Maybe the man in the skirt is really more of a man than the one who fidgets uncomfortably in his shorts.

9 Responses to Skirting the issue

  1. Cory Kerr says:

    I agree that men should include skirts in their everyday wardrobes. Men have worn skirts throughout history (e.g the Greeks and Romans), but somehow our culture today has developed a strong taboo against m man wearing a skirt — even privately in the house.

    I have been wearing skirts at home for years — they are much more comfortable for me than pants — and I look forward to the day when I can feel comfortable wearing them outside, too.

    Cory

  2. Joanna Maguire says:

    Yes men do have to be strong and determined to go out in public dressed as a woman. I can always tell the few gay CDs The do not try to hide the bulge of their genitals> Mots CDs are hetrosexual. They usually do not go to gay bars or gay areas in town

  3. Jon Rowlinson says:

    Joanna… you are missing the point.
    This is about men including skirts into their wardrobe not going out in disguise.
    Equal clothing rights without prejudice.

    Jon

  4. Dave says:

    Does look a bit ridiculous, though.

  5. Tim Stannard says:

    Dave, I couldn’t agree with you more, He does look a bit “girly”.
    However, imho it is possible for a bloke to wear a skirt and look a tad more masculine.
    Natalie left off the url to my website, not sure whether it was by accident or design, but there are a few images there that you may find less ridiculous.
    bobclops.co.uk
    My site uses the word skirt as a generic term and includes sarongs, kilts or any other similar garment.
    A bog standard denim skirt looks no less masculine than a pair of denim shorts, just much more comfortable.

  6. Jeremie says:

    I personally wear kilts and long skirts specially designed for men.
    At first, I wore them for fashion (traditional male clothes are so sad and unimaginative), but it is true that skirts are a lot more comfortable when it is hot !
    On my side of the Channel, there is even an association, “HEJ”, promoting the wearing of skirts for men (http://asso.i-hej.com/index.php).

  7. Nigel says:

    IMHO its ridiculous that blokes don’t wear skirts. Women wear what they like when they like, blokes are stuck in the drab, boring rubbish that passes for ‘menswear’. About 15-odd years ago, I thought ‘sod it’, I’m gonna wear what I like – I am only going to live once, why live by someone else’s stupid rules?

    These days, I am in skirts 50% of the time including for work, and probably well known as the ‘bloke in the skirt’ in Edinburgh. They range from mini to knee length, and get worn with tights/leggings/bare legs.

    Plenty of blokes on LookBook rocking various skirts/dresses: http://lookbook.nu/looks#!categories/skirts/dresses/gender/guys/sort/newest/time/all-time

    My own LookBook stuff is more bland than most of the above, see here: http://lookbook.nu/veletron

    Nigel

  8. Sinned says:

    The state of men’s fashion is even worse than can be imagined. On a recent to ASDA there were trousers on display for women in bright colours – green, purple, red and so on but what was available for me – black and blue!!!! How boring!!!! I think that men should have the same dress freedom as women and be able to wear what they want to without any assumptions about their gender or sexuality. I wear skirts around the house because my wife isn’t comfortable about me wearing one outside of the house. To me wearing a skirt says nothing about my gender/sexuality and more about wearing a garment for its comfort, fit and style.

    Sinned

  9. Charles says:

    What prevents change is first mass hypnosis; secondly, the usual fear of being different; and third, the fear of censure by others. Psychiatry always leads the way in censure, having taken over from the Roman Catholic Inquisition and the Protestant witch hunts. Another sad aspect is one seldom progresses past a few breaths discussing this topic before the dismal “it has to be a kilt” gets belched out by those willing to allow men a mere measure of freedom, rather than its full spectrum. Give me 10 minutes, I can document that society said truly horrible things about women wearing pants. But once accustomed to change, the mind no longer balks.