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Can Men Wear Skirts?

Men's skirts have many names - South Asians use Sarongs

There is often a buzz in circles associated with crossdressing that men should have the freedom to wear skirts. Skirt wearing by men is often a fixture in recent fashion shows and since a recent outing by Brad Pitt in a skirt, among others, maybe skirt wearing by men will become more mainstream (https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/men-skirts-fashion-history-trends/index.html)?

On sites like Quora.com, skirts for men is probably only less popular in a crossdressing context than lingerie (ahem). Why can’t men wear skirts? – Goes the demand. Then, predictably, the champions of skirt wearing spout mini-skirts as the most popular. Women didn’t wear mini skirts until recently and they are probably less practical for most men, unless paired with suitable underwear. Men don’t fold their legs quite as much, or as tightly as women and mini’s don’t work too well if you wish to sit in a yoga posture, cross legged.

However, the above treatment, seemingly revolutionary, is confined to Western culture such as fashion shows or Hollywood, emerging from a conservative hegemon of suits for men since around 1900 unless you were Scottish and wore a male skirt called a kilt.

Male skirts can also be called cassocks, kaunakes, shendyt’s, chitons, fustanellas among others. Men wore things that were or incorporated skirts for a long time before the 19th century, after which trousers or pants became a global standard for men in the West and in popular culture – that has proved more than infectious.

Men have been wearing skirts for years in hot countries, right up until today. The way this has been practised in parts of South East and South Asia – some of the most populous parts of the planet has been in the form of a sarong. A generous cylinder of cloth tied amply at the waist, with or without a belt. A women’s long skirt, often called a lungi has been little different, though it may reveal more leg. Skirts are especially popular in hot countries and allow for the crotch area and thighs to be well ventilated with the body of the skirt being a long, comfortable and often very formal modesty covering. Sarongs can be hitched up like a mini skirt for some kinds of work or tied up like a loin cloth for work such as climbing trees or work that involves partial or complete submersion in mud. Tropical temperatures do not require cold protection except at higher elevations.

Fashionistas and skirt enthusiasts in the West (for men) often encourage denim mini-skirts with pockets. Longer swishy ones may be both more modest and comfortable without a need for underwear. Many men have been aware of what they are missing in the increasingly hotter summers that now seem to plague the northern hemisphere in particular.

There is no question that men can wear skirts given their use in the tropics. Of course the designs may be altered to suit male interests, activities and how the garment is likely to function. Stiff skirts will be quite uncomfortable for sitting and may instead be another form of an apron skirt designed to carry tools. Maybe the West should consider sarongs that are especially good as nightwear, in case men are shy about wearing skirts by day – at least if the fashion starts gaining ground. In any case, in colder temperatures, a skirt will be just a shorter version of a male robe or gown. Male nightgowns have been popular in the past and simpler to handle than a two-piece pyjama suit for laundry purposes.

It's high time that skirts for men became more popular. Whether this is done via fashion or simply, the adoption of Asian styles of clothing, maybe the market and celebrities will help pave the way. Skirts for men need not sound unusual given they have always existed for thousands of years, though thanks to a global Western sartorial hegemony, the male skirt has been eclipsed with associations with effeminacy, poverty or even the apparel of “savages”. Well, men will always be more savage than women when it comes to warfare and the skirt presents no handicaps to this, if you consider the skirt like garments worn by Greeks, Romans, Persians and many other societies.

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I for one will continue to enjoy my sarong and not to make a fashion statement. It’s eminently practical in the tropics and makes a lovely lose garment for nightwear.

A sarong image used by LOVI from South Asia (lovisarongs.com)

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