In history most of the men who made an impact, whether in real life or myths and legends, wore skirts or dresses. Jesus Christ, Julius Caesar, Achilles, Maximus and even Hercules wore robes, tunics and skirts. It was what people wore in those eras and there was nothing untoward about it. Fast forward 2 000 years and the only time you’d see a man wearing a skirt is if there was a haggis competition or a drag queen pageant. Until now, that is.
Some may do it, some are too afraid of what people will say. Then there are others who wouldn’t dream of doing it “as it isn’t natural”. These are the views we got from ordinary men we quizzed about wearing skirts.
“I wouldn’t take any guy who wore a skirt seriously. It’s not like they’ll be wearing a kilt. That’s different,” one of the men said.
“It’s ridiculous, and I’ll be honest and probably think they are a drag queen,” said another.
Valid fears, but with fashion and celebrity influence on everything we do and wear, it won’t be long before some of the men change their opinion.
Women have borrowed elements of clothing from men, but that rarely happens with men.
A few years ago women were being advised by fashion editors to get themselves boyfriend blazers and boyfriend jeans. But men have never been told that a skirt or even a blouse is the next big thing in fashion.
Kanye West recently wore a leather Givenchy skirt with leggings at the Madison Square Garden leg of his Watch the Throne tour with Jay-Z. Pictures of West in the skirt set blogs alight with comments. People were in two minds. Some admired him for always pushing the boundaries, others disapproved.
It was like the time David Beckham wore a sarong in 1998. Football fans were outraged, with some saying he was taking his metrosexuality too far.
P Diddy, Jared Leto, Gerard Butler and Marc Jacobs have all donned skirts. Even Vin Diesel wore a leather skirt at the 2003 MTV Europe Music Awards. Marc was quoted last year as saying: “I like wearing skirts, I like wearing kilts. I started like a few years ago. I moved from kilts into pencil skirts.”
We’ve also see men’s skirts on the runways of Givenchy, Yohji Yamamoto and Thom Browne during last year’s spring/summer collections.
I spoke to fashion commentators Sandiso Ngubane and Maque DeGorgeous and it appears that some South African men have embraced it .
“If you look at photo blogs such as The Sartorialist you’ll notice that, at least in Europe, there are people on the streets already embracing the trend,” Sandiso said. “I doubt it is going to be a trend in the foreseeable future in South Africa. South African men are notoriously conservative when it comes to fashion. Dion Chang and stylist Felipe Mazibuko have been known to wear a skirt before. The trend never took off even as far back as early last decade when Chang appeared in an issue of Elle wearing a skirt.”
Chang and Mazibuko are some of SA’s most influential people when it comes to fashion, with Mazibuko having made the top 10 of the GQ Best Dressed Men list of 2009.
Maque, who is also the fashion correspondent for Flash on SABC3, said he didn’t see men skirts become a trend. “A ‘trend’ for me is something with potential for mass consumption and in light of that, men in skirts will take time, if ever, to hit the high streets and traditional men’s stores,” he said.
“Many men choose to follow a radical trend based solely on practicality versus women who consume trends based on popularity and sometimes putting practicality and comfort in the backseat.”
With the South African consumer being very different from their Western counterparts, something that could be a trend in Europe may not cut it in South Africa.
“What they (men) fail to see is that skirts have been part of South African and African garbs for many years – it’s really nothing new. Think back on Zulu hide materials and tails worn by men, Masai men in their sarong-like garbs and many other examples in Africa exist. Will it translate well for South African men? Not really.”
What do they think about the men who may try wearing skirts? “I think men who will try the skirt trend are those who are sartorially adventurous, but South African men are far too conservative.
“Some still give me the eye for carrying a purse and when was that a trend overseas? So, if men are too scared to carry something as simple as a purse, imagine wearing a skirt,” Sandiso said.
In the past women were chastised for wearing pants, and even though they are still criticised in certain parts of society, it’s become acceptable. Will it ever be the same for men? “I don’t think it’s fair for people to say men shouldn’t wear skirts. Why not? If it makes a few people uncomfortable, so what? I’m very much against this cultural conservatism that seeks to put people in the ‘homosexual’ box just because they dare to try something that everyone else is too scared to try,” Sandiso said.
Maque agreed with him. “Is it fair to say that men shouldn’t wear skirts? Who are we to dictate such? Africa has a long history of skirt-like traditional garbs, so if anything they are more than welcome to wear skirts.”
Both Sandiso and Maque are adventurous when it comes to fashion, with Ngubane wearing a lot of blouses at events. DeGorgeous is known by bloggers on Just Curious as “The clutch bag guy”. Will they try the man skirt?
“Oh, I have on several occasions,” Maque said. “The most recent being a denim kilt I wore to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg a few weeks ago.”
And Sandiso? “I most definitely would wear a skirt. As soon as I find one that’s perfect for me, trust me you’ll be seeing me in one.”
At the recent SA Fashion Week, designer Suzaan Heyns had two of her male models wearing skirts, and Sandiso tweeted that “I have finally found the skirt I want”. - Sunday Tribune