Rich Mnisi. Picture: Instagram
Rich Mnisi. Picture: Instagram

Much ado about Rich Mnisi’s skirts

By Buhle Mbonambi Time of article published Jun 28, 2021

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A famous fashion designer decided to share pictures of themselves wearing a skirt.

One was a tan pleated leather wrap skirt, that would look great on a tennis court. Another was a black, quilted leather miniskirt with a slit.

The other was a short off-white skirt.

What's the big deal, you ask?

Well, it caused some a commotion on the internet, that many men proceeded to lose their sh*t about it.

Why?

Well, the designer is Rich Mnisi - a masculine presenting fashion designer who has never followed society's gender rules when it comes to dressing.

He has made sure to rip up the 'rule' book when it comes to society's expectation of what men and women should wear. If he likes something, he wears it.

I have long expressed how Mnisi - who is part of the new generation of African designers who are superstars and are sought after by corporate brands for collaborations - has always marched to the beat of his own drum. He has always been the brand ambassador for his namesake label.

Like Victoria Beckham and Rihanna, he wears his garments with an understanding of how they should be worn. They never wear him, but rather, he wears the clothes and gives them an extra edge that wasn't there when modelled on the runway.

It's not the first time that Mnisi wears something many would say is reserved for women and feminine presenting people.

Mnisi has worn skirts before, wears bodysuits, corsets, blouses, high heeled boots and suits festooned with diamanté.

His style is refined, but still loud, edgy, unapologetic and f*ckin' fantastic!

Mnisi was recently named as one of the most stylish Africans by this author on this publication last month. "The designer is the best ambassador of his clothing and it in turns makes many want to wear his garments - because he looks so good in them. Gender is no spectrum when it comes to his style - just as long as it looks good, he will rock it."

It was alarmingly hilarious watching South African and many other men from the continent explode on the internet.

Comments ranging from 'How dare he!' to 'He is not a real man' made me both laugh and concerned.

I laughed because it's ridiculous that men don't wear skirts, when you look at the African cultures, that's what men wear.

Flared animal skin girdled around the waist, sarongs intricately wrapped around the body and even umbhaco, which is a thick white linen sarong, with black binding and that's also wrapped around the skirt and worn with beads.

I was concerned because clearly some men are so offended by seeing something they think is 'different' that they lose all sense.

The comments I read on social media this week, mirrored some that I got in a 2012 piece written for the Sunday Tribune about the trend of men wearing skirts.

The story was about how Kanye West had worn 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.

“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.

Almost a decade later, it's concerning that some people are upset over something as nondescript as a person choosing to wear a skirt, regardless of their gender.

Some would call it toxic masculinity. Others fragile masculinity.

And then obviously some call this what this is - bigoted behaviour, which is always unacceptable. But I also think it's stupidity.

It’s funny how people who love talking about culture, forget that 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. Shaka Zulu wore ibheshu.

It was what people wore in those eras and there was nothing untoward about it.

They bleat that we need to go back to basics and our culture, but have clearly forgotten that part of our culture was men not wearing trousers.

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