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The History of Men in Skirts

The History of Men in Skirts
Men have been record wearing skirts for as long as we have recorded history.  From the sarong of Southeast Asia to the traditional Roman toga, from Sumerian cultures in Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt & Greece through to the modern day.

Ancient History
Along with tunics, skirts for men were integral part of fashion in ancient civilisations. In ancient Egypt, both men and women commonly wore simple linen skirts called shendyt, a practical garment suited to the hot climate.
Similarly, in ancient Greece, men donned chitons and himation—long, flowing tunics that allowed for easy movement. At this point in history, these styles were not seen as feminine but rather as standard male attire offering comfort and functionality​.

“Short tunics were worn by young men and workers from the 3rd or 4th century CE in northern Germany right through to late Saxon times”

Medieval and Renaissance Eras
During the medieval period, men's skirts or tunics were accompanied by garments like hose and doublets. By the Renaissance, elaborate clothing became a symbol of status, with men wearing jerkins and gowns that featured skirted elements.
These pieces were richly decorated and layered, reflecting the wearer's wealth and position, with full length tunics highly representative of one’s status or position given their impracticality for manual labour and the inherent cost of fabric itself.

As history moved from the Medieval to the Renaissance, so too did the fashion of the day, and as the art of tailoring came into its own, draped clothing moved into fitted garments. 

Gendered Distinctions 
It wasn’t until the 14th century that we saw gendered distinctions in Europe through the evolution of tailoring. Instead of an emphasis on a long, vertical male figure, the Renaissance man favoured blunt and square forms that expanded sideways.
Reflecting the interest in human anatomy so prevalent within natural sciences, there was an emphasis on clothing that focused on separate parts of the body, with men starting to wear hose & codpieces to show off their legs.

As conquest & colonisation expanded the "known world", so too did men’s fashion. Width was exaggerated through bulky layers, with wide shoulders & an emphasis on the thighs enhancing a sense of the active body.
Tunics became shorter and shorter to exaggerate masculine areas & breeches maintained themselves as the uniform of the day. At this point in Western Europe, split-leg garments were exclusively male, and while skirts/tunics grew out of fashion for men, the decorative extravagance of male dress was still present. 

Great Masculine Renunciation
From the early Victorian era, there was a decline in the wearing of bright colours and luxurious fabrics by men. This ‘Great Masculine Renunciation’, as English psychologist John Flügel coined it, was a movement in which

“Man abandoned his claim to be considered beautiful… [and] henceforth aimed at being only useful”

This included the rejection of bright colours, loud patterns, high heels, shiny accessories and any other types of ostentatious adornment, and with it any last trace of skirts for men.

"Henceforth trousers became the ultimate clothing for men to wear, while women had their essential frivolity forced on them by the dresses and skirts they were expected to wear"

Modern Revival            
We can see the initial flirtations with men’s skirts in the 1970s & 1980s. Stanford researcher, David Hall advocated for men to wear skirts as a far more practical attire at warmer climates & Boy George brought androgynous dressing to a wider audience, wearing long skirts & dresses on stage.

By 1985, Jean-Paul Gaultier had created his first male skirt, and his example was followed by other fashion houses like Giorgio Armani & Kenzo. Designers like Thom Browne and Rick Owens also prominently featured skirts in their collections in the late 1990s and early 2000s​.

Cultural Significance
Fashion has always been one of many ways that societies represent and reinforce gender roles. When we talk of menswear or womenswear, we do not mean that a piece of clothing inherently has a gender, but refer to what gender presentation is attached to it by the society it is worn in. 

What needs be stressed is that the skirts men wore in the past were not just considered womenswear which men had adopted...they were men’s items, as we can see from their cut & construction.

Skirts for men have held significant cultural and regional importance throughout many different cultures throughout history. In Scotland, the kilt is a traditional garment with deep cultural roots, symbolising national pride and identity.
In many Asian cultures, skirt-like garments for men have also been prevalent. The sarong in Southeast Asia and the lungi in South Asia both being practical and comfortable attire for men, suited to the region's climate and cultural practices.

While there is still a way to go in finding full social acceptance for men in skirts, queer culture has continually celebrated, championed & embraced the skirt for all genders & all body shapes, sizes & expressions. The presence of guys wearing skirts and men in skirts in fashion highlights this cultural shift as queer culture permeates into the mainstream. 

Styling Tips
Incorporating skirts into your wardrobe is easier than you’d think. Here are 5 practical tips: 

1. Start Simple:
Begin with neutral colours like Black & White. A simple, solid-coloured skirt can be easier to style. Our Kilt Wrap Skirt is a perfect option for this, with examples in White, Mushroom, Gumnut & Black.
Kilt Wrap Skirt - Tencel (Eucalyptus)
 2. Length:
Finding the right length of skirt can be tricky. That’s why our Kilt Wrap Skirt is designed to be worn at any length that works for you. Simply wrap the skirt around yourself, thread the waistband where it suits, tie a knot and off you go…wearing it is really that easy. 
Low-Cut Singlet - Tencel (Eucalyptus)
3. Layering:
Pair skirts with classic pieces like jackets, singlets or shirts. Layering can add depth and make the outfit more cohesive. Every skirt we offer has a matching Double Breasted Blazer, Cropped Tank Top & Oversized Shirt in our classics collection – the perfect way to begin styling our Kilt Wrap Skirt.
Kilt Wrap Skirt - Tencel (Eucalyptus)
4. Footwear:
Choosing footwear that complements the look is important for guys that wear skirts. Depending on the vibe of your outfit; boots, sneakers & sandals all work well with our Kilt Wrap Skirt.
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5. Occasion:
Consider the occasion, with casual skirts working well for everyday wear, while more tailored options can be suitable for formal events. The beauty of our Kilt Wrap Skirt is that it can be dressed up or down depending on how you style it, or which length you decide to wear it.
Black Kilt Wrap Skirt styled with printed shirt & boots

1 comment

Vanessa FARRER

Terrific read! Fashion meets gender politics!!

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