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Outside of Western cultures, men's clothing commonly includes skirts and skirt-like garments; however, in North America and much of Europe, the wearing of a skirt is today usually seen as typical for females and not males, the most notable exceptions being the cassock and the kilt. People have variously attempted to promote the wearing of skirts by men in Western culture and to do away with this gender distinction, albeit with limited general success and considerable cultural resistance.
IN WESTERN CULTURES
Ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Roman men generally wore some form of tunic. Ancient Egyptians wore a wrap skirt known as a shendyt, which was similar to sarongs.
Both the Anglo-Saxons and Normans wore skirted garments, as can be seen in the Bayeux Tapestry. These fashions continued well into the Middle Ages.
In the 1970s, David Hall, a former research engineer at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), actively promoted the use of skirts for men, appearing on both The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and the Phil Donahue Show. In addition, he was featured in many articles at the time. In his essay "Skirts for Men: the advantages and disadvantages of various forms of bodily covering", he opined that men should wear skirts for both symbolic and practical reasons. Symbolically, wearing skirts would allow men to take on desirable female characteristics. In practical terms, skirts, he suggested, do not chafe around the groin, and they are more suited to warm climates.
In the 1980s, a few male celebrities dressed in skirts, and fashion designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, Giorgio Armani, John Galliano, Kenzo, Rei Kawakubo, Marc Jacobs and Yohji Yamamoto tried to promote the idea of men wearing skirts, but failed to popularize the idea. Male skirt wearing remained firmly linked with ideas of effeminacy. Lead singer of Korn, Jonathan Davis, has been known to wear kilts at live shows and in music videos throughout his career of 18 years with Korn. Guns N' Roses' singer, Axl Rose, was known to wear men's skirts during the Use Your Illusion period.
In 2008 in France, an association was created to help spur the revival of the skirt for men. Hot weather has also encouraged use. In June 2013, Swedish train drivers won the right to wear skirts in the summer when their cabins can reach 35 °C (95 °F), whilst in July, parents supported boys wearing skirts at Gowerton Comprehensive School in Wales.
Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition
The exhibition display pointed out the lack of a "natural link" between an item of clothing and the masculinity or femininity of the wearer, mentioning the kilt as "one of the most potent, versatile, and enduring skirt forms often looked upon by fashion designers as a symbol of a natural, uninhibited, masculinity". It pointed out that fashion designers and male skirt wearers employ the wearing of skirts for three purposes: to transgress conventional moral and social codes, to redefine the ideal of masculinity, and to inject novelty into male fashion. It linked the wearing of male skirts to youth movements and countercultural movements such as punk, grunge, and glam rock and to pop-music icons such as Boy George, Miyavi and Adrian Young. Many male musicians have worn skirts and kilts both on and off stage. The wearing of skirts by men is also found in the goth subculture.
Ellsworth eavesdropped on several visitors to the exhibition, noting that because of the exhibition's placement in a self-contained space accessed by a staircase at the far end of the museum's first floor, the visitors were primarily self-selected as those who would be intrigued enough by such an idea in the first place to actually seek it out. According to her report, the reactions were wide-ranging, from the number of women who teased their male companions about whether they would ever consider wearing skirts (to which several men responded that they would) to the man who said, "A caftan after a shower or in the gym? Can you imagine? 'Excuse me! Coming through!'". An adolescent girl rejected in disgust the notion that skirts were similar to the wide pants worn by hip-hop artists. Two elderly women called the idea "utterly ridiculous". One man, reading the exhibition's presentation on the subject of male skirt wearing in cultures other than those in North America and Europe, observed, "God! Three quarters of the world's population [wear skirts]!"
The exhibition itself attempted to provoke visitors into considering how, historically, male-dress codes have come to this point and whether in fact a trend towards the wearing of skirts by men in the future actually exists. It attempted to raise challenging questions of how a simple item of dress connotes (in Ellsworth's words) "huge ramifications in meanings, behaviours, everyday life, senses of self and others, and configurations of insider and outsider".
Kilts and derivatives of the garment are the most popular of this tiny minority. One manufacturer of contemporary kilt styles claims to sell over 12,000 such garments annually, resulting in over $2 million annually worth of sales, and has appeared at a major fashion show. According to a CNN correspondent: "At Seattle's Fremont Market, men are often seen sporting the Utilikilt." In 2003, US News said that "... the Seattle-made utilikilt, a rugged, everyday riff on traditional Scottish garb, has leapt from idea to over 10,000 sold in just three years, via the Web and word of mouth alone." "They've become a common sight around Seattle, especially in funkier neighbourhoods and at the city's many alternative cultural events. They often are worn with chunky black boots," writes AP reporter Anne Kim. "I actually see more people wearing kilts in Seattle than I did when I lived in Scotland," one purchaser remarked in 2003.
In addition, since the mid-1990s, a number of clothing companies have been established to sell skirts specifically designed for men. These include Macabi Skirt in the 1990s, Menintime in 1999 and Midas Clothing in 2002.
In 2010, the fashion chain H&M featured skirts for men in its lookbook.
Wicca and neo-paganism
IN NON-WESTERN CULTURES
Outside of Western cultures, male clothing includes skirts and skirt-like garments. One common form is a single sheet of fabric folded and wrapped around the waist, such as the dhoti or lungi in India, and sarong in South and Southeast Asia, and Sri Lanka. There are different varieties and names of sarong depending on whether the ends are sewn together or simply tied. There is a difference in the way a dhoti and lungi is worn. While a lungi is more like a wrap around, wearing the dhoti involves the creation of pleats by folding it. A dhoti also passes between the legs making it more like a folded loose trouser rather than a skirt. In Sub-Saharan Africa, sarong-like garments sometimes worn by men are known as kanga (or khanga), kitenge (or chitenje), kikoy, and lappa. In Madagascar they are known as lamba.
In Sikhism, a faith that originated in the Punjab, there is a traditional dress which is worn by both men and women, called a 'baana' or 'chola'. This dress has a skirted bottom and is worn over long white undershorts. It was traditionally worn in battle by Sikh warriors as it allowed free movement and remains a part of the traditional Sikh dress and identity.
Some long robes also resemble a skirt or dress, including the Middle Eastern and North African caftan and djellaba.
Other similar garments worn by men around the world include the Greek and Balkan fustanella (a short flared cotton skirt), the Pacific lava-lava (similar to a sarong), some forms of Japanese hakama and the Bhutanese gho.
Skirts that are called qun or chang in Chinese were also worn by Chinese men in ancient times.
IN POPULAR CULTURE
One notable example of men wearing skirts in fiction is in early episodes of the science fiction TV program Star Trek: The Next Generation. The uniforms worn in the first and second season included a variant consisting of a short sleeved top, with attached skirt. This variant was seen worn by both male and female crew members. The book The Art of Star Trek explained that "the skirt design for men 'skant' was a logical development, given the total equality of the sexes presumed to exist in the 24th century." However, perhaps reflecting the expectations of the audience, the "skant" was dropped by the third season of the show.
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