Why I wear skirts has everything to do with equality. It started one roastingly hot July day in 2016 and I haven’t looked back since. Sure, I see the curiosity in others’ eyes and on their faces, but it surprises me how few people are direct enough to ask about it. This is, after all, the deep south far from international megatropolises like Miami, Los Angeles, and New York where cultural anomalies might be more commonplace. Perhaps southerners just want to avoid the appearance of rudeness. Even so, a few days ago a local librarian lamented that I had not blogged my experience and this led me to think that just maybe the public at large might be interested in my personal reasons and my social message.
As a starter, I deny that skirts are exclusively feminine garments (and I’m not the only blogger with this view nor am I a lone wolf). The American celebrities Jaden Smith, Marc Jacobs, and Jared Leto regularly wear skirts and skirt-like garments, as do countless Scotsmen, Japanese, Indonesians, Fijians, Samoans, and roughly one billion Indian and Arab men. My curiosity with skirts as a gendered construct evolved in the wake of North Carolina’s HB2 (“bathroom bill”) debacle, and my quest to understand the gender dynamics is ongoing.
A few decades ago, the women’s liberation movement argued that gender equality afforded women as much right as men to wear pants in the workplace. Workplaces, in turn, shape the culture of industrialized nations. One example of this is the gender-segregated toilet which appears to have started in 1887 when Massachusetts and New York legislated that employers provide separate toilets for female employees (but whether women were required to use them is less clear). Factory inspectors thereafter frequently included superfluous comments in their reports concerning the adequacy and propriety of women’s facilities, in many cases noting that entrances were not sufficiently hidden from plain view. If this sounds bizarre, it will help to know that this was the height of the Victorian era and it was scandalous for the public to have knowledge that women also answered nature’s call. Many reports also noted an absence or insufficiency of adjoining parlors or “resting rooms” where women could recover their strength when the hustle and bustle of the boisterous modern world so taxed them that they grew faint (of course, fainting had much more to do with their torturous corsets than with the harshness of a big city).
In a 20,000-word essay published in 2007 (cited in comments), Professor Terry Kogan of the University of Utah School of Law argues that gender-segregated toileting is purely a consequence of societal changes during the American industrial revolution (which came later than the European industrial revolution) combined with the lesser-known “sanitarian movement” of the Victorian era. Professor Kogan poignantly suggests that gender-segregated toilets had little (if anything) to do with the anatomical or sexual differences between men and women. Professor Kogan also discusses instances of women-only rail cars and special teller windows for female customers who were presumed to require nuanced hand-holding to complete their transactions. Libraries of the day—previously exclusive to men—created separate entrances leading to separate parlors stocked with separate reading materials deemed appropriate for women. In this way governmental and commercial institutions “played an active role in reproducing a particular set of gender assumptions […] that encouraged female[s] to assume culturally prescribed postures of genteel femininity.” On balance, gender segregation was not only misogynist for regarding women as physically and intellectually inferior, but objectively misandrist for construing all men as mouth-breathing brutes. Since both premises are blatantly incorrect, history thus suggests that gender-segregated spaces functioned primarily as realms to which the men could banish their wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters in order to deny them participation in the evolving society.
I wonder if the same could be said of bifurcated garments (i.e. pants). Though ancient Greek and Roman men found tunics and togas perfectly suitable for daily life, the Olympic games were conducted not in pants, but au naturel (as much for freedom of movement as to exhibit their physiques). Even during the Renaissance, aristocratic men wore tunics of increasingly shorter lengths while the working proletariat labored and toiled in pants. (Interestingly enough, male aristocrats wore open-crotch stockings underneath their tunics which, as hemlines rose higher and higher, led to the use of codpieces.) In terms of human history, the bifurcated pant is a relatively modern contrivance and, at least in the Americas, reflects our social pedigree of pioneering and industrialization that began with the pilgrims and continued through World Word II. Bifurcated garments are more practical for manual labor and they are definitely safer when working around machinery. But now that our society is undeniably characterized by corporate environments, what reason is there for cubicle-confined men to be denied more comfortable attire—especially when our summer temperatures swelter above 100 degrees?
Yes, temperature was the final straw for me that July afternoon when my Camry advised me that the outside temperature had reached 103° F. I went to a thrift store looking for well-worn medical scrubs and instead left with two skirts. Up to that point, each of my prior employers prohibited men and women from wearing shorts, but specifically permitted women to wear pants, skirts, and dresses. While an employer may lawfully prescribe or prohibit certain garments through its dress code, it seemed to me that since skirts were deemed acceptable for the workplace, it would be discriminatory to restrict them exclusively to women (as illustrated by the aforementioned women’s lib movement on pants).
I can tell you that skirts are, generally speaking, far more comfortable than pants. I can also tell you that apart from personal comfort, I intend my skirts to promote a sociopolitical message of equality and acceptance while further condemning appearance-based prejudices like racism, colorism, ageism, sexism, and genderism. But more troubling than these issues is the inherent symbology of power. By this I mean that women who started wearing pants appropriated that style as a power symbol (in other words, since men wore pants, the women who then wore pants symbolically asserted themselves as equal to men, which in no small way explains our social meme of “wear[ing] the pants in the family”). Men, on the other hand, would have diminished their social rank had they adopted the symbol (i.e. skirt) of the socioculturally inferior woman. This construct persists even today (some fifty years later) because since only women continued wearing skirts, society unconsciously concluded that only women should wear skirts. Unfortunately, associating symbols of power with gender proves the existence of an ongoing sociocultural misogyny. Stated more simply, if a skirt socially de-masculinizes a man, then men and women cannot be considered social equals; if they truly were equals, the symbols of one class would not devalue the other.
Personally, I am quite particular in the styles that I wear, and I usually pair them with a strong polo or oxford and various “masculine” accessories (belt, watch, leatherman, etc). If, in light of the previous statements, I sound hypocritical, so be it! The very fact that we perceive and speak of these symbols as “masculine” or “feminine” merely underscores the very real social inequality. I feel no duty to shave my legs and to my knowledge no one mistakes me for a cross-dresser. I sometimes get perplexed smiles and chuckles in public spaces, but nothing that I would consider harassing. I am single and I can still work my mojo. Sure, I have to step up my game, but merely wearing a skirt is not an automatic self-imposed cock-block (and perhaps the skirted male even gains an advantage as a manifestly self-confident person is tremendously more alluring). One time I wore a skirt on an afternoon movie outing and my companion was bothered only by my shirt, not by my skirt! I have even interviewed for jobs in a (work-appropriate) skirt and been hired. It boils down to confidence.
I would like to point out that skirts are functionally superior than pants and shorts. Skirts afford better conduction of heat away from the femoral blood vessels. Better thermoregulation, in turn, reduces perspiration and itching, and improves reproductive system health. Plus, skirts effectively prevent wedgies and plumber butt. In 2009 H&M briefly introduced a line of men’s skirts. Today there is a neat carpenter design available online from Utilikilt as well as a unisex skirt from SkirtCraft. There are commercial lines of male and female running skirts and a growing community of avid backpackers who wear skirts as a hygienic convenience on the trail.
Just because public images depict women in skirts and men in pants does not mean that a man who wears a skirt is automatically a cross-dresser or a sexual deviant. In actuality, gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation are all independent variables that comprise a person’s sexual self (but that is a subject for other blog posts). Societal expectations evolve slowly and effecting change takes time, participation, and dialogue. I want to encourage others to give themselves permission to question their sociocultural beliefs. I also invite those who see me in the community to feel at ease approaching me for dialogue. And for those bold enough to try it, I now have a Guy’s Guide to Getting Skirted.
13 Replies to “Why I Wear Skirts”
A Guy’s Guide to Getting Skirted” and several other posts about skirts and gender equality (see the features and tags tabs, above). More recently still, I finally got around to a critique of Deuteronomy 22:5. And here’s a link to Terry Kogan’s article as PDF.I have since added “
I enjoyed reading your post on why you wear skirts. It is true that they are way comfier than pants, especially in hot weather. Love your outfit, that’s what I try to wear when I go for a denim skirt. I prefer deep front pockets and yeah a zipper front fly like regular pants, but it’s tough to find skirts like that.
For sure, it’s a great post, full of good explanations
Wow, Paulo, my first feedback from South America! Thank you for the visit, and for such high praise! If you did not do so already, consider reading “A Guy’s Guide to Great Skirts“.
Nice to see your article.
Two years ago, I read Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler and Understanding Human Nature and other related books.
Starting in mid-2019, I also started to try to break the line to wear skirts because skirts are not clothing with a single gender symbol.
Your article has a lot of relevance to social psychology. The first action will be the most difficult, and it will be subject to many challenges and prejudices. The best way is to do it with action.
Since the beginning of the change, I haven’t thought about wearing pants again. When making changes, I will do it permanently. The best way to combat gender bias is to put on skirts to let more people know that someone is already doing it. Already.
The world is big, and you can’t see more different diversity within your own private world.
The clothing itself should not be limited by gender segregation, and here I will say that it is driven by action together.
Kind regards from Taiwan!
Hi 陳彥霖 and thank you for the visit and for the comment. I infer from the multiple submissions that you did not have the smoothest experience. All visitors must have at least one approved comment before subsequent comments will appear, and I regret that this indicator had somehow stopped appearing (but it is now re-enabled). To make matters worse, the repeated attempts caused Akismet to flag all of your comments as spam and sent me no notice. Once I discovered it, I approved all your comments, but I eliminated the duplicates. Sorry for the trouble and keep skirting!
Hi I was wondering if you had any advice on wearing a skirt to school without getting bullied. I’m really nervous but I want to wear one really badly. Thank you
First, good for you! I wish I had the mindset to get skirted when I was in high school (or in college, for that matter). I missed out on many, many years of comfort. My immediate gut instinct is to recommend a massive degree of confidence. Jaden Smith’s experience (a blend of IDGAF and I’m doing this to pave the way for others) might help you ground your confidence. Here’s a Google Search of when it went down (2015-2016) that I think might get you started in the right mindset. And I also like the results of this Google News Search as well.
It really matters what kind of skirt you select, as I explain in Guy’s Guide to Getting Skirted. Thicker weaves and straight cuts will accentuate a more “masculine” aesthetic. Don’t get me wrong, no matter how confident you are, other dudes will have shit to say. I saw a great meme the other day that read: “don’t take criticism from people you would never go to for advice.” And it’s true. Don’t let others determine your level of confidence.
Respond to words with words. As Denzel Washington said in The Great Debaters, “Would you punch yourself in a street fight? Then don’t punch yourself in a word fight…. You don’t have to make fun of yourself. Use your humor against your opponent.” I would make it a point to have hard-hitting responses at the ready.
Prepare comebacks that fit your personality and your mentality.
From a practical standpoint, no one can accomplish in public what she or he has not already mastered in private. You will have to learn confidence, and summer will be a great opportunity for that. Wear skirts at home….a lot! Then wear skirts to Walmart and then to other places. Force yourself into situations that would otherwise have made you squirm. With or without a skirt, stand in front of feminine hygiene products in the store and just look at them. Or look at bras in Walmart. When you reach the point that you give zero fucks and no longer feel awkward, nothing else will ever shake your confidence. When you’re standing there feeling all fish-out-of-water, ask yourself, “Who cares?” Don’t you have a right to be anywhere you want to be? Don’t you have a right to wear anything you want to wear? You can reach a point of confidence where other people will admire yours and think to themselves, “I wish I had his balls.”
Andy, You’ll be surprised how most people don’t care.
And if they care at all, the reaction will likely be positive.
My own experience, you’ll likely get compliments from gals. Women love confidence, and nothing says CONFIDENCE like a guy wearing a skirt. Takes a real man to wear one, and they know it. Guys might say something, but mostly because they’re curious. I always have an answer ready for the usual comments, & try to be nice/funny about it. They’re just curious, & don’t know what to say.
As Vox said, confidence is everything. Decide to do it, then make it happen. A dark blue or black kilt combined with a nice shirt. Wear it around the house. Get totally comfortable with it. Stand in front of a mirror. Its still you, just in a skirt. No big deal. Repeat this for a few days. Then go to the local mall, Walmart, whatever. Walk around, shop. Keep your head up, shoulders back, project confidence. If someone’s watching, make eye contact, smile. My first time, I just walked the mall. Black kilt, plaid shirt, tennis shoes. Only one comment from a young lady (20’s) who simply said “Nice look!” and walked on. After you’ve done it a few times, it won’t seem like such a big deal. Keep going until you don’t even think about it anymore. Then wear it to school.
Been wearing them for about 6 years, wish I’d started 40 years ago.
Thanks for your reply! There’s only one other problem I need to get over to start wearing a skirt (being a trans man makes me have a weird relationship with feminine clothing) but besides that I really appreciate your help ^^
Thank you! And what a great blog!
I started wearing skirts while hiking last summer. I was experimenting with free hiking and needed something I could slip on very quickly if I came across others on the trail. I quickly found that skirts were almost as comfortable as hiking au naturel without the risk of getting arrested. I have no desire to be a “cross-dresser” or to appear feminine, though to each his or her own. I’m in it simply because of comfort.
I’ve been purchasing skorts at Sams Club and cutting out the inner shorts. The ones I have work great, with the exception that I wish they were longer, because it is easy to expose yourself when stepping up on a tall rock or sitting down to rest. Now I’m shopping for something longer.
I looked at kilts, but I really don’t like characteristics of traditional or utility kilts. What a perverted sense of gender expectations we have when it is socially acceptable for men to wear skirts only when there are pleats in the back and buckles on the side!
I don’t know that I will ever wear skirts in a non-athletic situations, but never say never. I’ve bookmarked your blog and look forward to following you. Thanks again.
Hey, thanks for the visit and my profoundest apologies for the delay in approving your comment. I’ve been away, but nearly back to civilization at which time I will give you a proper reply.