What To Call Skirts Marketed For Men?

Part of the women’s liberation movement was inventing new vocabulary which enabled women to differentiate their agenda as the pursuit of equality and not emulation. Women sought to be treated equally as men (particularly in employment) but it was also clear that they were not to be regarded as men. Employment law shifted accordingly such that if trousers were acceptable attire for men, they must also be acceptable attire for women. And since men were not required to wear stockings or heels, neither could women. As I have pointed out in other posts, these cultural strides were not reciprocated for men. While it remained acceptable for women to wear sandals to the office, I have yet to read a single employee dress code that  specifically extends such option to men. (Granted, no one wants to see most men’s feet, and most men lack fashion sensibility to select dignified sandals, but the same can be said for a number of women as well.)

Historical commentary suggests that it was the fashion industry that first recognized the necessity of a new vocabulary in order to engage the diversifying womenswear market. Women consumers were believed to be averse to purchasing mere analogues of menswear. Bifurcated womenswear was therefore marketed as slacks instead of pants and romper instead of (c)overall. Sales later affirmed that new terminology gained stronger traction and broader consumer acceptance. New terminology enabled women to engage the fashion transgression and claim a formerly “male” garment as their own. Men wore pants because that was what men wore. But women who wore  slacks did so for comfort, to retain their feminine identity, and to comply with sociocultural expectations. But women wanted it clear that their aim was not mere emulation of men.  Decades later, hardly anyone still says slacks.

The same will be true of unbifurcated menswear. The internet shows a disproportionate bias for the kilt: skirts are womenswear, but kilts are menswear. Just as (most) women did not want to be perceived masculinely for their clothing, so too pragmatic men are restrained by sociocultural hostility. An appreciable number of American men will stridently don kilts for any and every contextually flexible scenario: renaissance festivals, mardi gras, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. I think this is because these men pine for unbifurcated freedom, but believe that this universally-recognized menswear style will avoid damage to their masculinity. Far fewer men wear kilts outside of indulgent contexts and I think this further reveals a very real fear of having their masculinity questioned as if their unbifurcated preference were suggestive of a “feminine side”. After all, if the kilt were so clearly masculine, why wouldn’t it be masculine on any ordinary day of the week?

I previously addressed the need for a new clothing designation in my Double Standards post. Not to diminish my off-the-cuff suggestion of “breathers,” but maybe a great designation would be skolt: skirt + shorts + kilt.

4 Replies to “What To Call Skirts Marketed For Men?”

  1. There needs to be positive input from a wide variety of sources to build momentum to reestablish skirts as mainstream menswear. My perspective as a heterosexual male who owns more skirts than pants, and who regularly wears skirts, there is a need for a larger variety of skirts (SKOLT, non- or unbifercated garments, kilts, etc.) specifically designed and tailored for men. I embrace unisex and androgynous fashion, but there are limited options in this sector in today’s market. Kilts too are fantastic, but not always the right selection for every occasion.

    Where would I start if I were to put effort into building momentum to help make skirts mainstream men’s fashion? (1) I would start by wearing skirts; (2) I would blitz mainstream media to show men that skirts are (and historically have been) a piece of men’s clothing, and acceptable part of their wardrobe(s); and, (3) encourage the fashion industry to embrace and grow menswear skirts – the fashion industry is missing out on what can (and will) be a lucrative market.

    So what am I doing now? I wear skirts more frequently than I wear pants/shorts. I support social media and use social media to encourage men to wear more skirts. And, I buy skirts. While these are small contributions to building momentum, if my efforts encourage another man who then encourages another, etc., soon all men will be once again wearing skirts. JS

    1. All good points. Maybe “pipes” would be a good brand name!? It’s descriptive but it’s also (toxically) masculine and impliedly hetero.

  2. Kilts are unisex items – they come in versions for men and women, but the same word is used for both. I would argue that continuing to use the word “skirt” is almost as important as wearing the item itself, because it helps break down the walls built up by toxic masculinity. Cis men need to get over the idea that items used by women need proper branding to be socially acceptable for ‘real’ men to wear (“manscara”, anyone?).

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