There’s a lot of precedent for manly men not wearing pants — besides, why should women have all the fun?
According to Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The apparel oft proclaims the man.”
If there is one particular garment that defines a man it would have to be his trousers (or pants for my American cousins.) This garment, so practical for riding horses, has stood the test of time. So much so that most men don’t even consider the possibility of an alternative. But there is one.
The “Men’s Unbifurcated Garment” (or MUG) is the umbrella term for skirts, kilts, etc. aimed at the male market. They often differ from their female counterparts in the way they fasten (left over right rather than right over left – a hangover from when ladies had a servant to dress them), the fabrics that are used (generally more robust and plain), and their amount of pocketry (for stuff, lots of stuff.)
The most common type of MUG is the kilt. The tartan kilt is, of course, the national dress of Scotland and, as such, it is a garment that most Scotsmen are proud of. Many are somewhat possessive of it and quick to confront non-Scots about their “right” to wear one. What they may not know is that the modern kilt is reputed to have been designed by an 18th century Englishman called Thomas Rawlinson in order to make the long wraps of cloth his workers were tucking into their belts more convenient. Even the word “kilt” is of Scandinavian origin with the Danish word “kilte” meaning “tuck” and the Old Norse word “kilting” meaning “skirt”. Suggesting to a Scotsman that he is wearing a skirt may be regarded as fighting talk.
Whereas a kilt is viewed as a man’s garment, the skirt is still very much in the woman’s wardrobe. When “cross dressing” British comedian Eddie Izzard was asked by an interviewer why he wears women’s clothes he responded: “They are not women’s clothes, they are my clothes. I bought them.”
The skirt is to men’s emancipation as trousers are to women’s emancipation.
In 1851, when pioneering feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Bloomer first stepped out onto the streets of Seneca Falls wearing a pair of draped trousers gathered at the ankle, they incited indignation and ridicule. Even today, in some backwards cultures, a woman wearing trousers can be found guilty of indecency under sharia law and publicly whipped as punishment.
Is it dangerous for a man to wear a skirt? The sight of a transvestite walking down the street is enough to provoke some men and women to become abusive. To try to defend yourself from this by making the distinction between a man’s skirt and a women’s skirt seems weak to me.
Some men say they haven’t got the legs to wear a skirt. I say it doesn’t take legs. It is a “ballsy” action that says “I stand up for people’s right to wear whatever they like … including nothing!”
That said, the average man wearing a skirt or non-traditional kilt probably doesn’t consider himself a masculist striving for equality but rather a bloke who is doing his own thing. I’ve found that the people most likely to be wearing one are gays or service personnel. These are men who have already confronted their fears and questioned what it means for them to be a man. From this they have developed a confidence in themselves that allows them to embrace their desire to wear cool stuff and enjoy the attention that they get as a result of it.
“Are you wearing anything under there?” “Of course I am … socks and boots!”
My own interest in unbifurcated garments goes back to my childhood dressing up box. I had one of mum’s old dresses in there and was lucky enough to have parents who didn’t flip out when I played with it.
I rediscovered the fun in my late twenties when I wore sarongs on holiday and kilts out clubbing. Today I run a small London based company selling my own designs to men around the world. I’ve never liked to call them “MUGs” though. Is it a skirt? Is it a kilt? No, it’s a Skilt.
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Feature Photo: Jack
Other Photos: Author’s Own