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The History Of The Manskirt

Manskirts. We noticed the craze last year when Marc Jacobs started wearing kilts, but this fashion trend for men has stood the test of time. Skirting gender issues still has some haters — just ask the man currently suing the New Orleans Police Department for $1 for his right to wear a manskirt. Clearly, the times and the styles, they are a’ changin’. Now that the manskirt has gone high fashion, we decided to take a stroll down memory lane and see who’s responsible for men showing some leg.

  • In Ancient Egypt the more clothes you wore, the higher your class. Some things never change! The men wore skirts and eyeliner. Ah, those were the days.
  • Although the kilt has become the traditional manskirt of Scotland, it was invented by an Englishman, industrialist Thomas Rawlinson, in 1720 (1). His design, considered the modern kilt, was a paired-down version of the wraps Highland warriors wore paired with a cape.
  • In the Victorian period, people got uptight as the monarchy expanded. For power-hungry Queen Victoria, controlling all those countries wasn’t enough. She had to dictate fashion, too. Men were discouraged from wearing their customary garb, which in places like India, was a manskirt.
  • “Star Trek” is all about predicting the future. In 1987, creator Gene Rodenberry envisioned the prototype for the cell phone. But he didn’t just influence technology; he also made his mark on style. In the first season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” male and female crew members wore the skant (2). It was basically a miniskirt. Good thing the starship Enterprise wasn’t drafty.
  • Mel Gibson may be a chauvinist bigot, but he’s open-minded when it comes to costumes. The conservative brought back the kilt with his 1995 hit, “Braveheart (3).” They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom to be fashionable.
  • Forget men in tights. In 2003, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City did a retrospective of men in skirts (4). Sponsored by Jean Paul Gaultier, the exhibit examined “designers as well as individuals who have appropriated the skirt as a means of injecting novelty into male fashion, transgressing moral and social codes, and redefining ideals of masculinity.” Face it: Any man who wears a skirt is pretty much on display.
  • Men love their cargo pants, but some men love their cargo skirts. In 2000, Steven Villegas launched Utilikilts, based on a bottom he had fashioned out of his old army pants. His kilt came complete with pockets and places to put hardware, and now he makes kilt khakis for businessmen. By 2005, his sales were already up to 12,000 kilts a year.
  • 2008 was the year of the high fashion manskirt:
    1. In July, The Sartorialist spotted some on Euro guys.
    2. At Fashion Week, John Galliano, Comme des Garçons, and Etro had cats strutting down catwalks in skirts (5). And New York asked: “Are You Ready for Men in Skirts? Because They’ve Arrived.”
    3. In September, Marc Jacobs sauntered around the city with Victoria Beckham in his purple kilt. Then he wore a black one to applause at his own runway show.
  • But in 2009, there’s been a backlash. This month has skirted two issues:
    1. Jeremy Don Kerr announced he is suing the New Orleans Police Department for $1 over his legal right to wear a skirt in public. When he showed up to court in a black and white pinstripe number, he claims he was harassed by police who threatened to arrest him.
    2. A principal in Utah is bring asked to apologize to his 14-year-old student, Gavin McFarland, who was forced to change out of his kilt under the assumption that he was cross dressing.
  • Now, there’s hope. Why, just yesterday online sample sale site Gilt Groupe reported that despite the threat of arrest, being called a “cross-dresser,” and the recession, a $1,288 dark gray wool skirt for men sold out! (6)
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