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The Modern Man: Man-Skirt

When we think of fashion, we think of eccentric style choices and vivid sartorial self-expression. Well, if you’re a woman that is. Compared to its female counterpart, menswear is often tame in comparison. Aside from sharp tailoring and blue denim, the world of menswear is one which has been stuck in a rut for too long due to social archetypes of masculinity and a relative lack of adventurous clients. However, the recent series of Menswear Fashion Weeks saw a new wave of designers come to the forefront by showing bold, statement pieces and re-designing our outdated views.

The growth of the industry and the new wealth of choice are indicative of a new, modern man that is beginning to replace the stereotypes of old. Unafraid to experiment and prepared to stand out, this new man is driving the future of menswear into a new, more exciting place. In this series of columns, we will see how the concept of androgyny is broadening and evolving past cliché. We will see how the lines between formal and casual are starting to blur, and we will see that men now have more choice than ever when deciding what to buy and what to wear. Essentially, we will see the influence of this modern man, and how he is quietly starting a sartorial revolution.

With every Fashion Week comes an avalanche of trends; some good, some not so good. One of the trends frequently labelled ‘not-so-good’ in the menswear arena is the controversial man-skirt, championed by the eccentric Marc Jacobs and, apparently, David Beckham. When I say ‘apparently’ I mean he wore a sarong once. The resulting headlines (“LOOK AT DAVID IN HIS POSH FROCK!”) indicated that the world wasn’t quite ready for the lines of tradition to be blurred and, although this was in 1998, it seems that little has changed. Unless you’re Scottish, or a drag queen, it seems that the concept of a man in a skirt is one which the mainstream is reluctant to embrace, despite the fact that women have been wearing trousers for years.

However, things are beginning to change due to a number of designers, both established and upcoming, including nods to the controversial garment this season. One of the more literal showings came courtesy of Craig Green, a young designer that showed in London under the ‘MAN’ umbrella. The majority of Green’s collection was focused on a utilitarian aesthetic which combined splashy camo prints with tough leather harnesses. It was when print was abandoned and a series of black, floor-length gowns were shown that the show reached its peak – the looks were dramatic, brooding and unexpected. When teamed with heavy black shoes and all-black headwear, the ankle-length skirts managed to break the expected notion that skirts feminise a man. At best, these men looked ceremonial. At worst, they looked threatening.

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This aggressive aesthetic was re-iterated, unsurprisingly, by Rick Owens. This season, the designer dropped hemlines to introduce a series of leather tabards in brown and black, most of which were sleeveless and teamed with headwear which closely resembled a nun’s habit. The silhouette throughout the show was consistent, with emphasis placed on a clean, narrow silhouette which incorporated several layers – most of which were skirt-length.  These lengthened hemlines infiltrated their way into a huge number of collections, moving menswear away from the cropped bomber jackets of old and towards eye-catching knee-length overcoats and floor-length cloaks. Shirt lengths were dropped at Iceberg and peeked out from underneath jackets and cropped jumpers, whereas London designers Ada & Nik introduced a ‘skort’ – a skirt/shorts hybrid engineered in black jersey with a leather waistband; again, anything but feminine.

This new, masculine take on the look is one which is slowly helping redefine our concepts of gender-appropriate clothing. Even universities are taking notice, with Oxford University announcing that all graduation clothing should be ‘gender-neutral’ – another step forward. This season, men have more choice than ever when deciding whether or not to tackle the ever-tricky man-skirt. Whether you work it into an outfit subtly via a cascade of layers or you go all-out and wear with bare legs and stomper boots, there are two rules that should be adhered to (at least for the time being). The first is that, unless it’s tartan, steer clear of pattern – men in a floral-print midi will, hopefully, never catch on. The second is to make sure that your man-skirt of choice isn’t too tight – I probably don’t need to remind you that men have parts that women don’t, therefore edge too closely towards form-fitting jersey and you’ll probably be arrested for indecent exposure. Aside from that, take inspiration from Owens and Doma and wear your man-skirt with your head held high and your ears shut tight – you’ll probably get a few comments in the street, but you’ll probably look pretty cool whilst doing it.

Jake Hall

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