tHog

Skirts for men: Intro
Skirts for men: Why?
  Fun and freedom
  Physical comfort and body awareness
  Philosophy and equality
  Historical justification
Tips for men in skirts
  Choosing manly skirts from women's selections
    Length
    Pleats
    Solid profiles / A-line
    Split hems
    Details and style
    Zipper/button/wrap orientation
    Fabric weight
    Dresses?
  What and how to wear with skirts
    Top half
    Underwear
    Shoes and socks
    Accessories and jewellery
    Sitting in a skirt
    Coping with cold
    General points
Keeping it fun and enjoying other options
Further reading
Shopping
  Skirts for men
  Hosiery

Style sheets

Skirts for men: Intro

[2021-08-02] I'm a man and I occasionally like to go out wearing kilts, skirts and other non-bifurcated garments. It started in Spring 2000 with a sarong when I lived in the UK, and I soon got myself a couple of proper kilts.

Around those times I wrote a rant called Men's Liberation Front, letting off some steam about clothing issues. In recent years, my practice has waned, and I've only worn unbifurcated garments to few occasions such as SF conventions, or on stage. My earlier work as a teacher also made wary of appearing too unconventional in public. But this summer, with the COVID-19 pandemic, record heatwaves and other issues, I'm back with my mission to promote skirt-wearing for men.

This mission is also heavily influenced by the popularization of burlesque and drag shows, as well as the improved popular awareness of sexual and gender minorities. People are increasingly understanding about (assumed) men wearing skirts — as long as it is done for a cross-dressing show, or due to gender identity issues. In other words, weird things are easily accepted when we can categorize them away. But I want to show that even heterosexual cis men can wear skirts as a part of their everyday casual look.

In the West, traditional kilts are probably the most recognizable skirts associated with men. But they can appear too formal or garish for everyday use. They are also quite heavy and warm, which is especially bad because the warmer the weather, the more you'd want ditch trousers for a skirt. So for now, my particular interest is exploring lighter and simpler alternatives to traditional kilts.

Skirts for men: Why?

Fun and freedom

There are many possible reasons for men to wear skirts, but I think a lot of them can be summarized in one word: Freedom. Freedom from chafing and ball-boiling pants, freedom from pointless societal norms. To experience both kinds of freedom at once is, well, quite liberating.

Since you've come to a page about fashion, you probably already know the feeling of wearing something new and different. Maybe you remember the excitement of getting your first pair of proper jeans and showing them off? Now you've lost count of the jeans you've owned, and they're just another boring piece of cloth. Maybe it's time for something completely different, with an extra buzz of really going against the grain. Just look at all the variety of colours, shapes and materials at women's departments, vs. the endless rows of black and grey suits at men's; wouldn't it be great to experience some of that fun side yourself?

Physical comfort and body awareness

The feeling of walking outdoors in a skirt is a joy of life that many Western men have never experienced. Of course, you can feel the air when wearing swimming trunks or nothing at all, but those are limited to certain places and temperatures. A proper kilt can keep you warm down to near zero, and it can be worn everywhere from the wilderness to the finest of dinners. From there on, you can expand to lots of other skirt styles, depending on temperatures and formalities.

Compared to trousers, skirts make an interesting combination of covering and exposing your legs. You can feel the light pat of pleats and the changes in temperature at every step, with extra random elements introduced by wind. It is a sensual thing, and unfortunately, a lot of men confuse that with sexual. To put it bluntly, it's possible to feel good somewhere between your stomach and your knees, without it being sexual.

That said, there is an erotic element to men in skirts, and some women find them quite hot. But if we aim to increase the acceptance of men's skirts as an everyday thing, better keep it casual and leave the fetish side to private settings. Spread awareness, not legs.

[2021-09-08] Sensuality is really all about being connected to your own body. I have always liked long walks, and I now realize how well skirt-wearing fits with the feeling of walking out in the open. When you start wearing skirts, you are bound to learn something new about your body, and perhaps appreciate it a bit more.

In fact, a lot of hikers swear by kilts/skirts, as they allow your legs their most natural movement, as well as providing the best cooling and cover in hot, sunny weather. But they are probably on to something deeper and subtler about their body awareness.

Besides walking, though, a somewhat surprising comfort benefit appears when sitting — more on that below.

Philosophy and equality

Wearing skirts as a man can also be a way to promote equality. People will see arbitrary gender-based walls breaking down and realizing their world doesn't end, mirroring what happened with women going to work and wearing trousers. Also, as a skirted man, you will see the world in a new light, and not always in a better way. As people gawk at your exposed thighs, you might get a better idea of what it's like to be a woman. You may even feel like you're in a sexual or gender minority, as some people will struggle to categorize you.

Historical justification

[2021-08-09] A lot of clothes that we today associate with women were originally meant for men. For example:

Isn't it time we showed the world we're men and took back what is ours? Of course, by taking back I don't mean we should exclude anything from women. They have all the fashion freedom and they deserve it — don't we?

Tips for men in skirts

Choosing manly skirts from women's selections

[2021-08-01] A lot of companies now make modern and traditional variants of kilts, which of course is awesome. But you can find a lot of "women's" skirts that happen to be very kilt-like or otherwise suited for men. Thrift stores are a great way to look for them and save a lot of money, which is especially important when you're testing things out.

Of all the clothing items, skirts are probably the easiest for finding a nice fit across gender lines: there's really only one measurement to match, the waistline. Most other clothes involve multiple measurements and assume certain proportions between them to define a single size number. So generally only loose-fitting clothes will make nice unisex items.

Length

Knee length is a safe bet. The traditional test for kilt length is that, when you kneel down, the hem should be close to the ground but not quite touch it. Some sources use 60 cm or 24 inches as the standard kilt length; to me that feels a bit too long, but of course it depends on your body and how high on the waist you wear it.

I wouldn't get anything longer than kilt length, unless it's a sarong-type wrap cloth or otherwise very non-kilt-like; long and heavy skirts look slouchy and restrict your movement.

Somewhat shorter is probably OK, especially when you get used to exposing more of your legs. "Knee length" can mean noticeably shorter than the standard kilt length, perhaps around 50 cm, and it can still look quite kilt-like.

You may be able to shorten a longer skirt. With denim, you can just cut it and let it fray for a nice rough look.

Pleats

Men are used to a wider range of mobility than what is usually possible with skirts. Traditional kilts with a lot of pleats and a wrap-around design are the brute-force, foolproof solution.

However, there are also subtler pleating designs with much less material overall. For example, skirts that look like shorts when viewed from front/back, with pleats hidden in the splits. In my experience, these have plenty of mobility, for example for walking up stairs, two stairs per step. The shorts-like look can also be a bonus compared to kilts.

Solid profiles / A-line

Even with no pleats or open wrapping, there is a wide range of skirt widths, from pencil to A-line. The latter usually means a soft, smooth material that isn't particularly manly. But somewhere in between, I've found some skirts with enough mobility for most uses while having a solid look.

[2021-09-07 ] Besides mobility, a certain level of flaring out is good for the kilt profile: it makes your waist look thinner, which in turn makes your shoulders look wider. This depends on the material, though; too wide and stiff, and you end up with a tutu.

In particular, denim seems to have issues with A-line, and most denim skirts seem to be either pencil or pleated. A-line denims often have a button front all the way down, presumably to add weight to compensate for the stiffer fabric. I think it goes quite far from the kilt look, but might be worth a try anyway.

Split hems

A lot of women's skirts have a back slit, which is nice when you're walking behind a woman wearing one, and you get to see a bit more of the legs than you expected. As a man, I prefer to keep my clothes simple and solid. I would also avoid anything that splits noticeably above the knee, to avoid unintended flashing.

Slits also have a mechanical disadvantage due to the way they concentrate forces, creating a higher risk of tearing. This is particularly unfortunate as slits are often introduced to increase the range of mobility.

If you nevertheless end up with slits in your skirt, side slits are probably safer than front/back. I also think they fit the manly kilt/tunic look much better.

Details and style

Besides kilt-like skirts, I usually go for denim and cargo/outdoor styles for a rougher, down-to-Earth look. These still have a lot of variation, for example some can be very short, but at least it narrows down the search. Pockets are good, especially down on the sides.

I find belt loops quite important, as a belt helps complete that kilt profile. So far I've found one skirt that manages without them, as it has other nice kilt-like details, such as slanted rows of buttons on the front sides.

Zipper/button/wrap orientation

Traditionally, men's garments open towards the right, and women's to the left. But you can find a lot of right-sided items in women's departments too, so you can still tick this one masculinity box. I wouldn't worry too much about this, though, especially with small parts such as the front zipper.

By the way, front zippers seem to be a lot shorter in women's clothing, presumably because they need not open all the way down for toilet business. This can make dressing feel more difficult at first. (For business #1, you can often just lift the front of the hem and finish faster/cleaner than the guys in pants.)

With wrap-around clothes, the direction is much more prominent, especially in kilts with fastening straps. So if you're looking for a proper kilt, make sure it's right.

Fabric weight

Men are used to thicker and more protective layers of clothing, probably in part due to anatomical reasons: a thin silky wrap will make your front bulge exposed, both visually and mechanically. So thicker and heavier fabrics such as denim are a safer starting point. But don't let this limit your options too much. A lot of cargo/outdoor skirts have surprisingly thin material, while feeling quite rough and keeping their form.

Dresses?

[2021-08-07] For that manly look with clear waist and shoulder lines, this is a tough one. I haven't yet found a dress I'd be comfortable wearing in the public, except one sleeveless cargo/hoodie dress that found its place in a rave. For more casual uses, I'm still focused on kilt/skirt styles, though I do have some ideas.

Due to different body proportions, it's hard to find a women's dress that fits a man's waist and shoulders at the same time nicely. The vertical distance between shoulders and waist is also longer in men. Fortunately, some dresses can be adjusted. For example, shirt dresses are generally loose-fitting and the waistline is created with a belt. For men, this could make a nice "casual Roman" look (example). There may be belt loops that are at the wrong height, but you can ignore them, and perhaps remove them altogether.

Sleeveless is one solution to the shoulder width issue, but only a partial one in my experience. The rave dress I mentioned is loose on the hips and tight on the chest. For more room upstairs, I'm currently on the look for overall/dungaree dresses. Besides the increased chest space, the adjustable straps help with the the waist-shoulder distance issue.

Traditional overalls have that "working man" look, and you can find overall dresses that maintain that idea quite well. They have a clear waistline, possibly with belt loops. Unfortunately, I also see a lot of items named "overall dress" that have devolved very far from that idea, with only shoulder straps as the common denominator.

What and how to wear with skirts

Top half

For a good kilt profile, your waistline should be clearly visible. So tuck your shirt in and wear a belt if possible.

For extra layers, try to find a sweater/hoodie etc. that maintains this profile. Typical "men's" variants are usually too long; I've found a couple of "women's" hoodies that fit nicely above the beltline. Of course, don't worry too much about this when you're trying to stay warm. A loose, woollen sweater over a kilt is a traditional sight, with the two parts melding into a kind of casual dress.

Underwear

Wear it. Going regimental doesn't make you any truer a Scotsman. Women generally wear something under their skirts; men have a larger risk of flashing if they don't, and it might get them in legal trouble. Another practical point is keeping your skirt cleaner and reduce the need for washing it. Even if you're perfectly clean after bathroom business, you'll still have the sweat and grease from all the skin contact. While this is considerably less compared to trousers and their crotch parts, it's still quite real, especially when sitting. Modern underwear is already quite soft and thin, so it won't ruin the sense of freedom you get with skirts.

Of course, it all depends on the place and company — for example, if you're out in the woods hiking in scorching heat, it might make a lot of sense to go without.

Make sure your underpants are in a decent condition. Consider how they look in case of accidental flashing; black is generally the least noticeable, and it seems to be the norm in Highland dancing. Also, if your underpants are too loose and fall off, there won't be any trousers around to keep them up.

Shoes and socks

With legs exposed, I like to have some boot-like height in my shoes, as it makes a smoother continuum between the foot and the leg. Proper boots are awesome with skirts, but they can be quite heavy and warm especially in the summer. You can use nice long socks to further extend the boot and smooth out the transition. Knee socks also help with regular shoes to make the overall look a bit more boot-like.

Football socks are a good, simple and cheap option for knee-high socks, especially in the summer as they are not too hot.

Accessories and jewellery

[2021-08-09] I'm not big on accessories in general, but with manskirts, they might help add that extra touch for a manly look. If you're wearing the clothes of a Roman or Celtic warrior, you could add some metal or leather to complete the look. A bit of extra roughness helps with those people who need to categorize everything; I'd rather be mistaken for a punk/metalhead than a transvestite.

Some kind of a bag is usually necessary, as skirts don't generally have good pockets. I'm used to wearing a bag all the time, as I don't like big and heavy stuff in my trouser pockets either. A bag might even help keep the skirt down in heavy wind if it hangs low enough (cf. sporran).

Bags are also a part of your look, so try to find something that doesn't feel too feminine. I once bought a women's purse and swapped the thin shoulder strap for a belt.

Sitting in a skirt

[2021-09-10] You may hear snarky comments about sitting with your legs crossed. You can either ignore them or point them to pictures of men in kilts with all levels of manspreading. The front of the kilt will hang between your thighs and cover you just fine. Of course, with other skirts it depends on the amount of loose material, but the general idea is the same.

You only have to worry about this if you have a tight pencil skirt, which is not the most practical kind for men anyway. In that case I would simply keep my knees close together; due to differences in the pelvic structure, crossing the legs doesn't work as nicely for men. And if things go awry, you still have your underwear, right?

You might need a little extra care when sitting for other reasons, though. With kilts and other pleated skirts, it is a good idea to straighten the pleats as you sit, to avoid crumpling them under you. This also helps keep your thighs from touching where you sit, so it is a good practice with any skirt. It might help if you sit lightly on the edge of the seat, and then move backwards as you sit down properly, so the seat takes care of this.

With some skirts, it may also help if you pull the sides of the backside outwards, so as to get more material for the front cover. Just don't spread it all over the sides where someone else might sit.

Skirts may actually be more comfortable for sitting than trousers. In the latter, the waist-crotch distance is fixed, and it gets compressed when sitting, especially with a good upright posture. Slim-fitting trousers will choke your stomach as well as your balls, because there's nowhere to move. Why a skirt helps is twofold: first, your genitals can take all the space they need. Second, the skirt itself can move up a bit, loosening the beltline. With trousers, I'm used to the idea that tighter fitting means worse sitting conditions, but with skirts, even quite tight can be quite comfortable. To put it another way, a tight skirt is never tight on the inside, only on the outside.

Coping with cold

[2021-09-25] As outdoor temperatures drop to +10 °C and below, I have turned to leggings to stay warm. On the top I use either a sweater or a long leather coat.

To me, leggings make much more sense than pantyhose, as I wear proper knee socks on top anyway. They are probably also easier to find in men's sizes and shapes. So far I have only used pantyhose-like materials around 100 denier, which makes them opaque. Thin/sheer doesn't really make sense unless you shave your legs. Aesthetics aside, leggings will flatten your leg hair and reduce their natural warming effect, so thin leggings may actually make you colder than going without.

While thicker skirts such as kilts are warm, they can get quite heavy to walk with leggings due to the increased friction. Long overcoats make this worse as they add weight on top of the skirt, and they also have their own friction issue when moving against the skirt.

Of course, this depends on the material. A decent coat should have a somewhat slippery lining, and glossy leggings are not just for looks (although I prefer the matte look myself). But it also helps to choose a lighter/shorter skirt. It seems counterintuitive, but look around — you don't see many women wearing long skirts in the winter.

While you can read all about it, and perhaps consult your female friends, there's no way around real-life testing to see how each skirt/material works for you. I recently donned a long denim kilt with leggings and the coat for a night out, and while I'm usually the fastest walker in a group, this time I was the one holding others back. The next day I tested a golf/sport skirt instead, and it was the lightest walking experience I recall ever having with that coat; it basically worked like a slip between the leggings and the coat.

General points

Casual manskirting is a question of balance. You'll want to leave a positive impression, so that people get a good vibe about men wearing skirts. At the same time, you'll need to keep it down to Earth and stay approachable; if you want to set an example to other men, don't make it too hard to follow.

Keeping it fun and enjoying other options

[2021-08-06] Manskirting can be stressful and exhausting. You may find yourself spending a lot of time and energy on it. But remember that it is about having fun, so don't overdo it. Take vacations from skirting, and from fashion in general.

An important point of this mission is expanding your options. Once you have worn skirts, you'll also see trousers in a new light. You may even have a better appreciation for their benefits, such as protection against the elements, or how they show the form of your thighs all the way up. You can make an informed decision to wear trousers, instead of just blindly assuming that's all you have.

I have a lot of days when I need to go out but I don't want to draw any attention. But on the better days, it's great to have the option to express yourself in clothing. It seems to me that a lot of men don't feel like they have that option — but since you've read all the way here, I'm guessing you do :)

Further reading

Shopping

Skirts for men

Hosiery


Risto A. Paju