Amelia Bloomer and Men in Skirts

“Girls can wear jeans
And cut their hair short
Wear shirts and boots
‘Cause it’s OK to be a boy
But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading”
-Madonna, What it feels like for a girl

Clothes: a practical necessity, but also a hugely significant factor in how we form and express our identity. For what feels like forever, people have had a lot to say about how women should look or dress, but what about men? When you think about it, there are huge restrictions on what is socially acceptable for men and boys to wear. Skirts and dresses are the main taboo. Personally, I find this oppressive, just imagine if women were no longer supposed to wear trousers! Here’s why we feel our expectations towards how people dress is unfair.

In terms of dressing, gender identity plays a significant role. It’s sad, but the indelible watermarks of tradition don’t let us get rid of the long-enforced gender stereotypes that most of us don’t even notice we conform to. For example, at a formal ‘black tie’ event, men are expected to wear suits (with trousers, goes without saying) and women dresses. There’s no two ways about it. Even outside of events like these, in the workplace or other formal events women rarely wear trousers – we both wear trouser suits daily and see very few others like us – and it’s pretty much unthinkable for men to wear skirts. It goes both ways.

The thing is, we’re all quite happily settled into these stereotypes and this has led to one repeated criticism of our belief in equal clothing rights. Just today somebody said that this blog is pointless, as men would simply look weird in skirts and quite frankly don’t have any interest in wearing them. Well, this is a very upsetting response in terms of society, but also very selfish on a personal level. It’s unfair to assume that just because you would never want to wear a skirt, no other man would or should. We merely believe in the freedom to be able to choose.

We mustn’t forget Ms Amelia Bloomer and her spectacular bloomers. The bicycle was just becoming popular and the voluminous skirts of the time were impractical, rendering women unable to ride them at all, just because of their clothing. When Ms Bloomer invented these, which still had the general shape of a full skirt, she was ridiculed though it was just for practicality’s sake. In many hot countries, especially parts of Asia and Africa, it is far more practical and comfortable to wear some variation of a skirt or robe. This is clearly seen in the native dress for both genders-loose and free clothing which keeps one cool in scorching heat is essential in such climates. I will swear by trousers and jeans for comfort and practicality any day but having been on holiday to India several times I must admit that they make for very hot legs which don’t breathe very well-this isn’t good, as overheating is a very real possibility in the wrong clothes.

If we can open up to the simple fact that certain types of clothing are suited to certain climates and certain activities, I’m sure general acceptance would follow. Besides, we think men can look pretty damn good in a skirt! In fact, I’ve noticed that for once, fashion is beginning to dash this particular stereotype. Designer Marc Jacobs has been seen wearing a skirt-kilt number as well as a fair few runway collections featuring some form of skirt for men, be it a kilt, a three-piece suit or in some cases what looks to me like a dress.

All in all, this is a topic that we talk about for a long time! But we’re not alone in feeling strongly about this issue, and there are examples of men who don’t conform and break from tradition.  As Eddie Izzard said, “They’re not women’s clothes. They’re my clothes. I bought them.”

The Cat and the Ace

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4 comments

  1. Well said from a male skirt wearer and promoter of why men can wear skirts if they want to via my site http://www.theskirtedman.eu I concur with all that you have written. The problem is basically societies insistence upon labels and stereotyping. Many women when it affects them challenge such image or expectations yet men are still tied to the age old expectations. From my experience of skirt wearing in public, within the minority who make their disapproval known by body language or pointing and chattering within their group it is mostly women, and women who embrace full freedom of clothing choice. I believe in equality and freedom of choice within rules to bind a society together but I do not believe in one sided, one gender based equality. Equality and freedom of choice applies to all not one specific group.

    1. So sorry Jeremy for the late response! We’re both really busy at the moment.

      We’re very inspired to know that there are guys like you out there, and realise how difficult it is when people judge you, as they are bound to do. It is really sad that it’s women who criticise men wearing skirts, but we don’t find it hard to believe. We find that some women care a great deal about appearances-we aren’t really among them-but think that this may be because we as women are very used to and aware of being judged based on our appearance all the them, even sometimes by people who know us.

      Thanks so much for dropping by, we found it really insightful!

      -the Cat and the Ace

  2. Nicely written! I’m so on the same page, & I love breaking molds. I love wearing stress shirts with ties, & slacks. Very masculine look on a girly-girl. Love it! If for no other reason, the weather we should all break the molds of the tight & stuffy!

  3. Very well written. We live in a world that believes being a woman is the ultimate insult. We girls are allowed to do anything by which we resemble a guy. But when the same thing comes to a boy to look like a girl. It is insult. Our society is fucked up with double standards!

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