Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nice Bit of Skirt; Hemlines Are Up for Men This Season. the V&A Is Devoting an Exhibition to Men in Skirts and the Catwalks Are Awash with Them, Reports Dan Cairns

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nice Bit of Skirt; Hemlines Are Up for Men This Season. the V&A Is Devoting an Exhibition to Men in Skirts and the Catwalks Are Awash with Them, Reports Dan Cairns

Article excerpt

Byline: DAN CAIRNS

A WOMAN must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this." Heaven knows what the Old Testament scribe who penned this statement in Deuteronomy would make of a forthcoming exhibition at the V&A devoted to men in skirts.

The museum's fashion and textile department has assembled work by a veritable A-list of designers, including Paul Smith, Yohji Yamamoto, Vivienne Westwood and, of course, Jean Paul Gaultier.

Collectively, the fashion on display will once again pose the old question, asked of blokes as illustrious as the "dancing Marquis" of Anglesey (who blew his inheritance on jewels and cross-dressing), and as artless (or daft) as the sarong-sporting David Beckham: should men wear skirts?

"Yes," says the fashion historian Colin McDowell, author of A Man of Fashion, firmly.

"You only have to look at a highland soldier in a kilt; flat stomach, good legs. It's a marvellous look, yet very masculine." The people behind the International Male Fashion Freedom network, a website based in America, are even more adamant. "Men have spent the past 300 years losing their fashion freedom," their website shrieks. "We used to wear tights, cloaks, robes, togas, kilts and skirts. Women won their right to fashion freedom because they fought for it. Now is the time for men to do the same."

They have a point: after all, we spent centuries frolicking happily in doublet and hose. From the Merovingians, with their knee-length gonelles (tunics), to the minis favoured in Early Renaissance Florence (so skimpy, a codpiece was essential), to Charles II's above-the-knee Persian "vests", all freed their wearers from today's trouser-tyranny of restricted movement and poor ventilation.

Reason enough, you would think, for the male

skirt to be flying off the shelves. But McDowell has his doubts. "Firstly, that look was killed off because men discovered they could expose their legs - which was the whole point - in tight trousers. And the sort of man attracted now to a skirt tends to be the weedy, feminine type, which is the kiss of death. What we need are real men, big, butch builders, wearing them. …

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