Skirt for men?
An old “hot” topic in men’s fashion but still a contemporary one at the same time.
Should men wear skirts? Or is this only a provocation from catwalks? Are you gay because as a man you are wearing a skirt? Do you have to be a famous rock star or a celebrity walking the red carpet in order to have social acceptance for wearing a skirt while being a man?
The debate is open and creates heated discussion between different religious believes and political ideologies together with the opinions of psychologists, sexologists, and philosophers. There is even a part of the LGBTQ community, who in my opinion should be more open-minded due to their hard daily fight for their own rights, but who despite that have a contrasting opinion about a man wearing a skirt.
Meanwhile, the fashion magazine editorials and Instagram posts (which I will remind you is not real life but a virtual one) allow us to believe that the fashion revolution has already arrived and an ordinary man can nowadays go to the post office wearing a skirt without problems. From my own experience, I know it is very far from the truth of course.
Personally, I gave myself permission to wear this garment discussed for a very long time at least thirty years ago. To wear it in public and in the day time too.
The reaction is always the same in every country – quite predictable and boring: stares of disbelief, some muffled laughter, and random insults. But there is nothing scarier than my notorious and psychotic impermeability to the criticism expressed by the outside world, I have to say.
I was not always aware of being so impermeable… but I discovered this personal sense of detachment from social criticism for the first time very early, while wearing this unusual for a man garment – a skirt. You will decide if this is a story about my first skirt or about a first fight protecting my own individuality.
I was born in Rome and I was an aloof child. The kind of child nowadays psychologists would describe as a “child with social adaptation problem”. Bullshit – must say. Despite my early age, I was determined in my choice and I knew what I wanted to have in my life. Children of my age were not on my list. In my mind, I considered them to be real savages. And to watch my classmates constantly shouting and running like crazy chimpanzees only confirmed not being worth spending my time with. I was four years old at that time.
But art books yes – they were worth my time. I used to lose myself inside the beautiful images of paintings from the Middle Ages and Renaissance for hours. I was especially hypnotized by the elegant menswear garments, so well depicted in shapes, textiles, and colors.
I grew up in a catholic school… for me, it was normal to see priests in robes (which as a child I saw as long skirt under priest’s coat) and some of them were so similar to the ones I saw it in the books with Renaissance paintings.
I remember spending my class hours observing fluctuating hems of the ecclesiastical garments on teachers. That was my way to escape from the cold and austere reality of the school and its severe rules. I was trapped in a men-only catholic school where the old vision of masculinity was untouchable and sacred as the Virgin Mary.
Therefore I wasn’t considering the skirt to be a garment of female privilege at all.
Ever since it gives me a feeling of masculine authority projected by the clergy and elegance seen in paintings.
So for me as a child, a desire to wear a skirt was a natural choice to emulate the referential power that I observed in adult people while being in front of priests’ s robe. And also the possibility of dressing like noble kings and knights who I saw in old paintings and murals.
And so iI did It. On one spring day of 1977, I took the money that my grandma used to give me at Christmas from my secret spot. I went to the women’s store at Via Frattina, a street in the center of Rome, and I bought a long red skirt that was calling me out of the store window. I wore it and I felt like a cardinal. I was eleven years old.
Of course, I had to immediately confront the consequences of my action in
the Italian society and in Rome of the seventies (an obscure cultural period where even words as abortion were prohibited to be pronounced on Italian public television and the intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini was publicly condemned for his homosexuality).
Imagine eleven years old wearing a red skirt in the streets of pantheon while the Italian working class turned against the political system and the rise of the feminist movement was shacking the Clergy up.
My conservative family and its ideology were already trembling from the cultural changes of those years in Italy.
The red skirt I bought was “the drop that overflowed the vase” making me the enemy number one, capable to jeopardize the perfect bourgeois life of my parents.
I clearly remember my father watching me wear my red skirt and saying: ”my son is dead” and my mother with my sister both feeling shame of me (which they still feel btw).
Until my parents’ hasty decision to send me to the strictest catholic boarding school out of the city, on the other side of Italy in order to correct my “criminal action” and hide the shame (and me) from the neighborhood and relative´s eyes.
But it was too late, the pleasure of wearing a skirt, its movement and the capacity to redraw a silhouette prevailed any of the hesitations, it helped to ignore any criticism and treated every psychological and physical pain.
That was also the first time that my virility and my reproductive capacity as a man were questioned (I remind you – I was only eleven…).
And I was surprised by that… the simple reason for that is I never assigned sexuality to the garments.
I just simply used to decide If I like them or not. If they are fitting in my vision or not.
Even as an adult I never give the responsibility to the garments to be ambassadors of my sexuality or any of my beliefs. However, people did that to me and they still do.
I never give the responsibility to fashion accessories to be a thermometer of testosterone level or to represent my sense of responsibility and professionalism.
People always did that to me and they still do.
I do not judge another person by the way of dressing but for his manners.
I never thought that a piece of textiles was capable to create a series of powerful destructive outcomes in my life. And I never thought that the outcomes of that would become my strength in the future.
A skirt. A piece of inanimate textile against living people. My point of view of fashion against the Italian society of the 20th century. I never thought at that age that I would have to decide between the love of my parents or my individuality, and later, as an adult between to be supported or banished by part of the society. All of that because of a decision to wear a damn skirt.
And I never imagined that a skirt would become the first fight for my individuality.
As a child I was terrified and scared of the unexpected outside reactions to wearing a skirt but I had to decide rapidly if I submit myself to my parents’ authority or follow my freedom to represent myself in the way I want. I instinctively did my choice. I chose to believe in myself.
So I chose to be turned away from my family and relatives, criticized by society, insulted, and even be beaten by strangers. But that was not enough to make me change my ideal to feel free.
I paid hard for that choice, I am still paying in the present days and I will pay in the future. But I do not have regrets.
In my early childhood, I had the privilege to learn that every action or no-action has a price to be paid to our surroundings or to our conscience. We have to always decide which of them to pay. Nobody is excluded.
And when saying “to pay” I mean to lose something outside in order to conquer interior freedom.
Everyone decides based on personal fears to lose their privileges or support from the community: family, friends or team at work. To lose protection from the group. To be isolated a then more vulnerable. (Even though I always thought that this theory works only for animals as a bunch of wolves for example. And are we not humans?)
There is also the ancestral need to be loved and accepted for our individuality. With the fear of not be loved by the external world. (Are we sure we need to carry on with this nonsense in our life?)
I was also realizing that most of the time these fears were what drove our actions or not actions marking our fate this way.
In a few months, I had to decide what price to pay for my individuality. Personally, I realized that paying a social price was less difficult than bearing the endless inner feeling of not supporting myself and my ideals. I talked to myself about how parents, friends will appear and disappear in my life while I have to coexist with myself until my last day on earth. So I chose to listen to the only person that will accompany me forever, myself. But that was in my nature, I suppose.
And it is important that everybody found out for themselves what price is worth paying for personal actions or the non-action.
I also realized and understood that all these negative reactions were not against me as a person. It was not the choice to wear a skirt itself but my freedom from the social judgments and harassment of souls.
I learned that in the end nobody really gives a shit about other people’s choices and life. They talk shit about it for no more than twenty minutes and then they are rapidly back focusing on their life.
Do you think that these twenty minutes are worth changing your mind and affecting your life actions?
I understood that the action to do something different and unexpected from the expectations of your surrounding is the real detonator of the souls, it stirs up huge emotions, shakes their conscience, and their own frustrations. The reaction is always the same and you get punished the same way. But even this shouldn´t be taken personally.
While allegedly punishing you they are punishing themselves for their fear to follow their nature.
Trust me, you are not triggering the person around you with a specific action. It is your courage to take a personal decision different from the group that destabilizes the fragile balance of the people´s life around you. So they get scared and became hostile and aggressive.
This is the deepest hidden worldwide fear of changes.
It is enough that you change your hair cut without consulting anybody… someone will tell you: “Why didn’t you tell me that you were going to have a new hair cut?”…and why should you? It is your hair, your face.
Just try to make your own personal decisions and therefore actions without confronting somebody from your community. You will see the outcomes.
So whatever your aloof actions are: to wear a skirt as a man or become vegetarian, to change your study path, to love who you want, to leave your secure job – you will have a price to pay for the society and even if you decide to not take any actions that can upset your surrounding, in order “to fit in” you will still pay a price… for yourself. Whichever prices you decide to pay today for your own actions or non-actions are only in your conscience. In the end, you have to live with yourself forever, not with me and not with the others so make your choice right.
Did a skirt become a symbol of my personal freedom from collective conscience … or a symbol of people’s fears in front of my freedom? The debate remains opens. Lucifer
In the cover picture: I am wearing a silk skirt by Palomo Spain, jewelry by Gucci. Photo: by Stainedjabot.