Men in Kilts, Men's Skirts, Sarongs and Other Kilt-like Clothing


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Confronting the Objections of Trouser Tyrants - Introduction

How to handle objections from wives, family, friends, and others to men wearing kilts, skirts, and other unbifurcated garments.


Where the Challenges Lie

We men who wear kilts and other male unbifurcated garments (MUGs) as regular attire are the new pioneers. We are the trailblazers opening a new world of male fashion, comfort, and freedom. Like other pioneers exploring unfamiliar territory, we sometimes find the natives to be friendly, sometimes skeptical, sometimes fearful, and sometimes downright hostile. A lot depends on the locality, the kind of people you are dealing with, and the way you present yourself.

Men wearing tartan kilts generally enjoy overwhelmingly positive reaction, almost wherever they go. Thanks in part to Braveheart, most people now recognize the kilt as masculine clothing. Men going about in Utilikilts and other types of masculine skirts may not receive the same compliments as those in tartan kilts, but they usually encounter very little negative reaction from the general public, and rarely any reaction at all. Unfortunately, the traveling is not always so smooth.

Pockets of intolerance have been reported in various places in the United States and Britain, and probably exist in many other countries as well. Even in friendly territory we may sometimes encounter stares, sniggers, jokes, or sarcastic remarks. Oh well . . . that's the kind of ignorant nonsense that pioneers learn to brush aside. People laughed at Columbus and the Wright brothers, but that didn't stop them. The overwhelming truth that we repeatedly discover is: The vast majority of the general public simply doesn't care what you're wearing.

Therefore, general public reaction is rarely an obstacle to male kilt and skirt wearing. The biggest obstacles are those closer to home. For example:

Wives and girlfriends. Many women have no objection to - and may even enjoy seeing - men in kilts and skirts. That is, except when it is their man! The idea of their husband or boyfriend in a skirt may stir up an intense, irrational emotional reaction, perhaps based on unconscious fears and prejudices or other selfish concerns. How can a man deal with this?
Parents and other family members. Fears, prejudices, homophobia, or misplaced religious objections may be some sources of resistance.
Employers and schools. Men's right to comfort and freedom is often trampled by institutions' excessive concern about "appropriate" or "socially acceptable" attire, "corporate image," uniform appearance, and prohibiting clothing that might cause a "distraction" or "disturbance."
Friends and peer groups. While the general public may politely ignore what you're wearing, these people definitely will not. In the beginning you must get through a lot of ribbing - perhaps friendly, but maybe more hostile than you would like. Maintaining a self-confident, good-natured attitude is key.
Some churches. Some religious conservatives habitually twist the Bible to justify their own prejudices against anything new or different. They often interpret Deuteronomy 22:5 as a divine condemnation of anything that they personally regard as "cross-dressing" - including women in trousers and men in skirts.

These are the primary enforcers of "Trouser Tyranny" in a man's life. The Trouser Tyrants may vary depending on the particular locality, family, social group, school, or place of employment. Some men are able to avoid or ignore such people. If they want to wear a kilt or skirt, they just do it. But for other men, Trouser Tyrants are a constant, unavoidable challenge. In order to win our struggle for freedom, we must develop practical strategies to deal with their objections. This article will offer some suggestions.

Defining Your Goals

Sean ConneryNowadays, a woman in the United States and most Western countries can simply say, "I feel like wearing slacks (or jeans, or a skirt, or a dress) today!" and go ahead and do it, with no questions asked. Ideally, a man should also be able to say, "I feel like wearing a kilt (or sarong, caftan, or other skirted garment)," without having to justify himself. But for many men, it isn't that simple. Merely verbalizing such a desire may stir up a storm of objections. A man might easily become discouraged, particularly if he is uncertain about his own feelings on the subject.

Before we confront the Trouser Tyrants, it would be helpful to examine our own attitudes, motivations, and goals regarding kilts, skirts, and other unbifurcated garments. After all, we are the ones who are challenging the status quo. We know that we may be in for a fight. Therefore, we must have a clear idea of what we're fighting for. Exactly what do we want to accomplish, and why?

The answers to these questions will depend on each individual. There are many different reasons why men desire to wear kilts, skirts, and other unbifurcated garments. Your reasons and goals may not be the same as mine. So, before we become mired in confusion and controversy, let's clarify where we're coming from and where we want to go.

While recognizing that individual men are complex and not easily categorized, it is nevertheless helpful to distinguish the following different approaches to men's skirt-wearing:

Transgender. This involves men wearing women's skirts, dresses, and other clothing and accessories, not primarily for comfort but because they are women's garments. Most men are fascinated by the magic and sensuality that they observe in the female image and female clothing, so it should not be surprising that some men want to try it out for themselves. This approach may or may not involve dressing in full drag, with wigs, make-up, and fake breasts, and adopting a "femme" name. (Most men couldn't "pass" as female even if they wanted to.) The goal may be to express one's "feminine side," to achieve erotic stimulation, or simply to have fun at a Halloween party or similar occasion when people dress in costume. There may be a combination of motives, with varying degrees of intensity, depending on the individual. This approach is commonly referred to as "cross-dressing," and it's probably what many people think of when they hear the term "men in skirts." The Transgender approach actually has nothing to do with men's fashion at all, since the whole point is to adopt women's fashion instead.

Freestyler. This approach is based on the premise that men should be free to wear any and all clothing, without regard to gender - just as women in the United States and some other countries are now free to do. The goal is "Fashion Freedom" - the total abolition of gender distinctions in clothing. Freestylers openly buy skirts and dresses in the women's departments and wear them as men. They may or may not also wear women's slips, panties, pantyhose, shoes, make-up, and other accessories. They may wear a combination of men's and women's clothing. The whole point of the Freestyler approach is that gender should not matter. In actual practice, Freestylers are spread across a broad spectrum between the following two orientations:

"Freemen" - in which women's skirts or other things traditionally associated with female fashion are given a masculine presentation or otherwise incorporated into a masculine fashion statement; and

"Femme" - in which women's clothing and other aspects of female fashion are adopted to present a feminine appearance. This end of the Freestyler spectrum obviously has transgender aspects to it, and there is no clear dividing line between this and the Transgender approach. (For an extensive critique of the Freestyler approach, see Freestyle - Freedom or Fiasco?)

FustanellaEthnic.  This approach involves wearing unbifurcated clothing - such as Scottish or Irish kilts, Greek fustanellas, or the robes, caftans, or sarongs of other countries - as an expression of one's ethnic pride or in connection with ethnic celebrations or activities. For example, a man of Scottish descent may wear his tartan kilt while attending Highland games, Robert Burns dinners, weddings, Scottish dances, or other special occasions, or while playing the bagpipes or marching in a parade. When most people encounter a kilted man, they automatically assume that he is Scottish or Irish and on his way to or from such an event. The rest of the time, most kilts are hidden in closets or cedar chests and therefore have little impact on men's everyday fashion.

Braveheart. This approach involves wearing kilts and other male unbifurcated garments (MUGs) as ordinary, everyday attire, for reasons of freedom, comfort, and compatibility with male anatomy. Bravehearts do not desire the freedom to dress in women's clothing, nor are they concerned with abolishing gender distinctions in clothing. They strive to maintain a clearly masculine image. Strict Bravehearts prefer unbifurcated garments that are specifically designed for men and avoid clothing that is intended for females. Their goal is to open men's fashion to kilts and other MUGs, so that men will be free to wear these garments everywhere, all the time, and not just for special events.

Which of these approaches most closely describes your attitudes and objectives? Perhaps you identify with more than one. Perhaps your approach is something altogether different. Whatever it is, you must recognize and understand it before you can develop supporting arguments. The approach that you follow will determine the way you address the objections of the Trouser Tyrants, as well as affecting your chances of success.

When it comes to convincing, or at least neutralizing, the Trouser Tyrants, some approaches will be easier to "sell" than others. It is important that we understand our adversaries and how they think. We will start with the following general observations about people who support Trouser Tyranny:

Many are uncomfortable with sexual ambiguity. They want men to be clearly masculine in appearance and easily distinguishable from women.
Some are religious conservatives who use the Bible to justify their prejudices about clothing.
Some are homophobic and disturbed by anything that they associate with homosexuality.
■  Many get upset when people don't conform to traditional "norms" in appearance and behavior.
Many are overly concerned about appearances and worried about what other people might think.
Many are worried about how the appearance of another person (spouse, family member, employee, etc.) might adversely reflect upon themselves or otherwise cause problems.

Skirt fashionIf these observations about Trouser Tyrants are accurate, men defending the "Transgender" approach might as well save their breath. Cross-dressing is the epitome of everything the Trouser Tyrants loathe. According to the religious conservatives' interpretation of Deuteronomy 22:5, it is an "abomination" for a man to put on women's clothing. They believe that God demands a clear distinction between males and females. In addition, some religious conservatives see cross-dressing activities in public schools as a plot to promote homosexuality. In deference to this view, many schools in the United States have forbidden boys to dress as girls for Halloween or powder-puff football games.

But people do not need religious justification to find cross-dressing objectionable. Discomfort with sexual ambiguity is so common that it probably has deep psychological or sociological roots. In addition, there may be genuine and realistic concern that the cross-dressing individual might become the victim of harassment and even violence.

Likewise, men advocating "Freestyler" principles will come up against the same objections to men wearing women's clothing. (Freestyling has been characterized by some as "cross-dressing lite.") The concern for safety may also be an issue - since a Freestyler openly wearing a skirt or dress as a man would make a more obvious target than a man disguised as a woman. These problems might be mitigated if the Freestyler chooses his outfits carefully and projects a self-confident, masculine image. However, the Freestyler philosophy rejects any such limitations. By definition, Freestyling has no boundaries. It stands for men's freedom to wear anything and everything that women wear, all the way up to full drag. This is a concept that Trouser Tyrants will never accept.

In contrast, the "Ethnic" approach would probably be easiest to sell - particularly if you have the appropriate national heritage to justify it - because it involves traditional male clothing worn in a limited, clearly defined context. However, even this is not a sure thing, as indicated by the following examples which have appeared on the Internet. At a high school in Michigan, a boy of Scottish descent wound up in detention for wearing his kilt to the school's "Ethnic Heritage Day." In another case, an Irish-American boy was disciplined for wearing a kilt to school on St. Patrick's day. A few years ago, when a male employee of Scottish descent wore a kilt to work at the University of California-Davis admissions office in honor of Tartan Day, his supervisor ordered him to remove the kilt and put on jeans instead. The supervisor deemed it inappropriate for the man to wear a kilt when greeting prospective students and their parents - even though one of his duties was to praise the University's policy promoting ethnic diversity!

UtilikiltThe Ethnic approach might be a good starting point for some men, including those who have some Scottish or Irish background or who don't mind pretending that they do. But it is probably too limited, by itself, to free men's fashion from Trouser Tyranny.

The "Braveheart" approach builds on the already established heritage of ethnic MUGs, such as kilts, but it is not limited to ethnicity or special celebrations. It is open to the development of new varieties of unbifurcated garments, such as the Utilikilt, designed and marketed specifically for men. It provides men with the comfort and freedom of unbifurcated garments without suggesting that they raid the women's wardrobe. Because kilts and MUGs are male clothing, the thrust of Deuteronomy 22:5 is blocked. Because Bravehearts emphasize a distinctively masculine appearance, the concerns about sexual ambiguity are blunted. In addition, the Braveheart philosophy is supported by rational arguments and pragmatic justifications - as well as the emotional power of movies like Braveheart and examples of macho male celebrities proudly wearing kilts.

Using the Braveheart approach, we can stake out a defensible moral and rational position, be consistent, and hold our ground. While there is no guaranty that the Trouser Tyrants will be convinced, we will at least have a fighting chance!

Chipping Away at Prejudices

Overcoming prejudices may take a long time, especially when they have been institutionalized and internalized for many generations. The following are some of the prejudices that may be influencing the attitudes of Trouser Tyrants:

The belief that women have lower status than men. Whether or not we approve of this idea, it has prevailed in nearly all societies throughout history. Traditionally, men have been regarded as stronger, more intelligent, more powerful, more free to act than women. This forms the basis for the next prejudice, which is:

The belief that wearing women's clothing is degrading. A man who puts on woman's clothing is traditionally perceived as lowering his status and prestige, relinquishing his power and freedom, or evading his manly responsibilities. He therefore becomes either a comic figure or an object or ridicule and disdain. In contrast, a woman who puts on men's clothing is perceived as raising her status and freedom of action. Examples include the brave heroine in Beethoven's Fidelio and others in Shakespeare's plays, who disguised themselves as men in order to perform heroic acts. When the early feminists began wearing trousers, they provoked outrage not because trousers were degrading, but because trousers were a "power symbol" reserved exclusively for men.

The belief that skirts are exclusively female. This idea has prevailed in Western societies for the past few hundred years. Until about 50 years ago, most people also considered trousers to be exclusively male (and some religious conservatives still do). In medieval times, men could wear either trousers or unbifurcated clothing like robes and tunics, while women like Joan of Arc were burned at the stake for wearing trousers. How things have changed! Although women in the United States and most Western countries now consider both trousers and skirts to be standard female attire, some of them feel uncomfortable about giving men the same options. Even though they themselves rarely wear skirts any more, some women nevertheless want to keep skirts as their own exclusive property. They consider it unfair to allow men to wear skirts, because this would diminish skirts' value as a "power symbol" of female sexuality.

The belief that wearing skirts promotes effeminacy or homosexuality. This stereotypical thinking assumes that all "real" men wear trousers, and that any man in a skirt is either aspiring to be female or trying to attract a male.

The belief that deviations from "socially accepted" norms are dangerous or perverted and should not be tolerated.  It is common for people (as well as other animal species) to be fearful or suspicious of individuals who appear different from the rest of the crowd. Therefore, most people learn to follow the herd and blend in with everybody else. In exchange for their lost individuality, such people find reward in self-righteously upholding and enforcing prevailing norms and customs.

Hosts wearing Utilikilts on "Other Half"People who cling to such prejudices are generally impossible to reason with. Their preconceived notions have become woven into the fabric of their personalities and their overall view of themselves and the world. Therefore, we must be patient and non-threatening in our approach, giving them both time and incentives to reconsider their views gradually.

It would be extremely difficult, and probably impossible, to change all of a Trouser Tyrant's prejudicial beliefs at once. To be most effective, we must choose the one or two beliefs that are most susceptible to change and which are most necessary for achieving our goal. If we follow the Braveheart approach, our first targets would include the beliefs that skirts are exclusively female and that wearing skirts promotes effeminacy or homosexuality. (Combating homophobia is a separate issue, which need not be discussed at this point.) The Braveheart argument addresses these concerns by distinguishing kilts and MUGs from women's skirts, by emphasizing their masculinity, and by pointing out that very macho men have worn skirts throughout history and still do in many parts of the world. This approach would seem a lot easier than trying to uproot the Trouser Tyrants' deep-seated prejudice against cross-dressing.

The Freestylers object to such gender distinctions. They contend that skirts are skirts, and that it makes no difference whether the skirt a man wears was originally intended for men or women. However, when used against Trouser Tyrants, this argument could easily backfire. It might simply confirm their prejudicial belief that a man wearing any type of skirt is "cross-dressing."

Specific Strategies

This article will now suggest strategies to confront the objections of various Trouser Tyrants, based primarily on the Braveheart approach. Arguments relevant to the Ethnic and Freestyler approaches will also be included where appropriate. (These arguments will have little or no relevance to those following the Transgender approach, who might be more interested in our page on Non-Braveheart Alternatives.)


Confronting the Objections of Wives and Parents

Confronting Religious Objections

Movies with Men in MUGs

Return to "Bravehearts in Kilts Against Trouser Tyranny" home page.

Photographs: Mel Gibson in Braveheart; Sean Connery; Greek fustanella; skirt fashion; Utilikilt; hosts wearing Utilikilts on "The Other Half".

Copyright 2002 by WDP Bravehearts


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This page last modified on May 23, 2003.


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