Men in Kilts, Men's Skirts, Sarongs and Other Kilt-like Clothing
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Examples of the many unbifurcated garments worn by men around the world.
Bubu - A robe worn by men in Africa, especially in positions of authority.
Caftan - A long, wide-sleeved robe worn by men in the Middle East.
Cassock - A long, robe-like garment worn by members of the clergy.
Dashiki - A colorful African robe.
Dhoti - A long rectangular piece of cloth traditionally worn by men in India. It can be wrapped in various ways, either around the waist like a sarong or between the legs as well.
Dishdasha - See thobe, below.
Djellabah - A long, loose-fitting hooded robe or gown worn by men in North Africa, and especially in Morocco.
Fustanella - A short pleated skirt of white cloth worn by men in Greece and Albania.
Galabiyah - A long, full, shirt-like garment worn by men in Egypt.
Gho - Imagine living in a far-off kingdom in which, by royal decree, all men are forbidden to wear trousers in public. Instead, all males are compelled to wear a knee-length dress, with a sash at the waist, and long stockings. If you are caught wearing anything else, you face a stiff fine, equal to about three-days' pay.
Believe it or not, such a kingdom actually exists in the world today. It is the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. In order to preserve its unique national culture (and to assimilate ethnic minorities), the royal government in 1985 decreed that all Bhutanese must always wear the traditional national costume of northern Bhutan. For men and boys, this is the gho - a knee-length robe with a sash at the waist. The long stockings underneath are often of a plaid design. The women have their own distinctive costume, a full-length dress called the kira. Although foreign visitors can don native dress if they desire, they are not required to do so.
This ban on trousers has caused some resentment in southern Bhutan, which is inhabited by ethnic Nepalese who view the national dress code as a form of tyranny, and even a human rights violation. So, while we men in the West confront the "tyranny of trousers," men in Bhutan are complaining of a "tyranny of dresses." I suppose this would be analogous to the Scottish parliament passing a law requiring all men in Scotland to wear Highland dress, resulting in great resentment among the Lowlanders.
Before anyone starts thinking of Bhutan as a Shangra-La for men in skirts, be warned that tourism is tightly restricted and very expensive.
Hakama - A Japanese outer garment, worn by men and women, which comes in both bifurcated and unbifurcated versions, both having a pleated, skirt-like appearance. The hakama pants, with a split between the legs, are most common and often seen in martial arts. However, the hakama used for traditional Japanese dances and formal ceremonies is usually unbifurcated and worn over a full-length kimono.
Kain - See section on sarongs, below.
Kikoi or kikoy (pronounced kee-koy) - A cotton wrap skirt, with colored bands or stripes, worn by men and women in Kenya and other parts of East Africa.
Kilts and Their Cousins
Kilt - Kilts are skirt-like garments, traditionally worn by men in the Scottish Highlands, which usually have the following basic features:
The traditional Scottish kilt is made of 8 or 9 yards of smooth, tightly woven wool with a tartan (plaid) design. Kilts may also be of solid colors - as frequently seen in Irish kilts. Recent variations of kilts sometimes use less or lighter material and alternative fabrics. Traditional men's kilts are are usually worn with a pouch, called a sporran, hanging in front. Some modern varieties of kilts have pockets.
Great kilt (feileadh mor) or belted plaid (breacán filleadh) - This is the original Scottish kilt, made from two pieces of tartan wool joined together, wrapped around the body, and fastened with a belt. This is the type of kilt seen in Braveheart and Rob Roy.
Little kilt or phillibeg (feileadh beag) - This is the type of kilt usually seen today. It lacks the upper portion of the great kilt, and the pleats are sewn in place. Its invention is often credited to an English factory owner in 1725, but there is evidence that some Scotsmen were already wearing it prior to that time.
Breacan - This Gaelic word, meaning "checkered cloth," has been adopted by Kinloch Anderson as the name for its light-weight, casual kilt.
Utilikilt - Trade name for an American line of utilitarian kilts for men, featuring belt loops and cargo pockets. The original design is a pleated skirt with a front fly, which goes on like trousers. The "neo-traditional" model wraps around like a kilt and fastens with snaps.
Kikepa - See section on sarongs, below.
Kimono - A loose, wide-sleeved robe, fastened at the waist with a wide sash, worn by men and women in Japan. A light-weight cotton variety is called a yukata.
Laplap - See section on sarongs, below.
Lava -lava - See section on sarongs, below.
Longyi - See section on sarongs, below.
Lungi - A short rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the thighs, worn by men in southern India.
Männerrock - "Man-skirt" in Germany. This is a recent fashion development, typified by the Men-in-Time skirts, illustrated on the right.
Native American kilts and skirts - Various kilt- and skirt-like garments have been traditionally worn by males in native tribes throughout North and South America. The picture on the left shows a man from the Tarahumara Indian tribe in Mexico wearing a sapeta.
Pareo or pareu - See section on sarongs, below.
Paso - See longyi in the section on sarongs, below.
Robe - A long, loose, flowing outer garment. Some varieties are worn for religious or ceremonial purposes. Robes are often worn by Buddhist monks (as shown in the picture on the right).
Sarongs by Many Names
Skirt-like garments are traditionally worn by both men and women in the Pacific Islands. Usually the skirts consist of colorful cloth wrapped around the body in various ways. The most familiar name for this type of garment is "sarong," but different names are used for similar garments throughout the Pacific.
Kain - A skirt worn by men and women in Malaysia, which is similar to the sarong, except that its ends are sewn together.
Kikepa - Colorful wrap skirts for men and women in Hawaii.
Laplap - A length of cloth wrapped around the lower or entire body by both males and females in Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands. It was introduced by Europeans who were offended by native dress.
Lava -lava - A draped, kilt-like garment of cotton print worn by Polynesians, especially Samoans.
Longyi - An ankle length, wrapped skirt (cotton or silk) worn by nearly all Burmese men and women. The men tie their longyi in the front whereas the women tie theirs on the side. A more formal, male version of the longyi is the paso. Wearing of the longyi is encouraged by a national dress policy instituted by the government of Burma (Myanmar), but it is also a matter of comfort, due to the extreme heat and humidity.
Pareo or pareu - Tahitian word for a rectangular piece of cloth worn in Polynesia as a wraparound skirt or loincloth.
Sarong - A length of brightly colored cloth wrapped about the waist and hanging as a skirt, worn by both men and women in Indonesia, the Malay Archipelago, and the Pacific islands. (From the Malay word for sheath or covering.)
Sulu - A skirt worn by men in Fiji. (The accompanying photograph shows men in the Fiji legislature all wearing sulus.)
Tupenu - A wrap-around, skirt-like cloth worn by males in the island nation of Tonga, both for formal occasions and as normal work attire. These are usually of a dark, solid color and extend below the knee. Women wear a similar garment that is ankle-length. A sash, called a ta’ovala, is also worn around the waist by both men and women for formal occasions.
Sapeta - A skirt-like garment worn by men and boys of the Tarahumara Indian tribe in Mexico. (See photo at Native American kilts and skirts above.)
Thobe - A loose, long-sleeved, ankle-length dress for men, worn in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other countries in that region. It is similar to the djellabah, but without a hood. Summer thobes are white and made of cotton, and winter thobes can be darker and made of wool. In some countries, this garment is called a dishdasha.
Tunic - A gown-like outer garment, usually around knee-length, either short-sleeved or sleeveless, and sometimes belted at the waist.
Tupenu - See section on sarongs, above.
Yukata - See kimono, above.
Photographs: Caftan; clerical cassock; dashiki; djellabah; Greek fustanellas; gho; Bhutanese archers wearing the gho; Japanese hakama; great kilt worn by Liam Neeson in Rob Roy; Boy Scouts in kilts; Japanese kimonos; German man-skirt by Men In Time; man from the Tarahumara Indian tribe in Mexico wearing a sepeta; Japanese Buddhist monks in robes; sarong; Fiji men wearing sulus; Tongan men wearing the tupenu; Arabian man wearing a thobe or dishdasha..
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This page last modified on September 1, 2005.
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