Matthew Gould and Daniel Cockerline are living in a sartorial wilderness: the two young Torontonians are among the very few men who have gone beyond the frontier of current male fashion and taken to wearing skirts. Although most men are unlikely to exchange trousers for skirts in the near future, there are some signs that men’s skirts—following precedents set by the Scottish kilt, the pleated Greek chiton and sarongs worn by many South Asian men —could become popular in a few trend-setting circles. Such pop musicians as Boy George and David Bowie, who enjoy large followings among young men, have worn female attire while onstage in recent years. And again this fall Parisian couturier Jean-Paul Gaultier and designers at London’s Body Map presented male models in an array of skirt designs on fashion show runways. The response from the stunned fashion community was mostly dismissive, but some observers hailed the development as a major breakthrough. Declared mainstream Parisian designer Daniel Hechter: “It is the most important thing to happen in fashion in the past 20 years.”
Gaultier, one of Europe’s most adventurous designers, is the foremost advocate of skirts for men but he insists that he is not trying to erase sex differences. Declared Gaultier: “Men and
women can wear the same clothes and still be men and women. It’s fun.” But Toronto fashion designer Bernard McGee, whose clothes for women feature masculine details, argues that Gaultier is just trying to generate publicity.
Still, men have already appeared in skirts on the streets of New York, Paris and London, where many fashion developments have their beginnings. And in Toronto, Gould and Cockerline are part of a small group of young men who confidently wear skirts everywhere from the supermarket to concert performances. Gould admits that he feels slightly self-conscious in his bright-red kilt, which was a 1982 Christmas gift from his younger brother. As a result, the 27-year-old painter completes his outfit with a tweed jacket, brogue shoes and tasseled socks, creating the impression that he is wearing some sort of ethnic costume. Yet when he visits his
family’s farm near Mayerthorpe, Alta., he wears skirts and full-length dresses, “provided that they have a masculine cut.”
For his part, Cockerline dons his two skirts—a brown kilt and a black, anklelength skirt—for political as well as esthetic reasons. Declared the 23-year-
old writer: “I wear a skirt as a way of saying that men are not naturally masculine and that the whole idea of masculine and feminine is socially constructed.” Cockerline is not interested in masquerading as a woman or becoming more feminine and often wears his black skirt with a tuxedo jacket. Said Cockerline: “I am definitely a man in a skirt, and that is a very threatening thing.” Added Gould: “My kilt is really comfortable and easy to wear, and I think men look wonderful in skirts.” Still, Martin Grundy, a marketing manager in Toronto for two Italian designers, doubts that many men will follow their example. Said Grundy: “I do not think you are going to see businessmen wearing skirts, comfortable or not.”
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