Recently my friend Ralph (read his blog here) posted on his blog about Mike at Fashion Freestyler. I clicked on over, and from there clicked on some other links. It seems there is a whole community of men out there who are saying: "Hey, I'm a guy. I don't want a fem name. I don't want to wear makeup or false breasts, or a wig. I just like to wear skirts. Deal with it!"
|Ralph channelling his inner kendo master|
Even his online avatar is designed to mimic his real life appearance: a slightly bearded man wearing a dress.
Ralph's comment about Mike is "This dude gets it. He doesn’t want to be a girl; he doesn’t want to make clothing a part of his sex life… he just wants the barriers between “what women wear” and “what men wear” torn down and be free to wear what he finds comfortable from either side of the aisle."
For his part, Mike writes:
I started as most crossdressers start, by wanting to wear clothing that was typically associated with women. Everything from skirts to make-up to pink. But unlike other crossdressers I did not desire to be a female when wearing female garments. I’m happy to be a man. I just want to be able to express myself with greater fashion freedom and less societal pushback. I want men in general to have more choice than the same boring clothing options we always get.
I believe in the equality of the genders and I firmly believe that although women still struggle to make headway in society as full equals to men, men also need to make headway into areas that have typically been associated with females. One of those areas being fashion freedom. The genders are not truly equal until a man or a woman can walk down the street in their choice of pants or a dress without being looked at strangely or laughed at.
|Mike at Fashion Freestyler|
In another of his posts, Mike is wearing a "kilt-like skirt", which has a vaguely tartan pattern. This makes me smile, since I have frequently worn a real kilt, and it has never crossed my mind that the kilt was in the least feminine. To put just one example, a woman wearing a skirt will deliberately sit with her knees together for modesty, where a man in a kilt will deliberately sit with his knees apart, using the weight of his sporran (the pouch) to keep the folds of the kilt down. (They do say that a "true" Scotsman goes commando under his kilt. Though I have indeed done that, it's not particularly special in any way, and probably a bit unhygienic). Add to that, the "traditional" Highland dress features a dagger in the sock; not exactly a feminine touch.
The kilt and accoutrements as we see them today are (as so many things) a romantic invention which caught on, like the popular image of the chivalrous cowboy. However, it is still an evolving style, and wearing a kilt casually (kilt, belt, boots, plain sporran, T-shirt or rugby shirt) is quite a common sight in Scotland, and not in the least worthy of comment. Kilts are traditionally made of wool patterned as tartan. However, some designers are making kilts out of unorthodox fabrics, such as denim. In addition, for formal wear, some designers are producing a plain black woollen kilt, which I happen to think looks fantastic.
Michael's term for men who wear kilt-like garments is "Bravehearts", which also makes me smile, as I naturally associate this term with hairy men with woad-splattered faces chasing Mel Gibson across the fields.
The next step, Michael writes, is the "one item rule", where men wear one item of fem clothing amid a standard masculine getup. The purpose of doing this, Michael suggests, is for men as a whole to gain acceptance wearing skirts first, getting a toe in the door, so to speak, before opening it an inch at a time.
Michael regards the final point on his continuum to be complete androgyny. He writes:
As we approach androgyny we must first come into the area I fall into, men who ignore the gender label on clothing. This man will wear skirts, dresses, tights, heels, whatever, but will still keep his appearance male. He believes that clothing has no inherent gender, and that it's silly to put such restrictions on fabric. Speaking personally, to me it's about men having a full range of expression and experiences.To be fair to Michael, his blog contains many essays describing his thoughts and points of view. It's not really possible or reasonable to summarise all of it here, and I commend you to take a look for yourself. But I don't see complete androgyny to be the end of the spectrum; I consider complete feminine emulation to be the other end of the spectrum from the Bravehearts.
When I look at Michael, I see something quite different. I chose this image as one typical of the many, many hundreds on his blog. I see a man with shaved legs, wearing dresses, skirts, fabulous heels, and deliberately posing in a feminine way (one knee slightly bent, one hand on the hip). To an objective observer, there seems to be something different going on. I wrote to Michael to ask him about this. He replied:
My answer is that I shave my legs because I like the feeling and aesthetics of it, and I don't really understand why such an act should even be reserved solely for women. The answer as to why I don't just "go all the way" when I've already chosen to wear a dress, tights, and heels, is because I don't want to and don't have to. Ironically, despite the fact I'm a makeup artist by trade, I don't like to wear makeup. I don't wear a wig because I don't really like having hair (my baldness is, at present, completely by choice). In making the sartorial choices that I make, my hope is that it challenges some of those preconceived gender stereotypes that have been preordained and foisted upon us. The question of "Why is that man wearing a dress?" will hopefully lead to "What makes a dress for women only anyhow?"For me, I want to be as feminine as possible. I don't wear one item at a time, and I don't wear fem underwear under male clothing, because that doesn't "do it" enough for me. Not only do I want to look as feminine as possible, I want to look attractive too.
|I promise this image is not a hoax!|
Indeed the skirtonian inhabitants of Skirt Cafe seem also to have a preoccupation with other skirt-like garments for men, not just the kilt but the kaftan, the abaya, the changshan, and other unbifurcated garments. I don't suppose wearing any of those garments would press my buttons any more than a kilt does; but clearly there are plenty of people who think otherwise.
For myself, I have stumbled across this site, which is all about tights for men. It seems there is indeed a tangible groundswell of men who want the fashion freedom which women currently enjoy; certainly, if Michael Spookshow's hit counter is anything to go by, it's much more popular than discussing crossdressing as a scholarly subject.
Where do these men fit into the autogynephilia spectrum? Do they even fit at all? It's really hard to be sure. This is what makes me think the model maybe isn't as simple as it purports to be, though your comments here would be very welcome. There are other potential exceptions to the model as well, which I will blog about when I get the chance.
Overall, I entirely support the freedom of men to wear whatever they want (how could it be otherwise?). And anyone who does anything to further that cause is OK by me. Carry on, chaps!
You might be interested in the related, but different topics, Men with Long Nails, or Women with Beards, or that perennial question: what do men's underwear and Fight Club have in common?
Addendum: 23rd February 2014
Brian and Debbie McCloskey: He Wears a Dress. She's Fine With That and written by Gendy Alimurung, the article takes a sympathetic, matter-of-fact approach to an interview with the couple.
Alimurung: He isn't glamorous, like RuPaul. Or creepy, like some weird, bearded guy in a bikini. Or twisted, like the psychotic killer in The Silence of the Lambs. Brian is a slender, willowy brunet who dresses like a prim and proper lady out of a Talbots catalog: classy, conservative, covered. He favors A-line, knee-length dresses and tights, with a cardigan to hide his arms and "man shoulders." He's a modest sort of transvestite. He keeps his hair long. Debbie keeps hers shortish. Neither bothers with makeup, though Debbie has offered to help him figure out how to apply it if he wants.Brian told his supervisor at work he wanted to wear dresses to work, and she was completely accepting. So he does. He doesn't have a fem name; he doesn't seek hormones or surgery; he doesn't use women's bathrooms, he doesn't even wear makeup. He just likes to wear women's clothing.
Alimurung: Though he doesn't necessarily feel more attractive dressed as a woman, there are certain times when he does feel "kind of pretty."This and other clues in the article point to the suggestion that Brian is more of an "ordinary" transvestite (like me) than he might perhaps like to admit. Nonetheless, he is an extremely fortunate man, and I envy him.
"It was the Ann Taylor," he says, turning to Debbie. "You know, the black-and-white one? When I wore that last month, I was walking to work and I was kind of skipping? Swinging my purse and skipping."
Addendum: 7th March 2014
There is a further discussion of men in skirts here on Jonathan's blog, Male Femme.
Addendum: 10th November 2015
Thanks to Susie on Quora, I came across this company I had never heard of before. The Utilikilts company was established in the year 2000 and specialises in practical kilt garments for men, with an emphasis on ruggedness, practicality and masculinity.
Their website is absolutely stuffed full of men wearing their creations, hiking across hills, taking apart trucks, sawing up huge logs, and generally displaying the most masculine attributes imaginable.
I think it's quite an interesting idea. I am not sure why a kilt would seem to be more practical than a pair of canvas work trousers (except when working in very hot weather). Nonetheless, the garments seem to be very popular, and the website has a veritable plethora of fabrics and styles from which to choose.