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Introduction Since most of people are more likely to judge others by their appearance, individuals naturally try to convey their personality and individuality through comportments and dresses. Men in skirts is a phenomenon. Throughout the history, women were quite frequently borrow clothing from men’s wardrobe, for example hats and formal jackets. In the early 20th century, in recent times, a growing number of woman especially fashionable ones were tend to chasing men’s trousers. Examples of male adopting female skirts, on the contrary, are far more rare. However, assorted men, in the late twentieth century, who have hoped to typify themselves as resistant, rebellious or simply constrain have adopted skirted garments as a sign of their refusal to meet societal expectations (Bolton, 2003: P120). Subcultures are groups, within a larger, mostly dominant culture, with their own distinct culture. They often substitute their own shared conventions or rituals of the mainstream culture.


During twentieth century, music can’t be ignored in which it has been a focus activity of subculture and gender disruption. As Shane and Graham in the book Styling: African American Expressive Culture from Its Beginnings to the Zoot Suit (1998) mentioned distinct attributes of femininity for example florid accessories, elaborate hairstyles and flamboyant, luxurious fabrics have been badges of subversion and alternative values since the 1920s. This essay will discover men’s skirt garments within youth culture and subculture context in late 20th century, explore 4 different subcultural styles (as well as music geners), which are Glam Rock, Punk, New Romantics and Grunge, exploring their impacts on celebrities or designers and how they react in actual world. In each of their separate ways, the skirt became a powerful means of transgression and self-expression.

Glam Rock Glam Rock is a form of rock music, most popular from 1971-1973. It’s characterised mostly by male performers who usually wore heavy make-up and posing a feminine style while they performing rock music on stages. Moreover, some of them often emphasising futuristic elements. Deliberate gender confusion was not exactly new to music. Andrew Bolton pointed In the 1970s, blurring gender lines was featured to Glam Rock. Moving on from the long hair and exotic fashion styles of Hippies in the 1960s, Glam Rock highlighted androgyny, trying to unite all masculine and feminine traits into one body (2003: P.122). Probably the earliest and best know Glam Rock star is David Bowie, who has regarded as a core persona in the Glam Rock movement in 1970s. He was particularly successfully in shaping a seductive and androgynous figure. As Dick Hebdige describes in his book Subculture: the Meaning of Style (2002: P.60) “ Bowie attracted a mass youth (rather than teeny-bopper) audience and set up a number of visual precedents in terms of personal appearance (make-up, dyed hair, etc.) which created a new sexually ambiguous image for those youngsters willing and brave enough to challenge the notoriously pedestrian stereotypes conventionally available to working-class men and women.” For Bowie, wearing skirt was obviously target a transgressive styling.


David Bowie on the album cover of The Man Who Sold the World

Indeed, dress is generally seen as a representative objects of femininity, which is strongly contrasted against masculinity. When the Bowie’s album released his appearance on the album cover of the Man Who Sold the World (fig.2) wearing a long golden dress with blue jacquard, reclining on a sofa draped in blue velvet, nevertheless caused a minor fracas. Bolton in the book Men in Skirts (2003: P.123) said Bowie’s appearance on the album was “more PreRaphaelite aesthete than the cosmic or extraterrestrial androgyne he was later to affect.” “You must understand that it’s not a woman’s dress. It’s a man’s dress. The important fact is i don’t have to drag up. I’ve always wore my own style of clothes. I design them. I just don’t like the clothes that you buy in shops. I don’t wear dresses all the time, either. I change every day. I’m not outrageous. I’m David Bowie.” responded by David Bowie when he was interviewed and asked why he wearing a dress by a American journalist (Sims, 1999: P.114). Generally, American press were take more serious than British media in regard of Bowie’s image. American journalists tend to consider Bowie as a direct challenge to traditional values and beliefs about male and female appearance and behaviour, and commented that Bowie “would prefer to be a latter-day Garbo.”

For many adolescents, the phenomenon of David Bowie came up with a question of sexual identity, which had previously been repressed, ignored or simply hinted in youth and rock culture, and as a result, in this day and age, androgyny is being growing accepted by the society.


David Bowie in a mini skirt dress

Punk Not just a mere music genre, Punk envolved into a whole subculture with its own distinctive fashion look that clearly identified its following. Men in skirts is a tendency that the distractive influence of it was actively sought by Punk Rockers. Punk is originally from United States, in the mid-1970s New York City underground music scene. As Zeshu Takamura comments in Roots of Street Style (1997: P. 141), “born amidst the declining musical forces of big-name musicians and the bored pessimism of West coast rock...‘Punk’ aimed to bring back the original pure passion and energetic beat and style of rock music.’ Compare with Glam Rock, Punk culture seems attached to the negative connotations and characterised by self-destruction and violence. Bolton (2003: P.126) also hold the similar point of view, he states that Punk’s selfpresentation was abject, aiming to appal and disgust. Admittedly, Punk style in the developing world also reflected an androgynous stream. Indignant make-up was worn by both boys and girls. Hairs was dyed with exaggerated colours like bright green or orange and sculpted into distinct tufts. In his book Subculture: the Meaning of Style, Hebdige (2002: P.63) argues that the “earthiness of Punk ran directly counter to the arrogance, elegance and verbosity of the Glam Rock superstars.”


Malcolm McLaren in a bondage suit by Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood, who is a central figure that can’t be ignored in the world of Punk. Her collaborate with Malcolm McLaren played a significant role in the development of Punk style (fig.4). Involving Punk’s post-modern features of adopting symbols, imagery and clothing from many eras and cultures, Vivienne Westwood created what she called “confrontation dressing”. The most notable is bondage trousers, which is designed for both male and female, epitomised the nihilism, narcissism and, most remarkably, gender confusion that motivate Punk fashion (Bolton, 2003: P.126). In 1980, Westwood designed a trosers attached with a apron that was worn at the both front and back side correspond to a kilt, a detail that improved aggressive androgynous image of Punk style. As skirt-like bondage trousers have become most enduring symbols of Punk style, while some designers have adopted them over the years.

Anna Sui, “Cyberpunk” collection, Spring/Summer 1994


One of examples is the Italian designer Riccardo Tisci designed for Givenchy Spring/Summer 2011 collection (fig.6) presented a series of men’s skirted garments, which are bondage shorts but just have one apron over the front, and has leopard grain shadow embroidery on it, match with shirts and brogues is definitely represented a strong masculine signifier rather than it’s feminine side. As extension of men’s skirts design, Givenchy keeping introduce various men’s skirted garment to the public, particularly in the latest Spring/Summer 2012 collection (fig.7), a proper skirt garment with tropical flower print is a stunning piece. The American designer Anna Sui, however, whose design approach to duplicates to Punk’s post-modern do-ityourself features, used them especially successful in her Spring/Summer 1994 “Cyberpunk” collection (fig.5). Praiseworthily, Bolton (2003: P.128) mentioned it “Sue gave birth to a new hybrid, a techno-fetishistic androgyne located in virtual reality.”



left: Givenchy men始s wear Spring/Summer 2011 collection right: Givenchy men始s wear Spring/Summer 2012 collection

New Romantics New Romanticism were a fashion movement that emerged in early 1980s in the UK, as a direct backlash against the austerity of the Punk movement (New Romantics: online). Moreover, it was generally considered associate with New Wave music scene, which already wide spread in society at that time, and New Romantics was seen as a sub genre of the New Wave movement. Further more, Bolton (2003: P: 129) explained “New Romantics combined the flamboyant decadence of Glam and the post-modern styling of Punk with a new historicism.” Men played with theatricality of skirts that brought together with exotic and historical style, during the development of New Romantics movement, it’s still maintaining a excessive image and the ability to shock to the publics. New Romantics is more likely to avoided sexual distinctions in dress approve of spectacular and unconventional impacts. Rebecca Arnold indicates in Fashion , Desire and Anxiety (2001, P:116), “They wore elaborate combinations of real and imagined past style, panting their faces to enhance fantasy and artifice, their escape from natural.” Bolton, at the same time, point out “Hedonistic and narcissistic, the New Romantics prized individualism.” Representatively, New Romantics combined homemade clothes with objects from boutiques, which originally located in London. Their artistic obtained widespread from bands such as Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, in which, its were always more visually than aurally appealing. However, Boy George from band Culture Club is perhaps most extraordinary as a part of New Romantics movement. Bolton in the book Men in Skirts (2003: P131) also support the point, said “he was their frontman and he epitomised the excess, artifice and outrageousness that underscored the New Romantics movement.”


Boy George in a smock by Dexter Wong

With his long hair, bright make up and above, the image of he wearing skirted garment truly pushed the boundaries of acceptance of male appearance. In a famous photography taken by Brian Aris (fig.8), Boy George wearing a smock with a homemade rag doll of himself given by a Japanese fan, at the time, his curl hair, vivid make-up and long following smock were regarded as direct challenge to traditional gender taboo. Before him, like David Bowie, the press media always judge his style as “cross-dressing” or, more precisely, “gender-blending”. Nevertheless, Boy George, as his name indicates, his outfits, even kind of outrageous, is usually trying to keep him away from the act of transvestism. In Men in Frocks by Kris Kirk and Ed Heath (1984: P.112), Boy George point out “I dress in a similar way to a priest or an archbishop. I wear robes, not dresses, and to be a transvestite you must wear women’s clothes. I don’t.” Like many other New Romantics, Boy George adopted components that traditional linked with women, for instance long hair, make up and robes, he put them into another way to creates new costumes rather than factually dressing like women. Certainly, in playing with gender signification, he managed to exceed restrictive definitions of masculinity and femininity (Bolton, 2003: P131).

Grunge Grunge normally considered as a genre of music, a cultural phenomenon and was a style embodied contradictions at the same time. It emerged in the late 1980s Seattle sound and social scene. It mirrored a hybrid of Punk, Heavy Metal and Indie Rock, absorbed Hippie aesthetics, a synthesis that was, most notably, culturally-specific to the Pacific northwest coast of America. Its mainly structured by middle-class white young men who enjoyed guitar rock, loud noisy but who had difficulty in “identifying with it’s macho and sometimes misogynist posturing.” (Bolton, 2003: P.138) Wellknown Grunge bands including Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and, perhaps most extraordinarily, Nirvana. During the first half of 1990s these band leaded the Billboard charts of America. The music of them “provided n identity and soundtrack for the ‘lost’ Generation X’ers, the (generally) white, middle-class young people who could never hope to maintain, or even want, the same levels of economic and material achievement of their parents.” (Amy and Cathie, 1991)


Kurt Cobain


Kurt Cobain, undoubtedly the most famous name of the Grunge, who was the lead singer of Nirvana, the central figue and declared the spokesman of Generation X. Cobain’s music strongly conveyed a emotion of “wounded, suffering and untrustworthy masculinity.” (Bolton, 2003: P.138) His sensitive gender identity was always displayed and connected with his appearance, the most impressive images of him is he taking over babydoll dresses (fig.10), often borrowed from his wife’s (Courtney Love) wardrobe. As Joshua Sims observes “Cobain was making a point by wearing them, that being, he was in touch with his feminine side, and/or confused about his identity and who wore the pants in their family.” (1999: P.136) Due to the changing of social construction, men’s role in life was becoming unsure, growing number of families were dependent on one parent. Cobain, like other kids of the generation born in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was from a broken home and had no father figure to impress upon him the rules of how to act like a man.

Kurt Cobain in a baby-doll dress

Except Kurt Cobain, other individuals associated with Grunge also played with a counter-gender skirt-wearing image. Evan Dando, the lead singer of the band Lemonheads (fig.11), wore a floral dress in his concert and sang songs from a girl’s voice. Sims (1999: P136) evaluates Dando in skirt is “in order to show a solidarity with Cobain and impress the girls that he was in touch with his feminine side.” The band Red Hot Chill Pepper is another example who put Grunge style even more closer to the edge. The members of the band wore dresses and miniskirts with their goatees, tattoos and dark eye make-up “as a brazen invitation for rednecks to challenge their machismo.” (Sim, 1999: P.136) Many Grunge rockers are tend to wear more general men’s clothing to represent their masculinity. Notwithstanding, they were naturally forced by the same oppositional trends that hinted in their edger icons to adopt dresses. Like Punk, undeniable, there was a evident asexual elements within Grunge, expressed in the trend of men wearing skirts and finally Grunge style even entered the fashion pages of American Vogue (December issue, 1992).


Evan Dando of the Lemonhead

Conclusion Within specific subcultural groups that appeared in the late of the last century, the image of men in skirts becoming more and more popular. This essay have looked at different designers as well as individuals who have introducing skirted garments into the subcultural styles, appropriated the skirt as a means of transgressing moral and social codes, and as a menas of re-defining idea masculinities. Music has been the focus in the subcultural world and many subcultural icons are, particularly, regard skirt as a selfexpression tool. Admittedly, to some extent, fashion does express gender through a particular garment. Physical different between men and women can be defined, by skirt, for example, which is often seen as the symbol of women and have a strong femininity. However, with the development of fashion and the definition of masculinity within social context, skirts have been perceived as both feminine dan masculine. Fashion designers today continue to be inspired by the skirts worn by a variety of youth and subcultural groups, and this tendency will be last. Presumably, influenced by the subculture, men wearing skirts will be largely accepted by society and there will be various men’s skirts design promoted to the market, as Bolton (2003: P.141) concluded “Their adoption by the mainstream diminish their original transgressive potency, but it is part of the deathless cycle out of with new subcultures and new transgression are born.�


Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler

(word: 2551)


cover: The Man who fell to earth fig.1 Yen magazine fig.2 David Bowie on the album cover of The Man Who Sold the World, 1971 fig.3 David Bowie in a mini skirt dress fig.4 Malcolm McLaren in a bondage suit by Vivienne Westwood, photographed by John Tiberi, 1980 fig.5 Anna Sui, “Cyberpunk” collection, Spring/Summer 1994 photographed by Raoul Gatchalian fig.6 Givenchy menʼs wear collection Spring/Summer 2011 fig.7 Givenchy menʼs wear collection Spring/Summer 2012 fig.8 Boy George in a smock by Dexter Wong, photographed by Brian Aris fig.9 Kurt Cobain, photographed by Michael Lavine fig.10 Kurt Cobain in a baby-doll dress, photographed by Steve Double, 1993 fig.11 Evan Dando of the Lemonhead, 1993 fig.12 Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler, photographed by Annie Leibovitz

References 1. Bolton, 2003: P120 2. Shane and Graham, 1998 3. Bolton, 2003: P.122 4. Hebdige, 2002: P.60 5. Bolton, 2003: P123 6. Sims, 1999: P.114 7. Zeshu, 1997: P.141 8. Bolton, 2003: P126 9. Hebdige, 2002: P.63 10. Bolton, 2003: P126 11. Bolton, 2003: P128 12. New Romantics: online 13. Bolton, 2003: P129 14. Arnold, 2001, P:116 15. Bolton, 2003: P131 16. Kris and Heath 1984: P.112 17. Bolton, 2003: P131 18. Bolton, 2003: P.138 19. Amy and Cathie, 1991 20. Bolton, 2003: P.138 21. Sims, 1999: P.136 22. Sims, 1999: P.136 23. Sims, 1999: P.136 24. Bolton, 2003: P.141

Bibliography Books 1. Arnold, R. (2001). Fashion, Desire and Anxiety: Image and Morality in the 20th Century, I.B.Tauris, London. 2. Bolton, A. (2003). Men in Skirts. V&A Publications, London. 3. Gelder. K. (2005). The Subcultures Reader. Routledge, New York. 4. Hebdige, D. (2002). Subculture: The Meaning of Style. Routledge, London. 5. Kirk, K & Heath, E. (1984). Men in Frocks. GMP, London. 6. Lavine.M & Moore, T. (2009). Grunge. Abrams, New York. 7. Takamura, Z. (1997). Roots of Street Style. Graphic-sha, Tokyo. 8. Sims, J. (1999). Rock Fashion. Omnibus, London. 9. Wilcox, C. (2004). Vivienne Westwood. V&A Publications, London.

Websites Christensen, T. What is Glam Rock. Wise Geek. accessed: 4/12/2011 Clark, H. Grunge: Cultural Phenomenon accessed: 4/12/2011 New Romantics. Cool in the 80s. accessed: 4/12/2011 Punk Culture, The Punk Music Scene. accessed: 4/12/2011 The New Romantics. Squidoo. accessed: 4/12/2011

men in skirts within subcultural styles  
men in skirts within subcultural styles  

men in skirts within subcultural styles