Monday, 26 May 2014

Men, Trousers, Women, Skirts

The history of women wearing trousers (and of men wearing skirts) is marked by struggles. Historian Christine Bard says: "Trousers were not only a symbol of male power, but of the separation of the sexes. A woman who wore trousers was accused of cross-dressing. She was seen as a threat to the natural order of things, to the social, moral and political order." Trousers became "an indicator of the progress of women's fight for equality" (via). Last December, Mormon feminists organised the second "Wear Pants to Church Day" in order "to celebrate inclusiveness in the LDS church" (LDS: Latter-day Saints). The organisers invite women to wear trousers as an act of solidarity as they "believe that everyone is welcome at church" (via).

In 1919, women's rights activist Luisa Capetillo became the first woman to wear trousers in public in Puerto Rico. She spent one day in prison (via). In the U.S, Charlotte Reid was the first woman to wear trousers in the Congress in 1969, Rebecca Morgan the first woman to wear trousers in a U.S. state senate in 1989, the 42nd First Lady Hillary Clinton the first woman to wear trousers in an offical U.S. First Lady portrait (via) and Pat Nixon was the first First Lady to wear trousers in public (via).

And the other way round? In the 1970s, David J. Hall from the Stanford Research Institute appeared in skirts on two shows (Johnny Carson, Phil Donahue) (via). In an essay he writes:
Clothing affects the way we move and function. When we wear a uniform, we are supposed to function according to the role signified. (...) Men seem to be be more restricted by clothing convention than women. Compare the shirt collar and tie uniformity of established respectable men, with the wide range of emotionally expressive fashions of respectable women. (...) Uniforms are designed to encourage militaristic attitudes and, together with militaristic metaphors, I feel strongly that militaristic uniformity slips over into the world of commerce and the work place. Men wearing skirts, symbolising role change could help achieve the gentle revolutionary objective of rejecting codes of behaviour that smack of military aggression. Changing men's clothing options is a form of disarmament. However we view the concept of human individuality in practical terms, the paradox is that humans seem to have split into two species: male and female. We are similar and different in both obvious and subtle ways (via).
In 2009, sociologist Jeremy Don Kerr sued the New Orleans Police Department because a police officer had threatened to arrest him for wearing a skirt. He asked the symbolic amount of one dollar for the violation of his rights and "an order against barring access to public facilities because of gender stereotyping" (via). Years before, Kerr had sued because the department chair of the university he worked with had asked him to stop cross-dressing (via).

Hommes en Jupe, "Men in Skirts", is an association of men fighting for their right to wear skirts and for respect for men who wear a skirt. It was founded in Poitiers, a city in the Western part of France in 2007 (via). To the members, skirts are not just a fashion statement but a political one: "We are fighting against prejudice and cliches. Women fought for trousers; we're doing the same with the skirt." (via)

Schools in Nantes, the largest city in the Grand-Ouest (North western France) made headlines in May 2014. School officials had invited girls and boys to support the campaign "Ce que soulève la Jupe" ("What the Skirt Lifts") and to wear skirts to protest sexism. 27 schools took part. Months before, the Ministry of National Education had released a report according to which "sexism is rampant in French schools" as teachers give boys preferential treatment (via). The campaign aimed to "promote awareness and change perceptions" (via). Many boys borrowed skirts from their mothers or sisters (Brändle, 2014), those who did not wear skirts showed support by wearing stickers: "I am fighting against sexism, are you?". At the beginning of the year, a new gender equality curriculum was introduced (via). Members of "Manif pour Tous" protested against the campaign (and curriculum) that was "disrespectful to masculinity and femininity" with slogans such as "gender theory is not my choice" or "no to gender theory" (via) and called the campaign "cross dressing". Last year, male teachers participated in a similar campaign wearing skirts (via). By the way, the hot summer in 2013 (and the ban for shorts) made Welsh school boys (via) and Swedish train drivers (via) decide to wear skirts.

Picture above from Dorcus: An internal memoranda of Dorcus He-Skirts - which did not make it to the market - says "hire only men with large, hairy, developed legs, because in all probability they will be frequently chased by men wielding bats and clubs; moels must be able to outrun their critics." 
The jingle for the campaign:
She Skirt - He-Skirt - They-Skirt - We-Skirt!
Wear a lotta Dorcus and the gang’ll all say Gee Skirt!
Men, you gotta bare it for a solid Dorcus Whee Spurt!
He-Skirt! He-Skirt! He-Skirt! He-Skirt! (via)

Brändle, S. (2014) Buben im Mädchenrock sorgen für Aufruhr, Der Standard, 19. Mai 2014, 5
photos via and via and via and via and via and via


  1. Interesting subject, Laura! Thanks!

  2. So interesting!! Thanks for this little digest!

    1. I'm glad you found it interesting; thanks for the lovely feedback.

  3. Abbie Winterburn26 May 2014 at 08:54

    ! LIKE !

  4. Brilliant!!!!

  5. Frans Gunnarsson26 May 2014 at 14:56

    Again, I can't thank you enough for keeping us posted with your intelligent writing and great findings.

    1. This is such a wonderful comment. Thank you ever so much, Frans.

  6. The most appropriate dress for a man is a skirt by its anatomy, for health benefit and comfort.
    No part of the man's body as long as the genitals mistreated.
    Tight pants, belt or waistband, and shot (or center seam) much abused; it is best that men should wear skirts.

  7. The only one complaint I had, when wearing these pants, they were pretty heavy,
    heavier than any other pant I have worn before so in the summer I sweat a lot more than I normally would.

    Men Pants

  8. Nice blog i like it.

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  11. Les romains et les grecs portaient des jupes dans l'antiquité, et considéraient les barbares en pantalon comme arriérés. Le pantalon est une torture, surtout s'il n'est pas extensible. Tous mes pantalons sont extensibles, je porte aussi des kilts, et des sarongs en été, bien plus confortables que les pantalons et plus élégants que les shorts.