Written by Megan C. Hills, CNN

When Brad Pitt showed up to the premiere of his new movie “Bullet Train” last month, his labak linen outfit made headlines — or at least part of it did. The actor, known for his superman roles in films like “Fight Club” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” completed his blush pink-and-brown ensemble with an eye-catching twist: a skirt.
“I don’t know!” Pitt later told Variety magazine the inspiration behind his wardrobe choices. “We’re all going to die, so let’s mess around.”

Pitt joins a growing roster of stars who have recently donned gender-neutral skirts, from Oscar Isaac’s below-the-knee pleated number to Lil Nas X’s metallic pink miniskirt at the “Moon Knight” premiere. Actor Billy Porter, “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy, basketball player Russell Westbrook and rapper A$AP Rocky have also embraced the trend.

Out of Hollywood, the administrator (and self-described “master barista”) of The Skirt Cafe, an online forum devoted to men’s skirts, Carl R. According to Friend, the phenomenon has been gaining traction over the years. While he believes skirt-wearing celebrities are receiving “unnecessary” attention, he still welcomes the increased visibility.

“It is what it is,” said the friend, whose fondness for skirts dates back to the 1980s, over email. “And if it creates an acceptance of skirts for kids, I think that’s even better.”

Fustanellas, kilts and more

Although skirts are now commonly associated with women’s clothing, they have been worn by men at various points in history. For example, pleated fastenella can be seen on ancient Greek and Roman statues, while more contemporary versions are worn in Balkan countries such as Albania, which consider them national dress. The tartan kilt has been a major point of national pride for Scotland since its debut in the 16th century, although today it is usually reserved for special occasions.

In many parts of the world, however, men’s skirt-like garments are part of everyday clothing. The sarong, typically a brightly patterned wrap skirt, is worn by men in cultures across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific Islands. Sarong types such as the “sulu” used in casual and formal settings in Fiji and the “lungi” worn in South and Southeast Asia are popular styles for men of all ages.

Related Video: The Surprising History of Men’s Clothing

Soccer star David Beckham was famously photographed wearing a patterned sarong in 1998 (he was teased in the media at the time, but later said in an interview, “I’ve never regretted it because I thought it looked great and I Still wear it. Now.”) But in most of the Western world, taste shifted away from loose-fitting men’s clothing in the 18th century, Friend said.
“We still labor under dictates that stem from the Industrial Revolution — long-flowing clothes and high-speed machinery don’t mix well,” he said, pointing to the influence of the French Revolution, which saw the country’s taste. Flowing, gaudy brocade fabrics were eschewed in favor of national colors and practical, form-fitting garments.

“The French Revolution…compared to the Renaissance, there was a dramatic ‘dumbing-down’ of men’s dress,” added Friends.

A new wave

In recent years, evolving conversations around gender and identity have prompted a collective reckoning with what it means to dress like a man. Gen Z and younger millennial stars like Harry Styles and Lil Nas X regularly bring elements of femininity into their wardrobes — and retailers are taking notice. Online stores such as ASOS, Mr Porter, Cettire and SSENSE are now among those stocking men’s skirts, many of which are distinguishable from women’s clothing if not for male models.

Basketball player Russell Westbrook wearing a skirt outside the Thom Browne show at the Spring-Summer 2022 edition of New York Fashion Week. Credit: Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images

On TikTok, meanwhile, the hashtag #boysinskirts has been viewed over 240 million times, with male users sharing their outfit and style advice.

On his Instagram account @theguyinaskirt, style blogger Shivam Bhardwaj shares hilarious videos and photos of himself wearing skirts — of all colors and styles — with his over 22,000 followers. He said that while much of the media attention surrounding the trend has focused on straight male stars, members of the LGBTQ community have been wearing skirts for a long time — and have been ostracized as a result. In 2020, US talk show host Wendy Williams apologized after urging gay men on her show to “stop wearing our skirts and our heels”, while this year, a gay man wearing a skirt was attacked in the UK after attending a singer’s concert. Yungblud — An artist known for his gender-fluid style.

“People don’t celebrate men wearing skirts as much as they celebrate heterosexual producers or celebrities,” Bharadwaj said in an email. “I’m a little sad that people don’t acknowledge that men in the (LGBTQ) community have been wearing skirts for decades and that we’ve played a big role in breaking that stereotype.”

A guest at Dries Van Noten's Spring-Summer 2023 show wears a beige pleated skirt.

A guest at Dries Van Noten’s Spring-Summer 2023 show wears a beige pleated skirt. Credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

The fashion world is also helping to normalize men’s skirts in recent years, with designers like Dries Van Noten and Raf Simons sending men wearing men’s skirts down their runways. A pleated gray kilt by Thom Browne (the aforementioned design worn by Oscar Isaac, Dan Levy and “The Hobbit” star Lee Pace) has become a celebrity favorite, with the American designer reinventing traditional menswear. Its unexpected silhouette.

“A skirt or a piece of clothing doesn’t define your gender,” Bhardwaj said. “Clothes are made to express your feelings to the world.”

Accept slowly

Friend, who is married to a woman, also hopes to dispel the notion that skirts are tied to a certain gender identity or sexual orientation, “a lot of people make the wrong assumption about that.” Skirt Cafe users create a “community unwilling to sacrifice or sacrifice our masculinity” just to wear skirts, he added.

Online forum members tend toward more basic skirts, the friend explained, with denim and shorter styles being the most popular. Users also share styling advice and their favorite new finds, while the site also hosts a list of men-friendly skirt brands. Recent recommendations include custom fleece-lined winter skirts from Virginia label The Mouse Works and builder’s kilts from Scottish workwear label Blackladder: a black, heavy-duty cotton design with all manner of pockets for hammers, screwdrivers and other tools.
Lil Nas X wearing a metallic pink skirt during the concert.

Lil Nas X wearing a metallic pink skirt during the concert. Credit: Jason Koerner/Getty Images

However, gender stigma makes wearing a skirt in public a daunting prospect for many men and those who live in the minority. Friend’s fascination with clothing began in the mid-1980s, when he saw a man wearing a long white skirt on a train. For a long time, his job in a “high-visibility customer-facing role” made him hesitant to include skirts in his everyday wardrobe. He finally took the plunge in 2002, when he made his own miniskirt from some of his wife’s scrap fabric.

“The first time I ventured out, I was hooked on the idea because it was the first time in decades that I felt a breeze at my feet,” he recalls. “I commented (to my wife), ‘I’ve been cheated on for so many years.’ She not only accepted it, but embraced it, because suddenly I started caring about how I looked.”

Bhardwaj said that wearing skirts has become more socially accepted, adding that the response to his account has been “overwhelming” and has resulted in “a lot of love from around the world”. The fashion blogger, who now owns more than 100 skirts, describes herself as a “lower-middle-class” Indian family whose style choices are often questioned. His interest in skirts was sparked when he bought one for a female friend and decided to try it on before posting a video of her wearing it on social media.

Billy Porter at the Oscars in 2020, wearing a ballgown skirt.

Billy Porter at the Oscars in 2020, wearing a ballgown skirt. Credit: Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

“That skirt literally changed my life and helped me express myself in the best possible way,” he said. And when Bhardwaj said Indian society has “a long way to go” when it comes to accepting men in Western-style skirts, he was applauded on the street in Uttar Pradesh, where he lives. He is happy to wear his outfits not only on social media but also in everyday life.

“I literally thought no one would ever accept me in my skirt, but people have proved me wrong and have accepted (me) with open arms,” ​​he said.

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