03 June 2011
We were attending an American contra dance week, with the American caller Cis Hinkle. We had workshops in the mornings, the afternoons to ourselves and dancing in the evening.
I've always danced in kilts and once tried dancing in a sarong - not a success as it kept wrapping around my legs and restricting movement. I later realised that it was quite a heavy sarong (its a gorgeous deep purple and I wore it more for the colour than practicality in dancing).
Anyway, I thought I'd use one of the morning workshops to try a sarong again - that's what workshops are for! This time I wore a lightweight sarong. It was soooo comfortable!
We started dancing and I found I could do all the moves required without hinderance. An absolute joy. Of course, I wore the sarong for every dance session after that!
We topped off a great week at Halsway by going to the Chippenham Folk Festival and in one day spent a total of seven hours contra dancing. This time I wore a corduroy Union kilt; the weather was rather windy and not too warm. I wish now that I'd changed into a sarong for the evening dance session - we all got really hot. The other men must have been so hot and sweaty in their trousers. I was hot enough in a lightweight kilt! Also, the wind had dropped when we came out of the hall and I could have walked back to the car in the sarong with no problems. And the drive home would have been even more comfortable than in the kilt!
06 June 2010
I took my wife to the Chippenham Folk Festival (29 – 31 May 2010). We did lots of dancing – Irish set, contras (of course!) and my favourite - which I don't get much opportunity to do – Kentucky Running Sets. I wore a black corduroy Union kilt the whole time. A number of skirted incidents occurred.
We went into a pub to listen to the folk music. There were two guys at the bar, both wearing tee shirts, knee-length skirts and socks – all yellow. We asked someone why they were wearing all yellow, plus skirts. The answer was “Don't ask”, so I assume it was some sort of bet. Anyway, although they were highly visible, no-one really took much notice. Everyone got on with drinking and listening to the music. No cat calls, ribald remarks or anything of that nature.
Walking back to the hotel, we passed a pub with a number of young men dressed like women. Well, they were wearing jeans :o) One said “He's wearing a skirt!” My wife pointed out that it was a kilt. I just asked if it really mattered (that I was wearing a skirt) and walked on.
We went into the bar of the hotel we were staying at. A woman said “He's wearing a skirt!” I looked, and replied “You're wearing a skirt as well!” Some joker said “Och aye Jock” and I took great delight in telling him that I wasn't Scottish and came from Bristol. The guy stood next to me was a Scot – wearing jeans of course. It was amicable and good-natured.
Next day, we were in a Running Set workshop. One of the women I was dancing with asked about my 'corduroy skirt', and we agreed that dancing in a skirt was much more fun than trousers – not to mention cooler.
We met up again in a contra dance. Her (female) companion sat and chatted to me. She pointed out that all, with one or two exceptions, of the women at the dance were in skirts. She said that women choose to dance in skirts because they were cooler, and it was a shame that men didn't as well.
13 June 2009
Hmm, it's been a while since I posted here, so here's a tale about what I consider to be discrimination.
I've just returned from a holiday on the Greek island of Corfu, where I encountered what I consider to be positive discrimination against men, although most men wouldn't see it that way.
The hotel in question is the Elea Beach Hotel in Dassia, Corfu. At the entrance to the restaurant they have an oversize notice “requesting” men to wear long trousers. This notice consists of a drawing of a family in beachwear with the word “NO” across it, and a drawing of the wife and daughter in skirts (no male child), the man in long trousers, and the word “YES” across it . In addition, there are A4-sized printed posters in English and German saying “Gentlemen are requested to wear long trousers in the restaurant”. Other hotels I've been in have had a small, discrete notice on the restaurant door requesting men to wear trousers.
Naturally, the women wore what they liked – long skirts, short skirts, cropped trousers, long trousers, shorts and all variations in between. No dress rules for them, which in my mind makes the trousers rule discriminatory (but how many women would have taken any notice if they had been told to wear skirts?)
I wore a sarong on the first evening, applying the principle that the long trouser rule is to prevent men showing their (in some people's eyes) horrible hairy legs. The Maitre d' came over and and indicated his trousers, saying something about 'pantaloons' (Greek for pants?). He may have been having a joke with me, but the message I received was “Wear trousers”. This soured the holiday. In the great scheme of things it's a trivial matter so, to avoid further argument, for subsequent evening meals I changed into trousers just before the meal, and out of them directly after the meal. I also wore the brightest pink tee shirt I could find, just to try and make people think, rather than apply received wisdom.
Breakfasts and mid-day meals were OK and I wore a sarong with no trouble. It's possible that I was the first man they've ever seen that has had the audacity to wear (shock, horror) a skirt! At least they saw me in trousers and skirts - bet that confused them!
What puzzled me was that some men wore cropped trousers i.e. ending just below the knee or mid-calf. They were accepted, but I wouldn't call them long trousers. In other hotels I've seen men wearing these things and being told to change, while I've been accepted in a sarong. Yet another double standard.
I hate discrimination in all its forms; it seems people haven't yet realised that there can be discrimination in clothing.
On the back customer satisfaction questionnaire I commented that as there was no similar clothing rule for the women, they were discriminating against men and, if the objective was to get men to cover their legs, why did they allow cropped trousers and not a tidy sarong. My comment will probably have no effect, but hopefully it will at least make them think.
Other than that the holiday was great. I wore a sarong on the flight out and most of the time while there. The sun was hot and a sarong is just nice to protect the legs against burning, and avoids the sweatiness associated with trousers.
16 April 2007
It's only April and we are already seeing temperatures associated with summer weather. Let's assume that we are going to have another hot summer like 2006. The women are already digging out their summer dresses; jeans are starting (ever so slowly) to be exchanged for skirts. Why? because most women adopt cooler clothing in the hot weather. And men? I fully expect men to carry on wearing the same stuff they have worn all winter - including nice thick socks. And I expect there will be the usual moans and groans about how hot and uncomfortable they feel. Well, how about DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT this year? Be brave and abandon the tie, be radical and abandon the trousers - wear a sarong or a lightweight kilt (see http://www.kilts.org/).
At work, the corporate dull suits that expect you to be innovative and creative will probably blanch if you get slightly innovative and creative with what you wear (I was teased for wearing coloured socks, would you believe it?). So keep the unpleasant things together i.e. work and trouser wearing, and break free during your own time. If you can't bring yourself to wearing what you might consider to be (shock, horror) a skirt, then seek comfort in shorts, but please, please not those dreadful, ugly, baggy, mid-calf things (called clam-diggers?); if you are considering wearing something that stops a few inches above your ankles, you might as well go the whole hog and wear trousers.
Opinion may be divided on global warming, but it's a darn good excuse to break out of the male fashion straightjacket and wear something comfortable!
30 April 2006
I'm going on holiday soon and went shopping for Tee shirts. Forget Gents' Outfitters, they're desperately dull places and I will not go in them. I went into a chain clothes shop. The men's section was tucked away at the back and occupied a very small area of the total store; this appears to be normal practice. The rest of the floor area was dedicated to women's clothing (and women were still complaining there was no choice!). The men's area had one small rack with a dozen or so Tee shirts on, none of which I liked. I prefer plain clothing and don't care for slogans of designer names - if they want me to advertise their product, they can pay me. And all the colours were sooooooo dull. Anyway, the men's section failed me.
Let's try the women's section. I found a rack of Tee shirts that seemed to stretch to infinity. There were hundreds of them, in all the colours under the sun. Wow! This is more like it. I picked out a few colourful ones in my size. They were cheaper than men's and thinner, but who wants a thick Tee shirt on a hot sunny day? The buttons on the collar do up the 'wrong' way. Women may notice, but I doubt if more than a handful of men will and, if they do, who cares?
The point I'm trying to make is that men's clothing is really, really boring, and seems to be getting worse. I know I'm not the only man to go to the women's section to find what I want, and I have no qualms or embarrasement in doing so. It just makes sense, and perhaps one day the clothes shops will do away with the gender distinction and just have clothes for anyone to buy, regardless of sex.
24 April 2006
On the cruise where I sunburnt my legs, we met another couple of about our age. We would have our evening meal together and then sit and chat in the bar. On the last morning we did all the usual taking of photos to remember us all by. The other wife told us two husbands to “Go and do something 'manly' while I take your picture”. Go and do something manly? My mind went blank. What is a manly thing to do? Is crocodile wrestling a manly occupation? Or perhaps driving a huge vehicle ... none of these were feasible on board a cruise ship. Us two husbands just wandered about aimlessly, looking at the ship's satellite dishes.
So the question of what constitutes 'manliness' was born. After a lot of thought I came to the conclusion that, as I have fathered two children, I must be a man. As for what a 'manly' occupation is, you tell me, now that we have women driving buses, lorries and aircraft, and doing lots of other jobs that were once considered men's work. (Strangely, you don't see many women digging holes in the road.)
What I was fighting was the deeply implanted notion that to wear a skirt is wrong because skirts are worn by women. I gather from others that, as women are perceived as 'the weaker sex' (more nonsense) that for a man to associate himself in any way with female things is a challenge to his masculinity (even more nonsense).
An example. At a barn dance, the dance called for the men to hold hands. When the dance had finished, a female friend remarked that she'd never seen such panic on the men's faces as when they were told to hold hands. Which demostrated just how fragile the façade of men's masculinity can be. Incidentally, she said that women don't have a problem with holding hands – they just get on with it.
I sorted myself out and concluded that skirt wearing does not make me less 'manly'. If anything, it's a manly thing to do, because it demonstrates that you are not afraid to be different. Most men want to blend into the background and become anonymous.
Oh dear, I do seem to be bashing my own sex. To even things up, I don't think women are quite as wonderful as some make themselves out to be. In fact, we are all human and subject to human failings; the silly arguments about which is the better gender are just that – silly. Let's recognise that men and women are different. There's not much we can do about it anyway, so let's just live with it.
And finally a quote from somewhere on the internet: “It's true that only real men, men who are comfortable enough with their sexuality and masculinity, wear skirts.” Now that is true, I guarantee it!
14 April 2006
So, how did I get into skirt wearing? As a small boy I wondered why women wore skirts and men wore trousers. I asked my parents why – I'm still waiting for an answer, decades later. Other than that, I wore trousers without question, as the childhood conditioning dictated (you know the one - boys must wear trousers, but their sisters can wear what they like).
When I married, I was suddenly surrounded by female clothing. One day, feeling guilty and furtive (another hangover of the childhood conditioning and, I suspect, something women don't suffer from) I tried on one of my wife's skirts. When the erotic effect of 'forbidden fruits' had worn off, I marvelled at how comfortable a skirt is, and the old question of 'why don't men wear skirts?' re-emerged. I made myself a skirt and wore it around the house when I was alone.
A few years later, I was on a cruise with my wife in the Mediteranean. I wore shorts and, while sitting for too long in the sun, got my legs badly sunburned. On the last day of the cruise, I bought a sarong, thinking I'd give it to my daughter. In the privacy of the cabin I tried it on – oh bliss! I'm afraid my daughter received another present from her dad; I still have that sarong.
The following year we went to the Greek island of Santorini. This time I was determined not to get my legs too sunburnt. Shorts were out, so were trousers (too hot). I'd been wearing a sarong at home since the previous year, and decided to wear one in Santorini. (I'd also resolved the personal issue of manliness, which will be the subject of another posting.) It was so comfortable, cool and kept the sun off my legs. And what's more, I found that a thin sarong lets enough sunlight through to give your legs an even tan, all the way up to your underwear – you don't get that with shorts!
Since then I haven't looked back. I now wear modern kilts or sarongs as a matter of course when out and about (kilts all year, sarongs in the summer). Most people don't notice or don't care; some complement me and we have an enjoyable conversation; a very, very few make negative comments, but always shouted from a distance or from a passing vehicle – they haven't the guts to face me.
Some men wear “women's” skirts openly in public (but only because there is a world shortage of “men's” skirts). So far, I don't have the confidence to do this; the female connotations of the skirt still interract with the childhood conditioning I spoke of earlier. As time goes by, hopefully this will disappear and I'll make it out in a decent skirt. If the past is anything to go by, it will be desperation that will drive me. That is, I will not be able to face another hot day in trousers and will simply wear what I am comfortable in, and to hell with the consequences.