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Why most SA men won't wear a skirt

By Zenoyise Madikwa | 2011-10-26 07:08:28.0

MEN wearing skirts might be ancient news in some fashion circles, but it is certainly unusual in South Africa.

At David Tlale's Africa Fashion Week, men's skirts created a big debate about gender-appropriateness. So much so that social networking pages and fashion blogs are buzzing. Many have dismissed male skirts as too feminine, but some have warmed up to them.

Tlale did not design skirts specifically for transvestites, homosexuals or cross-dressers. He is hoping the trend will appeal to South African men who don't mind pushing the fashion envelope.

Opponents find this absurd and offensive and can't find anything sexy about a muscled man wearing a skirt. But there are some who think it is about time South African men wore skirts.

Some say male skirts might even help reduce the risk of prostate and testicular cancer, and reduce infertility in men .

Doctor Zintle Mbuqe, a medical doctor based in East London, confirms that tight trousers can cause testicular and prostate cancer.

"Skirted garments provide much more comfort for the male body than any kind of pants do," she says.

But is the average guy ready to drop his pants for skirts? Will this trend make it to the street fashion?

Paledi Segapo, founder of PALSE Homme, a business and image consulting company, thinks not.

"I would never wear a skirt. It does not look or feel right. You need to be courageous and psychologically willing to wear skirts. Even with metrosexual trends, I can't see men in skirts in the near future. Part of that is the practical nature of pants and another part is men's sexual insecurity to wear something that is traditionally worn by women," he muses cynically.

This sentiment is echoed by Lucilla Booyzen, founder of SA Fashion Week. She says it is not the first time the trend has hit runways. It made a brief comeback in 2009, when designers Marc Jacobs, Jean-Paul Gaultier, John Galliano and Kenzo tried, but were unsuccessful in popularising skirts for men.

"If a garment cannot be made financially viable, why make it part of your collection?" Booyzen asks.

Ephraim Molingoana, who owns the men's clothing label Ephymolagrees. He says South African men are too conservative to wear skirts.

"I personally wouldn't wear a skirt. I don't think this trend will catch on. Not even gay men will wear skirts. The social climate does not allow for this trend," he says.

But adventurous, rebellious men are ready for men's skirts.

Gay socialite Koyo Bala says the local gay crowd is ready.

"Most gay people I know who are comfortable with their sexuality will wear David Tlale's skirts with pride," Bala says.

If the trend has been around but has failed to attract fans, why has it not attracted any attention?

Bala says the main reason has been the fear of being identified as gay. He says the trend is not about feminine skirts for men, but rather masculine skirt designs that are made for the male body shape.

"Most men's skirts don't look feminine at all. Macho men can look manly in skirts. The secret is in how you carry yourself," he says.