Real Men Are Wearing Skirts, Although They're Still A Rare Sight

In another life, Jackie Warren thinks he must have been a gladiator, or maybe a Trojan warrior or a Roman warrior. It would, he said, explain his fondness for old Hercules flicks and Bible epics.

And it would also explain why the 32-year-old Leschi resident, who's built like he could have taken on a lion or two in the Roman coliseum, likes to wear skirts.

"Whenever I wear a skirt, I feel like one of those gladiators," Warren said. "I'm sure that I was there, and that I've been reincarnated and I'm now wearing what I used to wear."

Warren began buying skirts two years ago, and now regularly wears them everywhere including to work at Rudy's, a trendy barbershop on Capitol Hill.

He continues to be well ahead of this fashion curve in Seattle, where, for the most part, men in skirts remain a sight as rare on the streets as, well, Trojan warriors.

That doesn't mean, however, that local men aren't buying skirts. Varen Swaab, co-owner of the Metroman in the Broadway Mall, said since he started selling skirts in June, he has sold about 400. Every week, the store sells 5 to 10 skirts, priced from $42 to $52.

Skirts also are available at a few other small shops in the city, including some that specialize in fetish wear. Swaab's store sells skirts specifically designed for men, but he added, some stores sell women's skirts to men.

French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier has shown skirts on men since 1990. . .Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana used gorgeous linen sarongs as the basis for their men's collection recently, and Donna Karan has been showing sarongs in her men's shows since her very first collection in the fall of 1992.

Locally, the most popular are pleated miniskirts that reach to mid-thigh. The pleated styles are outselling sarongs 10-1, Swaab said.

"It surprises me that we sell that many, because you never see anyone wearing them," Swaab said. "People who buy them are wearing them, but they're not wearing them in public, they're wearing them in clubs and on vacation."

Most buyers tend to be under 30 and, according to Swaab, straight men are as likely to buy them as gay men.

Kevin Moreland, a 40-year-old Capitol Hill chiropractor, owns four skirts.

"The skirts are beautiful, and you get a lot of attention when you wear them to the clubs," he said.

"They're new and different and not everyone is doing it yet. They're a wild thing to do for men because of that whole masculine thing. It's an edgy thing to do. But the skirts aren't feminine, they're very avant garde."

Moreland said he usually wears his skirts with industrial strength boots, "a carry-over from the grunge look."

Warren, who has a military camouflage skirt, and others made of metal and metallic vinyl, said he also likes wearing skirts with something more masculine, usually boots or a hat.

"When you wear a skirt you have to do something to make yourself not look like a woman," Warren said. "I'm not a drag queen."

It also doesn't hurt to be buff.

"I'm in really good shape," Moreland said. "I wouldn't wear one if I wasn't. You better be sure you're working out in a gym if you wear one out."

But men are also discovering the disadvantages of wearing skirts.

Moreland, for example, said he's had people lift his skirt at clubs. What he finds even more galling is the way some people respond when he tells them about that.

"I've had some women tell me, `What do you expect when you wear a skirt like that. You're asking for it.' I thought that was really interesting," he said.

And recently, after eating breakfast and walking to work, Warren discovered as he passed a mirror at the salon that his skirt had gotten stuck to his bag, and was hiked up at the back, revealing his backside.

"I guess there are still some things that men need to learn about wearing skirts," Warren said. "I thought it was just a cool day."

This story contains material from Knight-Ridder Newspapers