Written by Noah Johnson (@noahvjohnson)
Kilts have been around since the 16th century, but I'll spare you the history lesson and skip straight to the part where we started seeing normal dudes on the street wearing actual skirts. It's a thing now, so put your incredulity on ice for the next few minutes, and let's have a mature conversation about a ridiculous trend.
What led dudes to take style inspiration from Mel Gibson in Braveheart (sans warpaint, unfortunately)? Blame it on Marc Jacobs, who spent the better part of the last five years in plaid kilts and Prada pencil skirts. Not exactly an icon, but MJ's fashion-forward look is starting to look like the beginning of a trend, even though at the time it looked like anything but.
Fashion loves to fuck with gender roles. It's easy to view the popularity of the man skirt as a feminization of menswear—and by association a feminzation of hip-hop, but we'll get to that—but first just take it for what it is. In most cases the skirt serves as a mid-layer that breaks up the traditional (read: boring) silhouette of pants + jacket. Recalibrate how you see the layer and it seems a little less silly to see a man wearing a skirt in public.
What led dudes to take style inspiration from Mel Gibson in Braveheart (sans warpaint, unfortunately)?
Now for the sartorial elephant in the dressing room: Kanye West and the monumental impact he has on men's style at the moment. For the sake of historical accuracy, let's remember that he's definitely not the first male celeb to rock a kilt (there was even a kilt sighting at last night's Oscars), he's not the first rapper to rock a kilt, and he's not even the first dude to rock a leather kilt. But those pre-Kanye instances of the man skirt were costume, shock value, random one-off style risks, not a decided commitment to a particular look.
Mr. West has combined streetwear with runway-ready high-fashion to create what is essentially a new silhouette, one that has transcended his beautiful dark twisted fantasy and reached the zeitgeist of both #menswear and hip-hop style. Yeezy—along with Riccardo Tisci, the Givenchy designer who made most of his kilts, and friends like Don C—is breaking trail for young fashion killers like A$AP Rocky to experiment with style without sacrificing hip-hop credibility.
So rappers are wearing skirts. Great—MC Hammer wore a jester costume and Flavor Flav wore a giant clock. Entertainers have been dressing wild and setting trends for decades, right? Except now, outlandish gear is no longer just for the stage. It's for the streets, too.
Despite what venerable fashion critics like Chris Brown, Cam'Ron and the editors of Media Takeout think, real dudes have caught on to the drape. Next-wave streetwear brands like En Noir, Skingraft, and Fear of God are adopting the silhouette. No "pause" necessary. The runways and Streetstyle shots from New York Fashion week saw numerous iterations of the idea, from shawls wrapped around the waist like towels and shirts tied a la Bill and Ted, to extra long shirts and women's skirts layered over trousers.
So, what to make of it? If you ask me, we should be happy to see menswear make a move away from buttoned-up and tailored strictures that have dominated since streetwear fizzled out in the late aughts. Be excited to see rappers experiment with style in ways that don't involved bigger chains and brighter sneakers. I'm over hearing about "swag" when everyone looks the same. Trends come and go, this one will, but homogeny is the enemy of creativity, so we shouldn't stifle new and different ideas while they're here.