The author in Comme des Garçons Black Pleated Dobby Skirt; Maison Margiela Collarless Blazer; Custom Bootleg Spago T-shirt; Solovair 3-Eye Gibson Shoes; Oups Tie Dye Socks
(Denita Turner/For The Times).
This story is part Image Issue 5. “Reverence,”An exploration of L.A.’s beauty. The complete package is available here.
My legs were the first thing I noticed. My legs have been hairy for most of my adult life. Not “midcentury suburban carpet”Hairy, but definitely on the heavier end of the spectrum. My thighs are thick, but below the knee, my calves, shins and ankles are whatever shape you’d describe as “pleasing to the eye.”I hate showing them off. I’m a Californian who has lived my whole life. I know the importance of wearing shorts in summer. However, it is often because I have to.
It was my first time trying on a dress. The dressing room at Dover Street Market, Arts District, was an entirely new experience. I could feel the air moving! My huge thighs! My initial thought was, “What if I step over a subway grate like Marilyn Monroe in that movie you probably haven’t seen?”Then I remembered that I lived in L.A. and could easily avoid subway grates the rest of my adult life if necessary.
I eventually purchased a pleasantly slimming, black Comme des Garçons after what felt like hours of combing through rack after rack of avant-garde, expensive, gender-fluid clothing. Buying a type of clothing you’ve never worn before can be an intensely mystifying experience, one where a lack of reference points can make shopping feel similar to cooking a three-course meal in the dark. You’re tied to your chest.
(Denita Turn/For The Times).
I’ve resolved to make the skirt a strictly formal part of my wardrobe, only coming out for evening socializing when the occasion requires a bit of peacocking. If, for some reason, I’m invited to an art gallery opening to offer such scintillating commentary as “Oh, I like that color”Or “The brushwork here is … present,”A skirt will do. Perhaps not a trip down to Ralphs. I’m still trying to find my comfort zone with this new piece of clothing; but the men around L.A. embracing the skirt trend are doing so with even more aplomb.
Long-term dive into fashion journalism in 2021 and chances are good you’ll stumble upon a breathless report declaring that this is finally the moment when cisgender men embrace skirts. Many of these reports have been published on GQ.com within the past few months. In a style landscape devoid of monocultural trends, the cis man’s skirt is both a last best hope for sartorial conformity and a dividing line between tribes.
Even though men have been wearing skirts for centuries, it’s only been in the last few that we decided they’re not allowed to. And those draconian social rules “rules”These are reasons the skirt has become a favored shibboleth in divided times. A cis, hetero man such as Harry Styles or Russell Westbrook, wearing a Thom Browne or Vivienne Westwood skirt is a sign that you are an adventurous, liberated observer. If you’re Fox News bloviator Laura Ingraham, the men’s skirt is a perfect opportunity to prove how into “traditional gender roles”You are. The men’s skirt can be robbed of context and history. If you really want to, it can be reduced to a talking-point, a trend, or a political statement. There will be many people who continue to do it as long as they get attention. Los Angeles is the exception. fashion has no rules, the men’s skirt is more than just a talking point. It’s a chance for us to finally grapple with the most crucial question to millions of Angelenos: What does it mean to be beautiful?
Beauty is a word that culture tends to associate femininity with. Never once have I thought of calling my father. “beautiful.”I have enough male acquaintances and friends who are actors to make it a habit of calling some of them my own. “beautiful,” but I don’t. It seems an intimate word to be using for any gender identity, but it is especially appropriate for the straight, cis male. To be beautiful means to be visible to the outside world, such as my wolfman legs when I wear skirts. Beauty means you’re noticeable and perpetually noticed. People will take pictures of you. Strangers will be drawn to you. Like in Harry Potter movies, doors will open for you like a magician. Beauty requires care and maintenance. It’s something to preserve, to cherish and to bitterly cling to. In short, it is the clichéd blessing and curse.
This could explain why straight cis men still hesitate to wear skirts and why legacy mall brands such as J. Crew aren’t pumping these things out for mass consumption. A skirt can make a man straight look good. It can be both glamorous and powerful at the same time. It can expose you literally and metaphorically.
This feeling of exposure was something completely new to me and took some getting used to. It wasn’t imaginary subway-grate flashing scenarios that really gave me pause. It was the question of how people will think. Even in Los Angeles, which is supposedly open-minded, hate crimes based on gender and sexuality are commonplace. Every day, the media broadcasts and discusses the reality of prejudice, homophobia, and other malignant aspects in human society. One recent example of this is the Wi Spa protests in Koreatown. A skirt is not the same as wearing drop-crotch trousers or nail polish. It’s more exposure than most cis straight men are used to.
Whatever risk you might perceive — social anxiety, accidentally sitting your bare ass on a chair — are outweighed by the feeling of power that comes from wearing a skirt. My girlfriend laughed and said that I look more sexy and tougher than I actually was. She even suggested that I looked better. “beautiful.”Maybe it was the thrill to see me in a different light, with the pleats that make it look like a Kilt, or the absence of fabric separating us. I can’t say for certain, but there’s really nothing else in my closet that makes people notice me as consistently. Sometimes my anxiety can give way to confidence and pride. Paradoxally, vulnerability makes me feel more powerful.
(Denita Turner/For The Times).
The thing that keeps straight cis men who aren’t incredibly famous from wearing skirts is fear. But practicing fear is antithetical to seeing beauty; exposure moves us closer to feeling beauty’s texture on our skin. By giving in to beauty in my own life, I’m banishing fear from my brain.
Although beauty is not something I was raised to be, it is something that makes life worthwhile. It’s baked into the vibe of Los Angeles: beauty creeping out of the mass of strip malls and popcorn ceilings. Beauty is the thing we crave and what gives value to a place most of us can’t even afford to live in.
Dave Schilling, a humorist and writer, is an admirer of humor and writing. fashionHis work has appeared in the New Yorker Magazine, Guardian, New York Magazine, and GQ. He is also the host of the “Galaxy Brains” podcast.