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Why men wear pants and women wear skirts ǀ Fashion history ǀ Justine Leconte

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Why do men wear pants and women wear skirts or dresses? It might sound like a trivial question in Western countries, but actually this matter of fashion history and of fashion culture is rooted way back in time.
Egyptians, Incas, Chinese emperors, Greek citizens and Roman conquerors were wearing skirts or dresses. So when did the switch happen? Since when are men expected to wear trousers while until recently, women were supposed to stick to skirts?
The answer might surprise you!

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    1. Neartmhor

      It’s very much the same for historical clothing. Many people ask “aren’t you hot in those long sleeves and long skirts? With all those layers?”

      And the answer is no. As long as you wear a lightweight fabric that is a natural fibre, such as linen or cotton, and you have it in a lighter colour, it protects you from the sun and keeps you much cooler than in a short sleeved modern outfit (especially one made out of plastic fibre!)

      And as for the skirts- long swishy skirts are definitely cooler! Especially if you’re wearing a crinoline, you’ve then got a lot of room around your legs for airflow. If your legs start to get a bit warm, you just swish your skirts from side to side, and you create a breeze around your legs!

      And of course, covering up from the sun also prevents sun damage to your skin, and most importantly, skin cancer! I’m currently trying to make myself a good summer wardrobe with long sleeves and longer skirts in lovely natural fibre fabrics to try to protect my skin more from the sun. It’s very important, as I live in the country with the highest UV rating in the world, and also unfortunately, the highest skin cancer rates in the world (Australia). But I’ll have to make it all myself, I think. Because shops just don’t sell that type of clothing anymore- it’s all short sleeves and shorter skirts, and usually made out of plastic. No thank you!

  1. Keeva McQuarry

    Fun fact for people in the comments/wandering around youtube who’ve never been up close and personal with a real kilt: they’re bloody heavy. Several kilos sometimes. The fabric is incredibly dense, and there’s a LOT of it. They’re extremely easy to move in because the pleats are numerous and deep, and they’re great at a ceilidh because they flare out really dramatically 🙂

    1. Liz Adams

      True, because they originally doubled as warm bedding for Highlanders at war with each other and the English. My late husband was a Scot who wore the kilt as a little schoolboy. He said that scotsmen learned to swing their butts proudly to make the kilt swing properly as they walked! No trotting about for them.

    2. Narrelle Weir

      My son wore his kilt to his wedding in northern Australia. I do not advice others to follow, because he was far too hot. My husband used to wear a skirt similar to the men on Polynesian Islands in Summer. He was cool & comfortable. An example of two skirts that were perfect for the climates they came from, kilt in cold climates & the cotton type for hot climates.

  2. Federica Viero

    That makes me think of Jean-Paul Gauthier and his male skirt – I love this mindset – nothing is unquestionable – and I think it’s something you live up to as well, in a very thought-intensive yet graceful way 🙂

  3. Liza Soliman

    since you’re busy, i have a silly idea for a quick video; pronounce french words that are used in english (croissant, bourgeois, route, bureau, etc) in your french way & then try to impersonate americans/english or other english-speaking countries. it could be fun!

    1. Liz Adams

      This was a game the family I worked in as an au pair liked to tease me with, since my French was fluent: say an English sentence with a French accent! They would scream laughing then try to say a French sentence with an English accent! They were a nice family.

    2. Masha

      Jessica Beyer but the duvet isn’t the case. The duvet is the fluffy “blanket”. What you put around it is a duvet cover 🙂
      In the very west part of Germany, we say “plumeau” for that, also french origin. 🙂

  4. Beth M

    Just reading through the comments. Your videos are thought provoking, interesting and sophisticated. They inspire intelligent and civilized discussion that is not often found on Youtube!
    Thanks. And I agree with another viewer…please write a book on fashion history. I’m sure you’d find a unique perspective.

  5. Camille Chaux

    Why don’t men wear more skirts?

    ” Girls can wear jeans
    And cut their hair short
    Wear shirts and boots
    ‘Cause it’s OK to be a boy
    But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
    ‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading” – Madonna – What it feels like for a girl

    Let’s not forget that women adopted pants later on as a way to emancipate themselves. Clothes are extremely symbolic.

    1. Miss Megan

      There is a LOT of man-hating and false victimization in this comment section, and, as a woman, I find it ridiculous and offensive. Historically, men have NOT had easier lives than women (intense manual labor, war, etc.), and many of the sacrifices they made were for the women and families they loved – it had nothing to do with misogyny.

      Historically, men and women assumed different roles based on their skills and the needs of the time.

      Stop assuming victimhood, ladies – it is unattractive and demeaning. I, for one, am very grateful for the differences between the sexes and for men’s great contributions. God bless testosterone!!

    2. Christopher Youngbeck

      @Sarah Hávilla Melo Oliveira I wear altered v-necks and a black faux leather wrap skirt with opaque tights every day during the fall and winter. I also wear heel boots made for men from asos and I look awesome.

  6. Tihana Harrison

    Loooooove the video Justine!! I was just asking this question only this morning during a brunch conversation. Some girls in schools have started to wear shorts under their skirts so the boys could not take photo with mobile phone cams underneath.
    I always prefer trousers as I find them much more practical, but each to their own. I do have dresses ans skirts in my wardrobe.
    The men in the video pics do look great in their skirts and sarongs, and robes…
    Thank you for your wonderful and educational video. Happy Easter from Ely in England xx

  7. tepidloi

    I had a boyfriend who would wear dresses and long skirts as part of his style which was gothic/death rock and it looked great on him. Actually it’s not uncommon to find skirts for men in a gothic clothes store

    1. notrumpnokkknofascistusa

      Victoria Gonzalez

      The greater stylistic freedom afforded by the gothic aesthetic might be a reason I was attracted to the subculture in the first place. I live in an area where wearing makeup and women’s clothing would be extremely socially taboo, at best, and a potential risk to your safety, at worst, in any context OTHER than in a gothic style.

  8. shatha khaled

    In the Arabian Peninsula, men wear long white gowns which is mainly known as “Thobe” . The way that its worn and styled varies depending on the country. For example: the Saudi Thobe tends to be more loose on the body but the Qatari one is more tailored similar to how Italian suits are tailored.


    Wow, liked this video very much! I would also love if more and more men wear skirts. In the southern part of India, men wear traditional skirts, mostly in white colour which goes well with the warm and humid weather.

  10. Sheila Oldstyle

    Fascinating. The quotes from the bible were really interesting, makes you wonder how many other bits have suffered a total change in meaning down the centuries…..most I’d guess. Happy Easter Sunday!

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