Why can’t I wear my dress to town?
Because I’m a man, and our cultural conditioning demands that I wear what you and your friends want me to wear.
In many African countries most men would covet my dress.
It’s a caftan, and expensive — a Christmas present from my wife — coloured with a rare, blue dye in impressive patterns.
However, if I wore my caftan while strolling through the city, I’d get more than a few double takes, and sniggers.
Perhaps only the Scots can get away with waltzing about town wearing a tartan. Why?
We’re familiar enough with Scots culture to recognize the bagpipes slung over their shoulders, or to wonder where the parade is.
That said, we don’t see any men in kilts browsing the lumberyard.
So what’s our problem?
I asked myself this after stumbling across an article on a professor who published an interesting and loopy theory about why men like to dress in women’s clothes.
Since his theory didn’t fit the current views promoted by the gay, lesbian, transvestite, transgendered, etc., community, he’s been threatened with personal mayhem and demands for his firing.
He might be a sloppy thinker, but he is a tenured professor, and a university must protect the right to question received opinion. The vitriol tossed in his direction made me realize that fanatical minds exist in every community.
His case reminded me of a philosophy professor I know in Toronto — married with two children — who, in his middle years decided that sometimes he wanted to dress in women’s clothing. This was regarded as so unusual the CBC filmed a special on him teaching while cross-dressed.
The first transsexual I met was during my early 20s at SFU. She was halfway through the multiple surgeries of the era and taking hormones. She was built like a Greek warrior — with breasts.
She used to wear tight sleeveless blouses and her muscles really stood out when she bent over the pool table.
The university president heard about her, went ballistic, and ordered her banned from the women’s washrooms, which she considered a reward since she liked to look at the men.
She was a witty eye-opener in those days of paranoid sexuality.
I was born with a rare genetic condition that meant I didn’t go through puberty at the normal age. At 20 I was finally diagnosed and began the hormone treatment that allowed me to ‘catch up’ with the rest of the boys.
It took a few more years, which meant I endured almost a decade where I was recognizably different.
It was a nightmare in the school showers and on the playing fields. I was tormented and teased and laughed at.
Oddly, rather than becoming ashamed and shy about my body, I became defiant and unashamed. Especially after I stumbled upon my first nude beach and saw the exotic assortment of bodies there — fat, skinny, old, young — all human beings confident enough about themselves not to hide their scars and their flab and their perfect and imperfect breasts.
And, of course, diving naked off a dock is one of life’s great treats, sadly denied to so many victims of neurotic cultural conditioning.
We’re faddish creatures, indeed, constantly inventing cults and whacko beliefs that insist women must cover their faces, or that men wear pants.
I’m a morning writer and I prefer to write naked because I hate being restricted by tight clothing when I’m working.
However, we have lots of guests, and gallivanting around the house naked or mowing the lawn wearing only gumboots are not socially acceptable, so I began wearing nightgowns, and then somehow inherited a monk’s robe, the caftan and colourful nightshirts. I love them. They’re comfortable.
Then, when I finish writing and go out to chainsaw, chop firewood, or hunt, I put my blue jeans on.
Unfortunately, couriers or lost backhoe drivers often show up at the farm in the early mornings, and encounter me striding out to greet them on the driveway wearing my dress.
I’m not insecure about my sexuality. I’m near 60, broad and hairy and always half-shaved and fighting to keep my weight down to 220, and it pisses me off to be smirked at by a wimpy little courier.
Our western fetish about pants has engendered, as it were, a backlash, and all kinds of men’s groups fighting for dresses have appeared — men who call themselves Kiltmen or Bravehearts, who wear, get this, MUGS — Men’s Unbifurcated Garments.
The newest variation for men is called utiliskirts.
Only a week ago I witnessed the testosterone-fuelled drum-dancers called Swarm.
They’re hunks in black muscle T-shirts wearing a weird combination of kilts and ragged leather skirts, performing gymnastics while they beat percussion tunes on rubber pipes, re-imagined junkyard bread mixers, enormous welded restaurant bowls, and gaudily painted oil drums.
The mens’ skirt was once more common than pants. Consider the variety: kilts (and war kilts), lava-lavas, sarongs (cannibal occasionally included), caftans, tunics, dhotis, panche, kimonos, dashikis, kanzu, grass skirts, cedar-bark skirts, togas, robes.
In some great eras the men wore fancier clothes than the women. Why shouldn’t they? That’s the way it usually is in the animal kingdom. O, Beau Brummell, we miss you!
The ferocious Spartans wore long hair and short skirts (or no skirts!). They’d comb their luxurious hair before leaping into suicidal battles.
When Alexander the Great’s battle-hardened army entered India, men wearing longer skirts defeated them.
It was the machine age that ruined men’s dresses. Skirts get caught in gears, and sewing machines made pants easier to manufacture.
In Western culture wearing pants became such a badge of manhood that the phrase, “Who’s wearing the pants?” (usually the wife, these days), became common.
Now I’m looking forward to the day I can waltz down the streets of a city wearing my famous blue caftan and not get a double-take except by an admirer of my dress. Why should women have all the beautiful clothes?