BY TSUKIMI GODA
The Mainichi Daily News
Walking through the lively districts of Harajuku and Shibuya in Tokyo, one might encounter a sight unusual to many people’s eyes: men in skirts. Not kilts or kimono, but skirts.
Called “the skirt boys,” or “skirt tribe,” the skirt-wearing men of Tokyo are beginning to get some attention from the fashion world.
And so, though it may be a little rude, I have to ask: How is this different from being a cross-dresser?
I see my first skirt-clad man in Harajuku on a weekday afternoon, his garment made of an almost transparent white cotton, with pretty geometric designs along the hem. He is a second-year art student named Haruki Shana.
“I liked the way the hem flutters in the wind,” he says.
“I got it at a used clothes shop for 1,000 yen.”
Shana says he first wanted a skirt after seeing the robes in the “Harry Potter” films, and now has four that he made himself.
He also says that he first became aware he was part of a trend when an employee at the driver’s license testing center said, “So, there really is a skirt tribe.”
When asked how wearing skirt is different than cross-dressing, Shana says, “Cross-dressers are people who want to be girls. I’m not wearing this because it’s what girls wear, but because I like the line and the texture of the material.”
His immediate family hasn’t passed comment, but a number of his extended relations live in his neighborhood, and he’s careful not to be seen on days he wears one of his skirts.
The following day, I came across another of “the skirt boys” around the same spot.
He was wearing a yellow jersey-like top and a checked skirt of about the same color, extending around 10 centimeters below the knee. A pair of sandals completed the look.
When I tried to approach him, he looked embarrassed and slipped into the crowd.
At an Indian wares shop on Takeshita Street in the heart of Harajuku, staff noticed about six men buying sarongs during the summer.
“There are many ways to wear a sarong,” says a 24-year-old shop clerk.
“They feel like they really take to the shape of your body.”
How do people in the fashion industry see the skirt tribe?
“As the line of men’s clothes becomes more androgynous, a skirt comes in handy for setting the full form of an outfit, that is, if you feel it’s beautiful,” says Tomoyuki Ota, editor-in-chief of the men’s fashion magazine Smart.
As to the emergent trend’s difference from cross-dressing, Ota says, “The major point there is whether skirts suit a particular man.” Smart is currently considering running a skirt boy special in an upcoming issue.
Street fashion news site Fashionsnap.com operator Reona Mitsuyama says that, along with skirts, men’s heels and slim, muscular physiques are forming the basis for a “slim macho” look that is just now gaining popularity.
“More than whether a look is manly or feminine, there are more men now who think that, as long as it’s stylish, it’s good,” Mitsuyama says.
“As disparities widen in this competitive society, there are more non-aggressive men who prize choosing their own lifestyle over conventional social status — a spirit that has come to be reflected in their fashion,” she concludes.
See Related: CAN A BOY WEAR A SKIRT TO SCHOOL?
See Related: THE RISE OF JAPAN’S ‘GIRLIE MAN’ GENERATION
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