The Place With No Name


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Men in Skirts
(Skirts, Kilts, Sarongs, and other things.)

While all of this applies to women too, it's harder to get men to think about the practical usefulness and comfort of skirts, so this is directed at the men.  

"Self-respect is the noblest garment with which a man may clothe himself, the most elevating feeling with which the mind can be inspired." - Samuel Smiles

I know that for some men in our culture, the idea of wearing something commonly seen as women's clothing is a Very Big Deal, so let's get over that hump first.  We aren't talking about wearing women's clothing here.  We aren't talking about cross dressing.  Hey, if that floats your boat, then go for it, but I look lousy in a sundress.  What I am doing is inviting you to consider wearing a traditional MALE garment.  Alexander the Great conquered the known world in a skirt.  Think about it.

In modern Western Civilization, the appearance of a man in a skirt - unless that skirt is part of some kind of costume - engenders a range of response from total disregard to curious inquiry to obstinate denouncement.  Masculinity is a fluid term, applied to men across class and racial backgrounds. It is a product of society's need for classification to keep people in constant relation to each other. Masculinity serves a useful purpose, but it creates problems by creating standards of thought, personality, and fashion for all men, regardless of other forms of individuality.  This is the problem of clothing, and there are many books on the subject.  Because we wear clothes and no longer have access to sexual and gender clues, our clothing takes the place of these cues and being able to classify people as the appropriate gender according to their clothing has become second nature in our society.  Anyone who violates the common perception of these gender cues will generate a little attention - no matter how flawed or uninformed the common perception actually is.  The common result is that even many men are confused about how to play out their own gender roles.  

Even some men who wear skirts are very insistent that they aren't wearing a skirt, despite the obvious fact that they are.  I mean, if you're walking around with a turtle on your head and someone asks you why you have a turtle on your head, then to say, "It isn't a turtle, it's a tortoise.", isn't useful.  You haven't made any real distinction or answered the question of the inquirer.  But, if it makes you feel better, then go right ahead and play the semantics game.  Don't call it a skirt.  Call it a loincloth if you have to.  If you don't like loincloth, there are many other words to choose from.  Here is a list:

  1. dirndl

  2. loincloth

  3. kilt

  4. midi

  5. muumuu

  6. pannier

  7. sarong

  8. pareo

  9. pareau

  10. pakome (Thailand)

  11. lava-lava (Samoa)

  12. sulu (Fiji)

  13. canga (Brazil)

  14. tupenu (Tonga)

  15. ki-koi (Kenya)

  16. lunghi

  17. robe

  18. kimono

  19. toga

  20. tunic

  21. alb

  22. dhoti

There are probably more, but I don't know them all.  If somebody knows another one, post it to me using the form at the bottom of this page and I'll add it to the list.

Just know that when you're having the, "It's NOT a skirt, stupid, it's a KILT.", that you aren't fooling anybody.  A Kilt *is* a skirt by definition.  You'll do better to stop arguing and start educating.  In the consciousness of society there are things that are decidedly male garments and things that are decidedly female garments.  Men don't wear bras or string bikini bathing suit tops.  Women don't wear... Ah... What don't women wear? Ties?  I think I've seen women in ties... Hmmm... The thing to remember is that in our gender confused world is that most garments are worn by both sexes at the right time and place. The best example for the Men in Skirts idea is hats. There are men's hats and women's hats. Some of them have different names, but they're all hats. If someone says, "Hey! I like your hat!", it's kind of silly to say, "It isn't a hat, it's a cap." Just take the compliment and move on.  Educate them!  Save them from the slow strangulation of their manhood by the evils of modern fashion!  

Eww...  That's kind of gruesome...  The bottom line is that there are skirts for men and skirts for women. Even those without much fashion sense ought to be able to tell the difference in about two seconds if you point it out to them.

Even so, there are a lot of guys with various hang-ups, from clothing addiction to something that ranges between body shame and self loathing.  Let's try to fix that, shall we?


The history of clothing is the history of civilization.  In our culture today, men and women wear pants, but it wasn't always so.  Pants were, at one time, considered an exclusively male garment.  Pants weren't actually popular until after 1812 when Bryan Brummell began dispensing fashion tips.  

So what did men wear before the development of pants?

The ancient Egyptians wore dresses and skirts.  Going further back, so did the ancient Sumerians.  Alexander the Great conquered the whole world while wearing a skirt.  The Greeks wore togas, and the Chinese wore dresses (yes, men too).

How long did this men in skirts thing go on?  Well, just have a look at Christopher Columbus here.  He's wearing a lovely green tunic, tights, and leather shoes, with a large overcoat and leather beanie.  Not exactly the striking picture of manhood that we often think about in this day and age.  I imagine that if you'd have told Chris that he looked like a girl in that skirt, he'd have stuck you pretty quick with that knife he's got...  

To continue this little fashion parade, let's have a look at Thomas Jefferson.  He's not wearing pants either.  He's wearing breeches.  About 1760 most men begin wearing breeches, a tight garment worn from the waist to the knee with stockings covering the rest of the leg, "Britches" was an informal word for breeches. 

Trousers probably derived from the words trousers-- drawers, trousses--trunk hose, and/or trousse--to cover, truss. They were looser than the tight pantaloon were favored for daytime wear while pantaloons were more evening attire. Trousers were worn over breeches when horseback riding to keep the more formal clothing clean.

Sailors had been wearing the looser fit work trousers since the 1580s since the legs could be rolled up for wading ashore or climbing rigging.  These pant-like garments were strictly for the lower class males however.  Ladies and Gentlemen wore skirts until 1760.

The French revolution of 1789 was also a revolt against breeches as being too upper class. The country peasant trouser look was in.

In 1846 Sir Harry Lumsden, commanding as English troop in Punjab, India traded in his bright white trousers for pajama bottoms to find relief from the heat. To disguise them he colored them to blend with the local terrain using mazari, a native plant. Thus the birth of Khaki, the Hindu word for "dust".  Amazing the things you learn on the internet, eh?

Another word which is interchangeable with pants and trousers is slacks, which was coined by the Haggar Corporation in the 1940s as a promotion for their casuals pants, to be worn during your "slack" time between work and sports.

So, now that you have educated yourself on the history of men's clothing, you can see that pants are just some kind of recent fad.  Men wore skirts for at least ten thousand years.  We've only been wearing pants for the last two hundred.  The vast majority of the male population of the planet still wears skirts today!  


If you don't want to read this part, you can skip it and go straight to Hiking in Skirts.

Some people I've talked to - specifically some strongly opinionated Fundamentalist Christians I know - sometimes reject the idea that men should wear skirts on religious grounds.  This is just the usual repression and if thought out rationally the arguments don't hold water.  A skirt is obviously a modest garment.  Of course a lot of the argument surrounds Deuteronomy 22:5  "A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this."  We aren't talking about that, though.  We're talking about wearing 'gender correct' clothing.  I'm really not interested in wearing high heels - even though that particular fashion was invented for men too...  If someone hits you with Deuteronomy 22:5, have them read verse 30 in the same chapter.  "A man shall not take his father's wife, nor discover his father's skirt."  A skirt is traditionally a male garment.

Well, lets go ahead and ask the usual question, "What would Jesus do?"  Specifically, what did Jesus wear? Well, he wore a tunic or Alb, as illustrated below, tied with a sash or cord.  Looks remarkably like a dress, doesn't it?

Tunic or Alb
Illustration from Madelieine S. and J. Lane Miller, Harper's Encyclopedia of Bible Life (Third Revised Edition, Harper & Row, 1978), p. 55.

Jesus was rather comfortable with himself, as evidenced from John 13:4, 5 "He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded."  Jesus was comfortable using a towel as a skirt.  I don't think that anyone assumes that Jesus was a cross dresser.  

What about the prophets?  What did the prophets wear?  Traditionally, sleeveless cloaks - just like the alb above - and the Priests all wore them too.  If you read Isaiah 20, you can see that Isaiah prophesied for three years while completely naked, but that was rather unusual.  Maybe it's a bad example to use here...

Interestingly enough, we can ask the question, "What does God himself wear?"  The Bible provides the answer in Ezekiel 16: 1, 8 "Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying... 8 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine."

God wears a skirt!  Imagine that!  I could go a lot further and give a lot more references.  Let's just say that the Pope doesn't wear pants and leave it at that.  If a fanatic gives you a hard time about being in women's clothing, show them your scriptures and challenge them to show you where the Bible says that men have to wear pants.  Trust me, it ain't in the book. 

Here are a few quick references.

1 Samuel 15:27  Samuel wore a skirt.
Psalm 133:2  Aaron, the High Priest, wore a skirt.
Haggai 2:12  You shouldn't use your skirt for eating.
Zechariah 8:23  Jews wear skirts.  (Hey!  I'm part Jewish!)

Anyway, that's enough of that...  If you need more references on body shame and religion, you can read Is Nakedness a Sin? on another section of this website.


"So, what has all of this to do with hiking?", you are probably asking yourself.  Well, I'm getting to that.  

If you've read much of this website, you've probably figured out that whenever possible I hike naked, hike nude, and hike natural.  The trouble is that on well traveled trails, this isn't practical, and in some cases isn't desirable.  At 40 below, your sensitive parts freeze pretty darned quick.  Trust me on that.  

For the most part, though, I hate pants.  I'm not even very keen on shorts.  (I didn't even get married in pants.  I got married in a Kimono.)

So, what's the next best thing to being a natural animal in his (or her) natural habitat?  Skirts.  There are a couple of very good reasons to wear skirts in the backcountry, and some are obvious and some are not.  There are also some reasons and circumstances not to wear a skirt in the backcountry, and those apply to women as well as men.  

Let's start with the basics:  Anatomy.  Now, unless you are less than about a year old, it isn't going to be any secret to you that a man has some special dangly parts.  If you aren't familiar with this, you may need to have an adult explain it to you.  A man has a penis and two testicles suspended in the hammock-like scrotum.  (Wondered how I'd get the hammock reference in, didn't you?)  Now this whole 'package' is designed to dangle.  There are some very good reasons for the dangling.  One of them is virility.  The testicles need to be a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body to effectively produce viable sperm.  Wearing restrictive clothing is bad for virility.  Just ask any urologist.  I suppose that generously endowed men may need something to keep their dangly parts from dragging the ground, but I don't have that problem personally.

That sort of brings us around to underwear.  Traditionally, nothing is worn under the skirt.  Underwear is one of those relatively new fads as well.  The original purpose of underwear was to provide a smooth, soft garment against the skin instead of the rough outer garment. Secondly, it was to keep the outer garment clean. Washing machines and modern fabrics have eliminated the need for these functions. There is no health benefit to underwear, and there are possible health consequences.  One of these consequences is sweating and chafing.  Other, more serious consequences can be the fostering of yeast, fungal, and bacterial infections.

As one clever person defined it, "monkey butt = ape a$$, it is a condition when sweat has maxed out on the dark side of your back side. The moisture no longer is wicked from the skin but remains in the valley of thunder and wind. The friction/heat created between the hills that make the valley of thunder and wind dries the surface on the valley floor to the extent that the floor is worked painfully dry.  Some common factors that may cause this anomaly range from excessive thunder and wind in the valley floor to a misguided wipe by the sacred valley cloth. But the over riding factor in the cause of ape a$$ and monkey butt is moisture."

A lot of hikers are wearing wicking underwear designed to redirect the sweat and allow rapid evaporation.  A personal observation, however, is that hiking nude (admittedly not always possible, practical, or desirable), or in a Kilt, Sarong, or Macabi Skirt will also allow the ventilation necessary to allow this sweat to evaporate normally. Wearing loose hiking shorts with no drawers will generally have the same benefit, but it isn't as good as a skirt-like garment.  

It interesting that equatorial tribe members who live their lives nearly nude have few skin ailments and no problems with chafing. Once they adopt clothing, brought to them by well intentioned missionaries, they have all kinds of skin problems. Your skin is designed NOT to be clothed, and when it isn't it functions normally.

Of course, some people are worried about modesty.  I'm not generally one of those people, but there are places and times where you don't want to be mooning a bunch of girl scouts.  A skirt is amazingly modest, and it is easy and 'safe' to change into shorts, pants, long underwear - or take those things off - while wearing a skirt.  It's much easier than trying to change clothes inside a tent, hammock, or even inside a sleeping bag.  Of course, I just wander off into the woods to change, but some people don't like to do that for some reason...  (Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!)

The further aspect of privacy and modesty afforded by a skirt is while trying to fill in a cat hole.  From time to time someone will walk up and 'catch you' in the latrine area.  This is one fulfillment of the saying, "Getting caught with your pants down."  This can be particularly troubling to some folks, especially if you've only got one leg in your shorts to begin with.  The skirt is a perfect and portable privy cover.  If you are squatting in your skirt and someone walks up, you can just stand up and you're not fumbling with trying to get your pants back on...

It will probably be obvious to you that a skirt provides better airflow around the legs than pants or shorts and so skirts are cooler in the summer heat than pants or shorts - but there's more to it than that.  Ever wonder why Arabs wear long skirts in the desert?  Even though it is extremely hot during the day, the Arabs wear heavy long robes (dishdashas) to RETAIN their perspiration, which creates a dampness that cools their bodies. By retaining their moisture in this way, they are much more water-efficient as well - they can carry less water. The robes themselves are very loose (rather like Roman togas), and the extra heat caused by the black color causes increased upward convection of the air between the cloth and the body. This additional air circulation actually aids in evaporation and thus results in better cooling. The idea is very similar to a 'swamp cooler' - the robes are air-conditioned!  A long skirt of the proper material can work in a similar way - portable air conditioning.  

It may not be so obvious that skirts can be warm in cold weather.  This is counter-intuitive and something you have to experience to properly appreciate.  Just remember that all those Scottish Highlanders wore kilts in the winter time too.

The last major benefit of skirts is freedom of movement.  Unless a skirt is cut very narrow, there is a perfect freedom in a skirt that can only be obtained by the baggiest of shorts.

Having said all of that, I will note that pants do have certain practical advantages - especially when riding horseback and in extremely cold weather.  Rather chubby people may also have some thigh-rubbing issues that cause thigh chafing, but that's a weight problem not a garment problem.  Pants do have a place for certain activities and environments, just like space suits.  I ain't gonna wear a space suit in the woods either...


The most commonly known male skirt is the kilt, as worn by manly Scotsmen for centuries.  The definition of a kilt is, "A knee-length skirt with deep pleats, usually of a tartan wool, worn as part of the dress for men in the Scottish Highlands."  

Traditionally, nothing is worn under a kilt, and the wind and a chance flick of a shutter can sometimes be used to verify that.  

Kilts are available from many places, and can be found readily.  One online source is - American Utility Kilts for Everyday Wear.  In our context, the Survival Kilt looks choice.  Gotta love those pockets!  Another for hiking is Mountain HardWear's Mountain Kilt, but they don't have the range of sizes that Utilikilt does.  

I don't have any pictures of me in a kilt.  I'll try to fix that when I have some time.


A kilt is a very specific thing.  Skirts, however, come in all shapes and sizes, and indeed, kilts are just a specific kind of skirt - and most kilts are rather heavy.  There is one skirt, though, that is specifically designed for men - with belt loops and pockets no less - that is light and comfortable.  You can read a review about the Macabi Skirt for men on, or you can visit the Macabi Skirt website directly.  They make them for women too.

While I apologize for the unattractiveness of the model, I've got some pictures of a Macabi skirt here.

The Macabi skirt is a very soft and comfortable garment that is works quite well as it comes.  It is, however, very cleverly designed to do a few tricks.  These are detailed below, but you are encouraged to get all the details by reading the Macabi skirt reviews on It starts out at ankle length and it will keep the wind and the bugs off you surprisingly well.  It can get shorter, however...
Using the built in side snaps, you can hitch it up to make it a little shorter.  That's about knee length - proper kilt length, even if it looks a little baggy.
Using the PantClip (tm) you can turn it into something like pants.
Shortening the PantClip (tm) will make the legs shorter.
Using the PantClip (tm) and the side straps makes something like shorts - but much more airy and comfortable.
Further shortening the PantClip (tm) and rolling the legs makes shorter shorts.
Rolling the legs all the way, and tucking the back of the skirt under the front waist band makes a swimsuit in the tradition of the tucked loincloth.


Sarongs are multi-functional. I call it a sarong, but depending on the country you're in it can have various names. Pareo, Pareau, Pakome (Thailand), Lava-Lava (Samoa), Sulu (Fiji), Canga (Brazil), Malo (Tonga), Ki-koi (Kenya), or Lunghi.

All the same thing... Any piece of cloth between 3x5 and 4x7 will do nicely, but 'real' Sarongs always have interesting patterns or prints.

I have many and always carry one while hiking - even when I have another kind of skirt - and sarongs have many uses beyond the obvious. It's interesting to note that in this country the 'men in skirts' think is catching on, even though you get the 'are you wearing a dress!!??' response from time to time. (See, although the sarongs they show are larger than the ones I normally wear for hiking.) 


Pants are more or less a European/American thing. Men in much of the rest of the world wears skirts, kilts, dresses, or sarongs of some kind. Whenever going to a foreign country I always wear the common clothing of that culture, and have been pleasantly surprised over and over again. It also makes you invisible in many respects. A white man in slacks and a sports coat standing in a fourth world village is a beacon. A white man wearing local clothing is much less interesting. When the local clothing is nothing at all, and you're not wearing anything, you get much greater acceptance because they can see that you're just like them and not some alien being.

Having worn clothing of many kinds in many different contexts, I find that the more comfortable and relaxed I am, then the more comfortable people around me will be.  I tend to wear clothing that matches the culture I am in or visiting, and when I'm not concerned about fashion or my social context, I wear whatever I find most comfortable. I have never been one to concern myself overly with other people's perceptions, hang-ups, or preconceived notions of reality.  I realize though, that if a man is going to wear something contrary to popular fashion that some response must be formulated for both the curious and the obstinate.  When some dim-wit hits me with, "Dude!  Are you wearing a dress!?", I just tell them, "No, I'm wearing a skirt.", and then take the opportunity to educate them.  Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Alexander the Great, Plato, all the Roman Legions, Vikings, Scots, Indians, Orientals, Arabs, Arians, Negroes, and indeed all of human kind wore skirts or skirt-like garments up until about the 1700s.  The vast majority of people - men and women alike - still do.

Of course, in the course of doing anything unusual, I have several ready responses.  

Things like: 

  1. It's wash day, and I figured, 'What the hell?'

  2. Why, yes, it is a skirt, and you can't have it either!

  3. Why, yes, it is a skirt. Where's yours?

  4. Don't you know those pants can make you sterile?

  5. The voices told me to wear it.

Of course, my favorite is, "It is in accordance with the prophecy."  YMMV.

The bottom line is that there are many benefits to wearing skirts in the backcountry, despite Colin Fletcher's dismissal of them in Complete Walker IV when he says, 'I've never tried it and women don't wear them on the trail, so there must be some reason they don't.'  While I admire Mr. Fletcher more than I can say in words, I think he's missing a few things.

  1. Natural ventilation.  (On page 530 of Complete Walker IV Fletcher notes that the "Second law of Thermodynamic Walking" is "Give your balls some air."
  2. #1 leads to #2.  Hygiene.  It's healthier and cleaner.  My skirt doesn't get funky like my shorts do.
  3. It's the closest thing to naked that you can come without actually being naked.  That spells COMFORT.
  4. Convenient access for the act of urination.
  5. Convenient access for the act of defecation.
  6. No zippers.  If you've ever caught your willy in a zipper, then you'll appreciate this aspect.
  7. It's cooler than any other garment.  Skirts have their own built in air conditioning.
  8. Doesn't strangle your dangle, and it's not a drag on your bag.

If you have suggestions or comments, or if you have a quip to add to the list of things to say when people ask questions, please use the web form at the bottom of this page.  If you would like more information, you can refer to the Unbifurcated Garments Resources page.


Shane Steinkamp




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