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Men in skirts against gender expectations

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

Text: Michaela Medvedova

Pictures: Eric Prosch-Jensen

When you choose your outfit in the morning, you may think about the temperature, how much it will rain, or what the trends are.

Would you think about the limits your gender puts on you? Dylan Cawthorne does. But the Associate Professor at the Drone Center at the University of Southern Denmark has created his own paradigm.

After seeing a strict gender difference and expectations that he believes are arbitrary and harmful - even in such a free society as Denmark - Dylan wants to demonstrate his support of non-binary gender norms. For example, by wearing a skirt or dress.

“People are a lot more complex than their gender,” he says. Nevertheless, there are certain things within gender that society encourages or discourages - status quo visible on the lack of women in engineering or adverse reactions to little boys putting on skirts.

So last year, Dylan made an event called Men in Skirts - positioned as an interactive art experience where, alongside people wearing skirts as part of the exhibition, the audience could also join. “It was a sort of a social experiment - will people, if they feel safe, do it? Will a man wear a skirt in a public place?” And all except one did.

The event was about putting a focus on men appropriating “women’s” clothing. Of course, the situation is different for women - they already wear a lot of “men’s” clothing. “They fought for the right to wear pants or suits at work because they thought that to be respected, they had to. It says a lot that something similar has not happened with men,” says Dylan about the value associated with gendered clothing.

With his next event, Fashion Freedom Fest taking place in Odense on August 13th, Dylan wants to extend the focus and make it about freedom in fashion in general. “The premise is: dress the way you want, with no judgement.” Additionally, Dylan wishes more people from the outside would come to the event even if they were critical towards it as it would help open an interesting conversation.

Overall, Dylan would like to see people taking advantage of the freedom and relative safe space we have in this society. But he believes we are headed in the right direction. “I have more hope with the younger generation. They are much more relaxed with sexuality and gender; they put people in boxes less.”

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