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Let's Not Skirt the Issue—Here's the Latest Mini-Trend in Men's Fashion

updated 01/16/1984 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/16/1984 01:00AM

Greek men wear them. So do their Scottish brothers and distant cousins in Polynesia. Whether it's a fustanella, kilt or pareu, there is nothing quite like a man in a skirt. Now two separate West Coast designers, Peter Cohen, 23, and Paul Batoon, 25, have emerged from the closet with—get this straight, guys—skirts for men.

Where did it all begin? Hard to say, but the homosexual Broadway hit, La Cage aux Folles, is certainly freeing up the dress code. And no one blinks an eye when Boy George prances onstage in loose-fitting gowns. But whether the average American male is ready to drop his pants remains to be seen. L.A.'s gay crowd definitely is ready. Some of these men are whirling around town in Cohen's and Batoon's outfits. "It's all part of the androgynous trend in fashion," says Cohen, who is bisexual. Adds Batoon, a Filipino-American, "Men in skirts are not far out to me. After all, in Asia they've worn wraparound skirts for centuries."

It's easy to see why Cohen and Batoon fit in with the wild and wacky L.A. fashion scene, but they still try to give their skirts a conservative look. Batoon pronounces, "Men will never go for satin or lace. That's where they draw the line." He takes a classic approach with box-pleated linen skirts and makes them more masculine by adding cartridge belts and heavy hiking shoes. The ones Cohen produces are ruffle-free, loosely cut in gauzy cottons.

Although men's skirts have yet to appear in Middle America's malls, major stores like Macy's in San Francisco have ordered them and Fred Segal's in Los Angeles is already stocking them. According to Ron Herman, the owner of Segal's men's division, they have been steady sellers. Are the skirts being bought by gay or straight men? "They are being bought," says Herman, pausing to choose his words carefully, "by secure men."

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