Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday, 9 June 2013

"...He just feels restricted in conventional clothes"

This week, the Tavern resounded to a rousing cheer for the Stockholm train drivers who have struck a mighty blow against fashion stereotypes.
A dozen male train drivers in Sweden have circumvented a ban on shorts by wearing skirts to work in hot weather.
A few centuries ago, or a few thousand miles away, there would be nothing unusual about a man wearing a piece of draped material round his waist rather than encasing his nether limbs in individual fabric tubes; indeed, as the intrepid Swedes have found, there are distinct advantages in hot weather.

Yet, somehow, our region of the world has developed an odd system of taboos and aversions; while women are mostly free to interchange skirts and trousers at will, the male skirt is still a headline-grabber when it makes one of its occasional forays into the world of fashion and celebrity.

Of course, the Scots are well aware of the advantages and style potential of the kilt, which can also occasionally be seen on unaccustomed Southern wedding guests decked out at the bride's insistence. I once overheard a bunch of them complaining in unmistakable Estuary English in a hotel bar; it was clear that the whole skirt/kilt business made them distinctly uncomfortable.

This prejudice, of course, is why it took no small measure of confidence for schoolboy Chris Whitehead to wear his sister's skirt to school two years ago in protest at a ban on shorts; his gesture attracted the attention of the national press and a great deal of public admiration without which the outcome might have been very different.

We have somehow acquired a set of unwritten sartorial regulations and conventions that are, when you look at them, largely arbitrary and illogical; why, for instance, should a man be required to knot a length of fabric around his neck before being allowed to enter certain premises? [Insert your own Parliamentary joke here.]

To fall short of these standards or reject them is to invite at best scorn or ridicule and at worst outright hostility. While the Ancient Romans regarded trousers on a man as the unmistakable sign of a barbarian, a group of 21st-century Swedish men going to work in skirts is enough to make international news.

So, although everyone concerned should really have taken it in their stride and not made a fuss, since it has been made into a news story, I invite you to join me in raising a glass to Swedish train drivers in skirts.



  1. Indeed. They are playing the equalities types at their own game. This week saw another little bit of fashionista - apparently those of us born before 1973 shouldn't be wearing denim jeans. Who decides this nonsense?

  2. LR, it makes as much sense as the arbitrary 'blue for boys, pink for girls' rule applied to Western babies.

    It's amazing how cross some people get when you contravene it in some way.