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STYLE : Loincloths and Tunics and Skirts? Oh My!

March 20, 1994|DAVID WHARTON

In my dream, Gauguin lies on a beach in French Polynesia, slurping breadfruit stew from a wooden bowl. I am standing at the ocean's edge, bright and one-dimensional, wearing a cloth skirt like those islanders in his paintings. I am free.

Recent television snippets and photographs in slick fashion magazines have caught my eye. Designers are pushing the skirted look for men. Jean-Paul Gaultier parades his long kilts with matching jackets. Donna Karan drapes her male models in paisley sarongs. You get the idea that Paris is swirling in every conceivable style of pareo , tunic and redingote.

Closer to home, at a museum opening not so long ago, Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers stormed the room in a prairie skirt and Doc Martens, chatting with painter Robert Williams about the aesthetic depiction of women's breasts. He was cool. Defiant. An MTV commando.

But rock stars and haute couture have little to do with the real world, which is fortunate in so many respects. And for those of us without a hit record and adoring fans, the prospect of wearing a skirt is fraught with peril.

When I envision myself sporting a tropical wrap at, say, the Glendale Galleria, panic bubbles from deep in my cultural wellspring, dredging up with it the sludge of convention and traditional views of masculinity. I worry about how others will regard me. Lights flash. Sirens blare. I am haunted by visions of RuPaul.

Perhaps if Gaultier ran a 30-second spot during Dodger games, between the ads for hot dogs and gasoline, guys like me would feel comfortable with hemlines. It worked for Dockers and ice beer.

But more practical considerations arise. What should I wear under my skirt?

Pantyhose are out of the question. I'm not even sure why women wear them. Same with high heels. Still, I'd have to learn to cross my legs. And there's the prospect of shopping. Until Nordstrom stocks its men's section with sarongs, we are left to pick through the big girls' rack.

Even more troubling, many skirts lack an essential ingredient in the male experience--pockets. Nowhere to keep a wallet or car keys, nowhere to shove my hands. Now I am entering the domain of the purse, which is so much more than I had bargained for.

No kidding, says a friend. She insists the most liberating thing women ever did was to start wearing pants.

Still, I have this dream.

Trade winds blow to the beat of Tahitian log drums. I am tan and serene, my lava-lava rustling against my legs. I have that faraway look in my eyes. Anthony Kiedis is there, too, chatting with Gauguin about the aesthetic depiction of women's breasts.

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