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Metropolis / So SoCal

The Revolution Will Not Be Bifurcated

November 03, 2002|ANDREW VONTZ

Dogtown's Z-Boys launched a cultural revolution during the 1970s, shredding the streets of Venice and Santa Monica and founding a skate-punk nation in Southern California's drought-drained backyard pools. One of the more improbable consequences of their hard-core, DIY ethos is the rise of the man skirt. Steven Villegas, a Seattle-based fashion revolutionary who grew up sidewalk surfing in Dogtown during the Z-Boys era, has never let go of the anti-corporate punk rock ethos of his childhood. Since the spring of 2000, Villegas' revolutionary vehicle has been the Utilikilt, his ultra-burly skirt for men. His inspiration? A yearning for comfort, freedom and liberation not to be found in bifurcated garments--er, trousers. "It's like getting the fullest utility out of your hardest-working pants and wearing a towel," says Villegas.

Three years ago Villegas had a union gig painting ferries and submarines and dreamed of designing the ultimate male utilitarian garment. When he almost lost a finger on the job, he used the down time to fabricate the first Utilikilt, an indestructible knee-length kilt with cargo pockets, from a pair of commando pants.

The garment caught the eyes of a 300-pound Seattle bouncer, and Villegas had his first customer. Relying exclusively on word of mouth for advertising, Utilikilts has since grown into an eco- and labor-conscious company with 15 employees working in a 4,000-square-foot retail store and work space in Seattle, where all Utilikilts are made. "We're more of a social phenomenon than a fashion statement," Villegas says. "It's more about social and cultural freedom and change."

The kilt comes in five styles, in heavy-duty materials including 12-ounce duck cloth and military grade rivets, and ranges from $110 for the original style to a $550 tuxedo kilt. Customers typically wait six to eight weeks for the handmade garments. "A lot of people who buy Utilikilts are strong leaders, pioneers in their fields," Villegas says of such kilt wearers as "The Other Half" co-hosts Mario Lopez, Dick Clark and Danny Bonaduce; members of the Irish band Brother; and members of the punk rock band Tomato Head. "They're not afraid of their sexuality."

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