One of my most popular posts ever was on Cultural Evolution of Pants. The comments on old posts are off, but recently I got a new one through the “contact me” feature of my site. It was from a French reader named David; here’s the English translation:
Hi Peter, I agree with your point of view. Personally I wear regularly my red tartan kilt bought in a thrift shop of Montpelier in 2005. An unknown practice here in the south of France, and it does not please a part of my family — some have the narrow spirit, cloisonné [“divided up”], and can’t break out of the scheme man = pants.
The wearing of the kilt gives me greater confidence than trousers, it is a warrior’s skirt, it is virile just like the sarong of the peoples of the Indian subcontinent.
Moreover, in summer I wear sarongs, nice when it’s hot, and more elegant than shorts, I’m lucky to live 20 km from the Mediterranean Sea. When I go to the beach to bathe, I’m in sarong and polo short sleeve.
In winter I wear my kilt with high leather boots, which I buy in rider stores. I will soon buy a leather kilt, it’s really beautiful. Thank you for your article, it is brilliant. Here in the West male clothing is governed by old codes which it is time to get rid of, we changed the century and millennium in 2000, [we should] change the male clothing, give it more diversity, more originality.
David’s comment reminds me of great discussions I read on several Indian sites, which took up the theme (for example, this one). The commenters fell into two opposing camps on this issue, perhaps reflecting the division between Indian nationalists and westernizers.
For reasons I explain in my original post, sarong is a much healthier type of clothing for men living in hot and humid climates.
A 60 year old Kitavan Chief. I use this photo in my class on Cultural Evolution to illustrate the health benefits of traditional Polynesian diet, but this guy looks really cool (in both senses of the word) in a sarong.
But as the author of the Indian post pointed out, there is one problem: what if you need to ride on a motorbike? “It’s not easy, or especially attractive, unless you loop the back-bottom of the sarong up, making something akin to pants. Or diapers.”
The strongest position on the pants versus sarong issue was taken by one of the readers:
Pants are much better looking on males than the stupid sarong. I hate sarongs. I never wear them. They are a very primitive and gode form of dress. Maybe they are ok to wear @ home but NEVER outside. Also when men wear sarong and women wear the redde/hatte, there is no difference between the men and women. they look the same from waist down, which is pretty bad in my book.
So David could take some comfort that even in India, the birth place of sarong, it is now controversial. So what should we expect of Europe? Even David Beckham couldn’t pull off wearing a sarong. It was voted fourth worst of his 10 top fashion fails. (And he cheated, by wearing a sarong on top of his pants).
Here are the rest of my posts on how horses changed what we wear: