Consider this: a stick figure is male, a stick figure with a triangle below the waist is female. When all else is pared away, when we need to reduce the sexes to mere icons, it is the skirt that provides the differentiation between men and women, it is the skirt that draws the line in the sand.
Some might say this is simply the easiest way to distinguish the sexes in graphic form, that it merely “makes sense.” But it runs much deeper than that. As an inveterate skirt-chaser, as someone who devotes possibly 4 out of every 5 minutes to thinking about ‘skirt,’ I believe the skirt is much more than just a convenient visual distinction. For example, just the other night I was out with a girl I’ve been dating for a few months and she did something I was surprised had as much of an effect on me as it did. As we walked up the narrow stairs from the basement bar we’d been in, seeing there was no one in front of her and knowing only I was following her, she casually, quickly, slid her hands up underneath the back of the long skirt she was wearing, gathering it up around her thighs just for a second, and adjusted her panties. To her, it was a simple, practical consideration, merely maintenance fueled by a few glasses of champagne. To me, it was, ridiculously, one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I have seen this woman naked. I know if she did the same thing when she got out of my bed in the morning, when she was wearing only her panties, I wouldn’t even notice. I know if she did it on the beach, still without thinking, as she stood up from her towel in her bikini and looked around for an ice cream vendor, I would register the motion, nothing more. But there, then, on those stairs, it stopped my heart. Why? Because she was wearing a skirt. The skirt, it seems me, is not just another piece of clothing but the symbol of both the mystery women present to men and the thrill we take in uncovering that enigma.
After all, what other garment is actually designed to tease? Low-rise jeans and backless tops might tantalize men, might make us wish we could see just that little bit more, but they do not then immediately take away what they have revealed. It is the skirt that both giveth and taketh away. What other garment is designed to emphasize the sway of a woman’s hips without disclosing their precise shape or dimensions? Is it really even possible to sashay in anything but a skirt? What other garment offers up the shape of a woman’s thigh as she steps forward, says, “Here, look!” but then quickly hides it away again before we have seen enough?
And yes, lingerie and bikinis are sexy, but they are designed to be caught. The skirt, on the other hand, is made to be perpetually chased. That is its purpose, its raison d’être, to lead us on, to keep us guessing, to keep us in pursuit. Seeing a woman in a bikini is not nearly as exciting as catching just a glimpse of that same woman’s thigh through a slit in her skirt. How do we remember Marilyn, perhaps the icon of female sexuality in the 20th century? Do we remember her naked, the way she both began and ended her career? Or, do we remember her at the peak of her trajectory: standing there on a subway grill, revealing barely anything, but letting us, as men, think we might come to possess everything?
Which is really what the lure of the skirt might be about. Theft. The skirt is the one piece of clothing that dares men to steal something. This simple piece of fabric wrapped about a woman’s waist is the embodiment of flirtation, of conquest, of romance. It offers us the opportunity to glimpse just that little bit more, to continually uncover and learn just one more thing about the woman wearing it…as long as we are willing to pay attention for long enough. Whether it chances to disclose a saucy Victorian ankle in its laced boot or a pair of “Hello Kitty” panties beneath a seated micromini, the skirt invites men to play The Game.
“Skirt-chaser,” then, could not be a more appropriate term. When we chase a skirt, we are chasing what teases us, what taunts us, what intrigues us. When we chase a skirt, we are not just chasing a piece of fabric. We really are chasing women themselves.