Mark Bryan, an American robotics engineer living in Germany, describes himself on Instagram as a straight, married man who enjoys porches and beautiful women… and incorporating skirts and stilettos into his daily wardrobe. (1) That’s right: A dad of three, he’s just a straight father wearing a skirt, and challenging gendered clothing norms everywhere he goes.
Straight Father Wearing a Skirt Challenges Gender Norms
What do you think when you see a woman walking down a busy street wearing a pencil skirt and heels? Mark Bryan sees a powerful businesswoman ready to take on the world. Always admiring the power these women exude, he decided to start wearing them too. (2)
Now, this father wearing a skirt has made a big name for himself on Instagram, challenging gender-normative clothing, and cementing himself as an ally for the LGBTQ+ community. (2)
Married three times, he says his three children and his current wife, who he’s been with for 11 years, support his clothing choices. (2)
First Time Jitters
Bryan says the first time he wore a skirt and heels was actually in college. His girlfriend at the time asked him to put them on before he danced with her. Now 61, he has been wearing them to work for the last four years. (2)
Opening up to his kids about how he liked to dress was tricky. He wanted them to understand that it was about clothing preferences and not sexuality. (2)
“I just told them that their dad liked to wear skirts and heels and not to worry about me being gay or that it’s anything sexual.” he explained. (2)
From then on, he began mixing and matching styles depending on what he was feeling brave enough to go to work in. He started out in pants and heels, but moved on to wearing skirts, saying that the look of a tight pencil skirt and heels is his favorite. (2)
He was nervous going to work dressed this way for the first time. After all, already six feet tall without the heels on, he knew he wouldn’t be able to hide. He quickly realized, however, that most people don’t even care. (2)
“a big majority of people don’t really care what a person wears.” he claims. (2)
Some Backlash to be Expected
Of course, Bryan is asked about his sexuality quite regularly. This question bothers him because he says that clothing shouldn’t have a gender – what he likes to wear is independent of who he prefers to date. (2)
“Clothes have no gender, but I do refer to my shirts as men’s; just to be clear, I do not wear blouses. Even if I say I wear a men’s shirt and a women’s skirt and heels, it’s all non-gender clothes to me.” (2)
It’s men who are the most surprised to discover that he is straight and can talk “guy stuff” just like any other man. When people do question his sexuality, he will sometimes tell them he’s straight, however, most often he politely lets them know that it’s none of their business. (2)
“But there are times I’ll go off on some, mostly men, when asked. I’ll respond with something like ‘why would me wearing a skirt make you think of my sexual preferences?” or “would you ask that same question if I was wearing pants?’, or ‘Do you ask a women wearing a skirt and heels her sexual preferences?’” he says. (2)
Of Gender and Clothing, It’s More Than a Father Wearing a Skirt
Whether we agree or not, our clothing has become heavily gendered. We have men’s and women’s sections in stores. It is customary for men to wear suits on special occasions and women to wear dresses, and you certainly won’t find stilettos in the men’s section of your local department store.
For the LGBTQ+ community and most specifically the trans community, clothing and identity are heavily linked. (3) Cis-gendered individuals often use their clothing to (3):
- Make a political statement
- Disrupt gender stereotypes
- Express their sexuality or how they would like to be identified
- To feel confident and live as their true, authentic selves
Despite this, few clothing brands cater to this market at all. Especially when it comes to footwear, it can be incredibly challenging for these people to find clothing that fits. This is frustrating and makes many cis-gendered people feel uncomfortable and unseen for who they truly are. (3)
Non-binary legislative analyst Elliot Richardson describes how incredible it feels when you find clothing that is just the right size and shape for you. (3)
“It’s like a warm, glittery feeling. It’s very comfortable. It is like going inside after a cold day to a hot, warm beverage. Like a lot of it is also like a feeling of relief.” (3)
People like Mark Bryan, intentionally or not, are helping bring the need for non-gender conforming sizes and brands for the LGBTQ+ community into the spotlight. The more people who challenge the notion that suits are for men and pencil skirts are for women will push brands to rethink fashion and hopefully become more inclusive in the stores, online, and in the media. This more than just a father wearing a skirt, it’s a father making a statement.
- “Mark Bryan.” Instagram.
- “‘Straight, happily married father’ who’s been wearing a skirt and high heels in public for four years says he wants to prove clothes have no gender – and reveals his wife supports his choices.” Daily Mail. Layla Catling. October 2020.
- “How entrepreneurs are designing a trans-inclusive future through clothing.” PBSO News Hour. October 30, 2019.