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I've got an article of clothing I'm struggling to name.

They're typically worn by men in pictures from ancient Egypt. They look like a light fabric skirt.

enter image description here

I don't want to refer to it as a skirt because it would create a cross-dressing suggestion. I don't feel it's a kilt because it's made out of a much lighter material, maybe cotton.

What are these items of clothing called?

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23  
Be bold. Call a skirt a skirt. –  Matt Эллен Apr 4 at 10:34
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Shendyt - but it's still a type of skirt –  msam Apr 4 at 11:17
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Dhoti, Kilt, Shendyt, Sarong –  Renae Lider Apr 4 at 17:53
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@MattЭллен It's like calling a purse "a man-purse", isn't it? hehe –  Renae Lider Apr 4 at 17:55
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Incidentally, shirt and skirt have the same etymology: that of a unisex garment. Skirt [re-]entered the English vocabulary through Old Norse with many other "sk-" words (skin/shin, shatter/scatter, ship/skipper, score, sky...). The English shirt is a palatalised cognate of skirt. So you can always get away with it by stating that trousers were not en-vogue during the new kingdom era. At least in Egypt. –  Alain Pannetier Φ Apr 8 at 8:50

8 Answers 8

up vote 29 down vote accepted

The item depicted in the picture is a shendyt. This is still, arguably¹, a type of skirt, and was usually made of linen or imported silk (for richer people). Using the term shendyt in your writing will probably imply having to explain what a shendyt is. It can be defined as a type of skirt — or a wrap around, belted, clothing garment covering the groin area and upper legs — worn by males during the Old Kingdom. Alternatively just use skirt, which with enough context should be understood.

Kilt might be another option, however you would still need to distinguish between the typical tartan kilt and the light ancient Egyptian linen version.

Loincloth doesn't really fit here since a loincloth is only meant to cover the genitals. Note that poorer people in Ancient Egypt might have worn loincloths, so the distinction is quite relevant.


¹ Reason for "arguably": the Oxford Dictionaries definition of skirt implies it is related to female use only; Collins' is less restrictive.

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Thanks, I suspect I'll have to describe the garment anyway however I'd rather use the correct word rather than invent one –  Liath Apr 4 at 13:09

I would call it a loincloth; that is, a cloth that covers the loins.

From wikipedia:

A loincloth is a one-piece garment – sometimes kept in place by a belt – which covers the genitals and, at least partially, the buttocks.

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If you look at the pictures in that article, a loincloth is much shorter and doesn't wrap around the thighs. –  Nate Eldredge Apr 4 at 14:23
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It is certainly not a loincloth. Look at any image depicting the Crucifixion. Jesus is wearing a loincloth. It is a much different garment more akin to modern underwear than a skirt or kilt. –  Emmet Apr 4 at 14:57
    

In Fiji, this sort of clothing item is called a sulu. There are two different types:

  1. A utility sulu (very similar to a kilt), which has pockets.
  2. A vanity sulu that lacks pockets. (I don’t mean to say they’re actually named ‘utility’ and ‘vanity’, just that there are two distinct types: with or without pockets.)

However, there is no gender bias to wearing one. Both men and women can wear them, although women do not generally wear a utility sulu.

See Skirts for men, or everything you always wanted to know about the sulu for more information about this garment.

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The modern equivalent of the ancient Egyptian shendyt and a trendier term for a men's skirt is a wrap

enter image description here

In the context of clothing, a wrap can refer to a shawl or stole wrapped about the upper body, or a simple skirt-type garment made by wrapping a piece of material round the lower body. Many people of both genders throughout the world wear wraps in everyday life, however, in the West, they are largely worn by women.

In fact you could call the Egyptian male garment a wrap skirt and be at the same time coherent, accurate and concise. In other parts of the world, men's wrap skirts are called differently.

  • In Africa it is a kanga
  • In Kerala and the Maldives it is commonly called mundu
  • In Polynesia it is lava-lava
  • In Tonga it is called ta'ovala
  • In Tahiti, parero or pāreu is Tahitian for wraparound skirt
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There are no "man's" skirts by definition. The skirts is a male garment throughout the history, actually since thousands of years and it became a women's clothing too after a women cut her long dress in half. The Industrial Revolution made men wearing trousers because it was more practical for the hard work. During the Victorian era trousers became a men's garment and a kind of uniform.

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How about using the word tunic?

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While a tunic may include a skirt, it is an incorrect word here. A tunic will always include some sort of coverage of the upper body. A skirt alone requires a different term. –  Jonathan Van Matre Apr 4 at 19:22

A skirt worn by a man is still generally referred to as a kilt.

While this term usually applies to the Scottish skirts worn by men, it applies in general as well.

Kilt comes from Scandinavian languages to Middle English meaning to tuck up around the body.

Egyptian kilts are generally called shendjyt (or shendyt), but in most references the word is followed by kilt.

Compare this to a loin cloth which is generally tied around ones legs and groin to cover to the genitals.

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A utilikilt, yes; a sarong, no. –  tchrist Apr 4 at 12:35
    
@tchrist True. Although, sarong implies loosely wrapped cloth to my ear. But, I think that every society that had a similar garment gave it a different name. So, sarong is the Polynesian name for the garment, and if a Scotsman went to Polynesia in traditional garb they would likely call his kilt a sarong until they learned his word for it. –  David M Apr 4 at 12:41
    
The M-W page you link only defines a kilt as the particular kind of skirt worn by Scottish men or other skirts that closely resemble it. Every kilt is a skirt but not every skirt or even every man's skirt is a kilt. –  David Richerby Apr 5 at 12:50
    
@David Richerby read the other links. And, my comment to tchrist. Every language has a word for a skirt like garment. We define things by the known variety first. It is not wrong to call a man's skirt a kilt. In fact, the terminology has been used for armor, lead aprons, and other skirt like applications. –  David M Apr 5 at 12:57
    
It seems to me that these people are using kilt for lack of a better word for “men’s skirt.” But most definitions I’ve seen of kilt emphasize the style of the garment rather than the fact that it’s a man’s garment. For example, Collins and Wikipedia both emphasize that a kilt is pleated and usually tartan. The fact that it’s menswear is not so much part of the definition, as many other kinds of skirts are also menswear, and kilts are worn by women too. –  Bradd Szonye Apr 8 at 3:11

It depends on the style and content of the piece you're writing. If it's a book or article about Ancient Egypt then you'd use the exact word that msam dug out, shendyt. But you'd still have to use the word skirt to explain what it was, at least on first use. But if the piece isn't about Egypt and you are referring to the garment only once, it would be best to take the short-cut and say skirt.

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