GUYS IN SKIRTS-WHAT'S SARONG WITH THAT?

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In the all-American male sport, baseball, it's three strikes you're out. But not when it comes to men's skirts.

For this summer, Donna Karan, Giorgio Armani and Krizia Uomo have unwrapped men's sarongs, ankle-length pieces of cloth cinched at the waist, as part of their ethnic-inspired collections for daywear at the beach, or to the bar on those hot sultry nights.

Men's skirts are nothing new.

Jean Paul Gaultier struck out a decade ago when he first showed them. Last year in California, plaid, kiltlike garments didn't even get on base. On the East Coast, they never made it to bat.

But even after three tries, big-name designers are pitching a longer version of the sometimes revealing short skirt as an airy alternative to shorts and lightweight trousers. And the word is: Move over, Dorothy Lamour, she of sarong fame from the "Road" films that also starred Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

"Sarongs seem to be a trend this season," said a spokesman for Krizia Uomo, which produced a line for its recent fashion show. The $200 cotton and linen wraps aren't available in stores.

Most designers are waiting for reaction from the trade and initial orders before going into full production and marketing.

Not everyone is convinced they can make it.

"It's on the runway, but it'll never make production," said Jack Herschlag, executive director of the National Association of Men's Sportswear Buyers.

Reflecting on kilts, the sarong's predecessor, Mr. Herschlag said demand never reached the proportions to indicate the skirts were widely embraced by the general U.S. male population.

To associate a man in a skirt, in America, is a culture shock.

"Most people who saw me thought it was a kilt and therefore assumed I was Scottish or Irish," said Kevin Haynes, a free-lance writer who penned a first-person account of his experience walking through Manhattan in a skirt.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native, who's Irish-American, said his American brothers don't have the nerve to wear a skirt because of the sexual connotation.

"To a great extent, it's a gay thing," Mr. Herschlag said, adding that it's in that community on the West and East coasts that kilts sold.

Gay men have mainly purchased the 1,000 skirts Body Body Wear sold at its two Canadian stores and in small U.S. specialty shops, said Stephen Sandler, president and designer at All Sports, parent company of Body Body Wear.

Sarongs are expected to go mainstream at the beach.

"It's definitely a resort thing," said said the Krizia Uomo spokesman.

Men of all backgrounds have been wearing sarongs when vacationing in tropical climates like Bora Bora and St. Barts, said Woody Hochswender, Esquire Gentleman editor, who likes his "long at midcalf."

Esquire Gentleman ran a 10-page fashion spread featuring the sarong on five of those. Even so, Mr. Hochswender is sure the open-bottom designs for men will not jump off fashion runways and onto city streets.

"Streetwear, that's another matter," Mr. Hochswender said.

Designers and fashion consultants agree the current market for sarongs and kilts is limited, so none has put a large marketing effort behind men's skirts.

"It would take a major rock group to launch it into the mainstream," said Alan Millstein, editor of The Fashion Network Report.

In May, one of singer Janet Jackson's male backup dancers wore a kilt during a performance on "Saturday Night Live."

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