Minneapolis designer Joe Quarion corners untapped market: men’s skirts

Joe Quarion of Skirtcraft is bringing unisex skirts to the masses. Pictured: Skirtcraft model wearing one of Quarion's designs.

Joe Quarion of Skirtcraft is bringing unisex skirts to the masses. Pictured: Skirtcraft model wearing one of Quarion's designs. Joe Quarion

A few years ago, Joe Quarion of Minneapolis was getting ready for an ultimate Frisbee match. Occasionally, the team captains would give the players goofy dress-up themes. This time, it was skirts and dresses. Quarion put on a skirt he bought at Savers and headed to the field.

That’s when Quarion realized that he really, really likes skirts.

“It’s cool how it’s so unconstrained, and it’s got this dramatic shape to it,” he says.

It got him thinking about the lack of skirts in menswear. There was no real reason why men shouldn’t wear skirts -- other than the fact that they generally don’t. At least, not anymore. Skirts were a universal product until around the first century A.D., when pants were adopted to make things easier for soldiers on horseback. Nowadays, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

“Skirts are so gendered,” he says. “They’re literally the symbol for women on the bathroom door.”

Still, he decided to look for a few more of his own. He ended up disappointed. There was nothing out there quite to his liking. He wanted a more masculine design, one with less flounce and deeper pockets.

He’d been learning to sew, so he set out to create a unisex skirt. Twenty-five prototypes later, he had it: the Unaligned Skirt. It was knee-length, made of heavy material with deep pockets and belt loops.

He posted pictures of his new creation online, and the response was enough for Quarion to think there might be at least a small, untapped market for his creation. He set up a Kickstarter page in 2015 with a goal of $11,500. He ended up raising $16,298.

Quarion’s one-man passion project and side hustle, Skirtcraft, was born. So far, he’s sold 450 of his unique skirts, mostly to men. Now he’s back with another campaign and a new design: this one with flowing, layered fabric. He reached his $5,810 goal in a matter of days. He’s now sitting at over $10,300, and campaigning to add a third color option on top of gray and purple: black.

It’s a relatively small operation. The clientele is niche. But they’re also really happy with what they’re getting. The comments read “AWESOME,” and “great,” and tell stories about men who finally have a place to buy a skirt where they won’t get dirty looks. It’s enough to make Quarion think men’s skirts might be a thing in the future. He sometimes gets double takes when he wears his skirts out in public, but nobody’s had a harsh word.

“I think fashion-wise and culture-wise, we’re moving toward people not being as constrained.”

As for Skirtcraft, its future all depends on how much his business grows, and how much the fashion world changes. Once, men’s fashion shifted away from skirts. It can shift again.