Spotlight: Andy from the North of England

Spotlight: Andy from the North of England

Tags: Spotlight

Photo above by Kate Abbey


What do you go by?

You can call me Andy Tillison or Andie Diskdrive. I'm a composer/musician and I'm a Sony Music recording artist with the band I lead "The Tangent".

Andie on stage playing keyboard and singing into mic.
Photo by Martin Reijman

Where are you based?

I live in the North of England- in a fairly remote location on top of one of the Pennine Hills in the Yorkshire Dales. It's a tiny little village – the seventh highest community in the British Isles. All this is another way of saying... it's very cold a lot of the time. But it's exhilarating. I live here with my partner Sally and we have been together for 16 years.

Andy climbing on a rock wall, peering over edge, with bright red leather jacket, red kilt-like skirt, and black boots.
Photo by Kate Abbey

How did you get into skirts?

When I was a kid back in the 1960s I have a few memories of this - I had to do some role in a nativity play at Church and I had to wear something which was more skirt than pants. I remember liking it. In the UK we had these "learning to read" books - called Ladybird books. Very old school, traditional values etc.

Boys wore shorts and shirts and girls wore really cool colourful expressive stuff that I wasn't allowed to wear for some reason.

I just didn't get it - and of course being alive at that time there were really interesting things going on in the world of culture that I wanted to be a part of. David Bowie, Marc Bolan are obvious cases of major league performers who began to eat away at the traditional gender stereotypes. As a naive young man I thought they would bring it all tumbling down.. but people were, and still are, too conservative and "black and white" to accept that. I had some secret female-intended clothing and my Dad found it and made me burn it. He was a priest. A good... even great man in fact. I really admired him (despite not sharing his faith). I just think there was so much "at risk" for his position in society to have a young son who wanted to wear skirts. I respected his wishes... in the end for far too long thus losing a lot of the time in which to "be myself".

What’s your favourite thing about skirts?

Ha ha. Everything about wearing them is my favourite thing about them. They are far more practical than is given credence. How so? Loads of reasons, but great for walking, flexibility and motion.

You can change a skirt without removing boots for chrissakes! Try doing that with Jeans!

I like the lines they create on people's bodies, I like the fact that wearing one brings your whole body more into contact with Air - the world we live in is suddenly more sensory wearing a skirt than locked up in textile tubing that covers our bodies from the neck to the toes. Wearing a skirt on the lower body has the same effect as wearing a t-shirt on the top. Men know how good it feels to dispose of all the layers and just wear a t-shirt. You wouldn't want to have a summer holiday dressed in pullovers and collared shirts - so why pants? I know there's short pants, but - believe me they are a real compromise!

Is it hard to find skirts that you want to wear?

No - not really. I have a fair few now, mostly quite modest in terms of price. I prefer medium length A-Line minis - never been too much into tight pencil types - that moves too much toward restriction of movement which as I said before is important to me. I take a UK size 16, it's fairly well stocked - I have a full range of styles available to me. I have a few that I purchased new and a lot from Charity Shops. I like the "Superdry" (Japanese clothing company) fit and style and have a few of their skirts and I'm really fond of Desigual's designs and fabric prints. I have some useful denim skirts for work and leisure, a few plaid type minis which I love (was always a fan of Avril Lavignes early choices). A good punk or metal t-shirt with a red tartan mini is where I feel just right - but yes, I do like to dress up to go places.

Andy holding his hair, in a skirt and leather jacket, between two rock walls.
Photo by Kate Abbey

Can you describe any challenges you’ve faced in wearing skirts?

Since I actually began to wear them as part of life, I've had hardly any problems at all. I seem to be able to go anywhere I like unhindered. I live in a rural and very conservative area where I was a trifle concerned to start with. I haven't had a bad word said in front of me. No "taking the p***" or anything.

In these 6 years the only unwanted comments have been "Aren't you in the wrong queue luv?? snigger snigger" in the queue for the toilets at a Steve Hackett (Genesis) concert in York - and "You look a right dick in that skirt" at a concert in Harrogate - concert by the same artists! I did like the irony that Genesis lead singer was one of the first people I became aware of who would wear dresses on stage (albeit while wearing a foxes head). The usual demographic of Genesis related gigs is 55 - 80 year old Men - usually from middle class backgrounds. I fall into that demographic myself but was probably the only person within that demographic wearing a skirt at either of the two concerts.

Apart from these two isolated incidents, I have been free wherever I wish - I have visited London Theatres, travelled, eaten in restaurants, stayed at Hotels, taken my kids and grandkids out places, been to shops, garden suppliers and everything as normal and I have performed live on stage with my band while wearing skirts. There are towns though where I wouldn't dare... some very Brexity places where anything that suggests what people call "woke" produces anger and confrontation. These places where people surround and chant abuse at buildings where refugees are being housed are not places I like to visit at all... even wearing jeans and my studded biker jackets. Ironically again, the town of Doncaster was founded by an ancient skirt wearing empire.

Andy in black and white, apart from a light blue coloured jacket, with hand near camera.
Photo by Kate Abbey

Can you share a meaningful story around skirts?

The only person ever to "flip my skirt up" was a woman who fronts a band in the same genre as my own. That was on the first occasion I appeared dressed in one in public, at an awards ceremony. For 0.5 nanoseconds I didn't know what to think. After the rest of the nanosecond passed, I laughed my head off. Good fun. Not everything needs to be a quest to be offended.

A delightful integration of Alphas and Betas! (band)
A delightful integration of Alphas and Betas! Photo by Martin Reijman.

What situations do you wear or avoid wearing skirts?

I avoid creating discomfort for other people. For example I have an elderly relative who I frequently visit at her home, in her community where she has her own friends/neighbours and her daily business. Me rocking up in a miniskirt and setting tongues wagging is not what I want to happen to her - so I leave that out. Same for anyone who could face hassle for my behaviour.

If you could share one thing with the world around skirts, masculinity, or nonconformity, what would it be?

I think that everyone Male who dresses this way has made a leap into a form of independence and freedom that has been denied to them for the few hundred years since it was last "OK". So all I can really share is the fact that clothing is a personal choice. It's part of a multi millennia long tradition of covering ourselves up, of which only the last the last 200 or so have seen skirts for men become a taboo.

I choose to declare the taboo outdated, irrelevant and needless.

Having made my choices now, I can say that it has made a major difference to my life which I will never regret.

Any other thoughts, comments, or aspirations?

I was quite a pretty young man once.

I would have loved to have had the freedom to dress as I wish back then.

I hope and indeed believe that things are on the verge of a drastic change for the better in this area. Let us hope that ill founded political bigotry in this election year does not get any worse than a US Presidential Candidate using "Trans" people as a scapegoat for gun crime. I am not trans. But these people never stop. Once one target is down, they find another.

Andy staring off into space, backlit, black and white with dark background.
Photo by Kate Abbey

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1 comment

I love your style. I too remember being fascinated by artists such as David Bowie, and started wearing a kilt in my 20s, but after repeatedly hearing from the 1980s onwards that skirts for men would be the next thing in fashion, I got fed up of waiting, and realized that it was up to people like me to make it happen.
(Superdry is a British brand, by the way: the Japanese logos are a cunning marketing ploy.)

Myopic Bookworm

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