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Monday, August 22, 2005

Looking natural in the kilt

Ok, guys, this needs to be said... if you are wearing the kilt, we get it. You are Scottish. Really, the kilt is enough to clue everyone in.

I say that bluntly obvious statement because many people fall prey to the temptation to make every single thing they wear with their kilt "Scottish" or "Celtic" in some respect. The end result is that you either look like you just stepped off of a shortbread tin, or that you have a job as a walking billboard for the Scottish Tourist Board.

I'm thinking of a gentleman I saw one time --not at a festival or other event -- wearing the kilt. Now, the kilt alone clued me in that he was most likely of Scottish heritage. But just in case I didn't get it, he was also wearing a rugby shirt with "Scotland" embroidered on the breast, a ball cap that read "Scotland," and the turn-downs on his white hose were embroidered with little thistles. Of course he was also wearing the standard black kilt belt, nickle plated buckle with celtic knot, semi-formal sporran, dress sgian dubh, and ghillie brouge shoes.

The outfit didn't look bad, it just screamed SCOTLAND like a neon sign. I thought, I get it, I get it! We all know you are Danish!

Many of us fall prey to the same temptation when we dress in what I call "Festival Wear." You know what I mean. You wear your kilt to the Highland Games, and you want to go all out. So you put on the whole "kilt outfit." You wear kilt hose with the kilt, right? And a kilt belt. So why not a "kilt" shirt and "kilt" shoes and a "kilt" hat and a "kilt" jacket and a "kilt" this or that. Before you know it, every little part of your outfit looks like a wardrobe peice from Brigadoon.

Here's a typical outfit. Kilt (with standard clan crest kilt pin, of course), black leather belt with a silver buckle -- maybe that has your clan crest on it, too -- an outrageous sporran that looks like an animal has attacked your whoosits, kilt hose, matching tartan garter flashes, ghillie brogue shoes (that really should be reserved for formal occasion), a Jacobite "kilt" shirt, a historic-themed doublet, a bonnet with your clan crest badge, and perhaps a feather hackle or sprig of heather tucked behind it, and of course a sgian dubh in your hose and a dirk at your side.

Does the above outfit look bad? No, it doesn't. It can look quite striking, actually. You see many men dressed this way at Highland Games in North America. But for every day kilt wear....? It's way over the top. Can you imagine the dapper Scottish gentleman decked out this way at work, at home, or taking his wife out on the town?

So, my advise to all you kilt wearers is to try this -- minimize your outfit. Let the kilt speak for itself. With your kilt, wear the "kilt" accessories that are neccesary and then select everything else from your normal wardrobe. Wear solid color kilt hose in a tone that matched your tartan. Instead of tartan flashes, try solid ones in a color that contrasts with your hose. Wear sensible shoes suited for the occasion. Wear a simple brown or black belt without much ornamentation. Wear a simply brown or black sporran, again without much ornamentation. And then just wear a nice casual or dress-casual shirt like you would with a good pair of kakhi slacks. A polo-shirt, or button down shirt will work just fine. Choose a color that tones well with your kilt. And let that be that!

You'll find that you look good, dignified, feel comfortable, and your kilt, most importantly, will be the shining star of your outfit. And that, my friends, is enough!


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ThistleStop said...

Matt, that's great advice. A kilt should not viewed as a 'costume' when worn other than onstage! Just like trousers, a kilt can be teamed with lots of different shirts, shoes, belts, etc. -- though to some extent, these must be suited to a kilt (a wide belt, a jacket short enough to sit above the open pleats, etc.). I love to see men in kilts, but I don't want them to look like they're in some sort of uniform! Cheers, Cyndi

Ian McKinnon said...

Matt, bless you! You have posted what I have been trying to tell people for years. Kilts are clothing and not costumes, even though most people seem to treat them as such... and as you so eloquently put it, look like extras for Brigadoon or for those with no taste a pipe major on crack. I search the net often for the custom, and non traditional kilt wear that is attractive and distinctive. For those who are tired of thistles, rampant lions and St. Andrew's crosses, I recommend Centaur Designs and Journeyman Leather in the UK for attractive wear. --Ian McKinnon

Laci the Chinese Crested said...

Found this while looking for how to wear the kilt.

I was on Skye and saw a cartoon of an American wearing a bandsman's outfit and dancing with the caption "haven't any of ya's seen a highland fling?"

Also, I used to live in the Washington, DC area and used to see all sorts of interesting gear at the Scottish Walk in Alexandria.

So, yes, you are correct in your opinion that one shouldn't treat the kilt as a costume.

Anonymous said...

an american with scottish ancestors is not scottish him.herself. We like to laugh at americans when they come into a pub and say "hey im skaddish".

James Morgan - Puritan Financial Advisor said...

You'll find that you look good, dignified, feel comfortable, and your kilt, most importantly, will be the shining star of your outfit.