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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

New kilt, new sock style

Ok, I admit it. I used to really not be fan of what I call the "contemporary" style of wearing your kilt hose. By that I mean what you typically see on runway kilt models these days, the kilt hose worn pushed down, usually with boots, such as Doc Martins.

In fact, it would be quite fair to say I hated it. Why? Well, I suppose it was because I first noticed that particular look on people wearing what you might call "urban chic" Highland wear. For an example of what I mean, you can look at the "21st Century Kilts" web site.

Kilted or not, the style of dress exhibited in these photos -- hip, in your face, me-against-society kind of style -- simply does not appeal to me. You also see this style a lot on people wearing Utilikilts, and that's also not a style of dress I am particularly fond of.

I also didn't like it because it seemed to be mostly a "young" style. (Despite the fact that I am turning 29 just this month, I tend to have the mentality of an old geezer).

Anyway, I also have what I consider a healthy skepticism about anything that resembles a fad. So for all of the above reasons I steered clear of the "socks-pushed-down" style.

Well, then what on earth am I doing in the above photo wearing my hose in this heretical manner?

What can I say, I'm a convert. It started by reading some of the postings in the X Marks the Scot kilt wearers' forum. I would read these guys discussing their kilt hose, the proper way to roll or fold them down, and what kind of boots and shoes to wear with them. Hey, I thought, these guys obviously are giving a great deal of thought to how they dress and present themselves. They didn't seem to fall into the "young and against the world" category, an attitude worn on the faces (and clothing) of so many of the fashion models. Maybe there is something to this style...

I began to look though some of the posters' photo galleries, to see how they were wearing their hose. For instance, here is David Freelander's gallery:
He's wearing his hose in this style in what I would consider fine casual kilt wear fashion. Take, for example, the picture in the upper left of that page, of him and his family. He's wearing a golf shirt, hiking boots, and a simple leather sporran and belt. Make the sporran and belt brown, and that's what I typically wear most days -- only his socks are pushed down.

Well, in the name of science, I thought, why not give it a go. So a few weeks back, I went "contemporary." I think the exact outfit I wore was my brown Donegal tweed kilt, a solid green pullover shirt, cream colored hose, and Colombia hiking boots. I folded the tops of the hose down (like I normally would if wearing them with garters) and then just gently pushed them down to where they rested comfortably on my lower calf.

The verdict? First off all, I have to say it was very comfortable. I hate to say it, but the only part of wearing a kilt that I ever find uncomfortable are high woolen hose in the summer time, held up by garters. This contemporary style was a breeze.

Second, I actually liked the look. The style seemed more to me like something I'd wear on a hike or other casual affair, than the urban look I had feared. I think that is a result of the accessories -- namely hiking boots rather than Doc Martins, and my kilt wasn't made out of pleather or anything like that.

Thirdly (and this was the cincher), my wife thought I looked sexy, and really, guys, what other fashion critic counts besides your wife? I was sold.

So now, on occasion, I leave the house dressed like I am above, my calves bared in all their glory. Long before knee-high hose became the fashion, the Highlanders were reknowned for going "bare-legged," after all. (Look at the MacQuarrie figure painted by R. R. McIan that I use in the lower left of my kiltmaking page).

Here are some thoughts I have on this style so far:

1. This is a casual style. I would never dream of appearing at a formal occasion with hose pushed down. It would be like showing up with your shirt untucked. Fine for casual wear, but just sloppy when jacket and tie are in order.

2. Some kind of very heavy shoe is needed. I think a boot is in order here, either a hiking boot, Doc Marten, or some similar style. You need something "chunky" on your foot to pull the look off. Otherwise it just looks like your hose are slipping.

3. Contrary to my usual preference for darker colored hose, I actually think lighter colored hose work better here. I usually wear cream hose when I opt for this style. In fact, since I generally don't like the cream or off-white hose, this is now the only way I wear them. In the above picture, I have oatmeal hose, which also work great. I couldn't tell you why I don't think darker hose work with this style. I guess it depends on the outfit -- I could easily envision an outfit with a dark tartan kilt where black hose would work. I'm still working out my thoughts on this one.

4. You really need to wear kilt hose, or some other high sock, like an over-the-calf hiking sock, to pull this off. The point is to have the bulk there, only pushed down. Face it, wearing a kilt with athletic socks just looks goofy.

So there you have it. Not all dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists like myself are too stubborn to try something new. My thought when it comes to this is to try it at least once to see what it's about. You just might like it. If not, well at least then you can say with experience why you don't like it.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, the kilt I'm wearing in the above pic is the latest one I have made for myself. It's made from a beautiful heavy weight Harris Tweed. Lucky for me there was enough cloth left over for a vest, which my lovely wife has promised to make for me. In my arms is my youngest son, Malcolm.

(And before I hear it from anyone, yes I know my belt is a much darker brown than my sporran. Sheesh, some people are soooooo picky!)

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Heath Barkley said...

Great article. I'm glad the new look is working for you.
But are the socks you are wearing in the picture, kilt hose? They look awfully thin.


Matthew Newsome, FSA Scot, GTS said...

Yes, they are kilt hose. Lochcarron brand, as a matter of fact.

Hmmm... they do look thinnish in this photo, now that you mention it. Probably just due to my skinny legs!

Bubba said...

Matt, wearing the hose in that style I tend to wear either oatmeal or match the hose to the shirt. Seems to work well.

Hamish said...

Matt, what a revelation - and it's good to hear! I am now over 70 (just) and have been a kilt wearer since I was 14, most of that time as a 'traditionalist', which was all anyone could have been until comparatively recently! I, like you, discovered the comfort and 'the look' of pushed down hose worn with boots, but for me it was as long ago as 1999, and I have never looked back.

There are photos of my versions of this style in my extensive photo album at