Earlier this week I was walking down the sidewalk in my kilt, on my way to procure a cup of coffee from the coffee shop at the end of the block. It was a chilly, rather windy day. I was dressed, if I may say so myself, rather conservatively. I was wearing one of my MacQuarrie kilts, brown House of Cheviot Lewis hose, a tattersall shirt, sweater-vest (pullover for you Brits), and a tweed kilt jacket. As far as "showing skin" the only flesh visible to anyone was on my face, hands, and knees.
As I was walking a woman a good 10 to 15 years my senior pulled into one of the parking spaces along the sidewalk. She opened her door and called out, "I hope you're wearing thermal underwear!" She was smiling, so I politely smiled back, gave a little wave, and kept walking. But in my head I was thinking, "What is it about me wearing my ethnic dress that makes you feel you can comment freely about my underwear (or lack thereof)."
I've worn a kilt for more than half my life at this point, on a fairly regular basis. I've been asked so many times what I'm wearing underneath that I lost count long ago. And yes, I've even had people (men and women) attempt to find out for themselves -- though thankfully that has been rare. As a regular kilt wearer, I am here to tell you now, it's not cute. It's not amusing. At best it's rather tiresome. At worst it's downright offensive and abusive.
I often tell people to take a moment and consider if roles were reversed. What if a man approached a strange woman in a skirt and asked her what she was wearing underneath? What if he tried to find out for himself? He'd get a slap in the face, more than likely, and if he's not careful he would get arrested and placed on a sex offenders registry. Self-respecting women would never tolerate such crude and boorish behavior. So why should men have to tolerate it simply because they are wearing Scottish national dress?
Yes, without a doubt, there are some men who think it's good fun to throw on a kilt, head out to the pub, or to a concert, and attempt to get hit on by women curious to know the answer to "the question." They would be thrilled to have a "kilt check" made on them, and are actually disappointed when they do not get such solicitations.
Well, in my opinion this all gives the kilt a bad name. It's ethnic dress, it's not meant to be some cheap party gag or an item of fetish wear.
There was a thread recently on the X Marks the Scot kilt forum where someone related a story of unwanted advances made on him (in the presence of his wife, no less) simply because he was wearing a kilt. In the lengthy discussion that followed, I was quite shocked to read a post from a female member of the forum basically saying how much she enjoyed putting her hand up men's kilts! (She went into far more detail than that, I'm afraid).
I felt compelled to reply and ask her how she would feel if a man did that to a woman wearing a skirt. To my amazement, she replied that it happened all the time to her when she went out in short skirts, and she'd learned to accept it. I was horrified, and told her I certainly hoped that my wife or my daughters never had that experience and that they would not simply "accept it" if they did.
But her contention was that if men went out wearing a kilt, they should simply expect that sort of attention. Sorry, I don't buy it. I don't have to put up with being groped, fondled, or asked about my underwear when I venture out in blue jeans, shorts, a three-piece suit, or even in swimwear at the beach. Wearing a kilt doesn't change the fact that personal boundaries and certain standards of common decency should be respected.
So the next time you see a man in a kilt and are considering asking about his underwear, please consider the fact that he's likely heard it all a thousand times before, and won't find your comments any more amusing than the last 999. Ask yourself whether you'd be so bold if he were wearing slacks. Chances are the answer is no. Well, he's the same man in kilt or in trousers, and he deserves your respect either way.
I know some people will read this and think me a stick-in-the-mud. No matter. Most kilt wearers I speak to agree with me in this matter, but are too polite to say anything to those who accost them. On their behalf, let me say it again. It's not cute.
Thanks for reading!