So what’s the deal with the kilt, anyway?

Update: Welcome, Utilikilt Newsletter readers! Seeing myself mentioned in the newsletter was a very pleasant surprise — good to (virtually) meet all of you! For more UK goodness, drop by the Flickr Utilikilts Group, going strong since 2004. :)

My first UKI got this via e-mail last night, and figured it was worth answering publicy as well as via e-mail.

On Aug 16, 2005, at 10:03 PM, Amy wrote:

I have a question about the utilikilt you wear. I’m sure you covered it somewhere on you blog but I wanted to know what’s the draw of the kilt? What I mean is, why is a utilikilt better than wearing shorts or pants? Do you take a lot of crap from strangers when you’re out in public?

I’ve been meaning to write you for a while now on one subject or another from your blog but this is my burning quesiton!!

(grin) Well, let’s see…

When I first started seeing them after moving down here to Seattle, I just thought that they looked really cool and comfortable, but wasn’t sure if I’d ever actually be brave enough to wear one. I kept seeing them around, though, and every time they’d catch my eye. Eventually I got the name of the company and started poking around their website, looking at the different models available, checking prices, and turning it over in my head.

Eventually my birthday rolled around, and I finally decided that I’d go ahead and get one as a birthday present to myself. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten less concerned about “what people may think,” so while I still didn’t know how often I might wear it, I figured I’d probably pull it out of the closet often enough to make it worthwhile. I went down to the UK store and bought my first kilt (which was a pretty entertaining experience in itself), and wore it around that day before and after work — and got my first compliments on it that day, one from a couple guys walking into IHOP, and a jaunty wave and smile from a pretty blonde girl driving down the road.

Really, there’s a few “why’s” to wearing the kilt:

  • Comfort: It is much more comfortable than pants or shorts. Physiologically speaking, pants and shorts don’t even entirely make sense for men. We’ve got these silly dangly bits dead center that don’t always play nice with seams and zippers, occasionally need to be readjusted (you’d think they’d come set at the factory, wouldn’t you?) and, in all honesty, can be an (admittedly somewhat amusing) pain to deal with.

Wearing the kilt — especially if worn “traditionally” (that is, without underwear) — is much nicer. Nothing’s bunched up, constricted, or any of the other annoying little tendencies that men have to deal with. Quite nice.

  • Style: It looks good! Admittedly, this is one of those “eye of the beholder” things, and not everyone is going to agree, but so far in my experience, the majority of people (men and women) really like seeing a man in a kilt. I’ve even had a few people (some complete strangers) tell me that I can pull it off better than some other men they’ve seen — between my trim build and years of walking all over the place giving me fairly strong calves, apparently the look works quite well for me.

  • Ego: See above, in part. ;) I do get a fair number of compliments, and it’s not at all uncommon for me to catch people eyeing me as they pass me on the street. Admittedly, some do have a puzzled not-sure-what-they’re-seeing look, but there’s also the boost of being passed by a cute girl who’s obviously checking me out!

  • Confidence: This also somewhat ties into the last two, but given our society’s reluctance to anything that doesn’t fit the “norm”, it does take a certain level of self-confidence to wear a kilt out in public. I was definitely a bit nervous about it the first few weeks I was wearing it, but after wearing it regularly for about a year and a half now, I hardly even think about it (to the point where I’ll sometimes forget that it’s unusual and have to think for a moment when I see people giving me looks when I walk down the street). The self-confidence it took to start going out in public wearing it has only grown as I’ve gotten more accustomed to it.

Also, people realize that that level of confidence and comfort in oneself has to be there. How much of it is me projecting more confidence in myself and how much is the simple assumption that a guy in a kilt has to be pretty solid I’m not sure, but there’s definitely been a change for the better since I’ve been wearing it. I’m often a very shy guy, but…well, it’s kind of like getting dressed up to go out to a fancy function. If you look good, and if you know you look good, you get that extra little boost of confidence that allows you to relate to people in a more outgoing manner than you might otherwise. I get that little boost every day I wear my kilt.

  • Health: The male body is designed to regulate its temperature automatically in order to keep ourselves at prime reproductive capability — the scrotum will drop down to cool off, or retract into the body to use body heat to stay warm. Constantly keeping the genitalia bunched up within underwear can run a slight risk of detracting from the body’s natural temperature regulation, potentially resulting in lowered virility. Wearing the kilt traditionally allows the body to do what it’s designed to do.

Disclaimer: This may be the kilt-wearer’s version of an urban legend, and I’m no doctor, so I can’t make any definite claims as to how accurate that is. Still, it makes a lot of sense, so I don’t mind using it as one of my reasons — though, admittedly, not a terribly important one for me, as I have no plans to produce any progeny in the foreseeable future. Just in case, though, better to be safe than sorry, right?

  • Sex: Hey, it may be the least “politically correct” of the reasons, but ignoring this one would be foolish. To generalize for a moment, women (and gay men, for that matter) dig a guy in a kilt. It looks good, it shows off his legs, you know that he’s confident in himself and his sexuality, and there’s a good chance that he’s at least a little interesting. So flirting — already one of my favorite activities — becomes just that much easier, whether it’s a quick grin from a cute girl walking down the street, striking up a conversation that you might not have before, or a mischevious “So…what do you wear under that kilt?”

And, without delving too deeply into my personal life (my dear ol’ mum and dad do read this site, after all)…there are definite instances where the “easy access” aspect is quite fun. Gropes are a good thing, after all!

As for whether I get harassed by people when I’m wearing it — hardly at all, actually. There have been occasional instances, but looking back over the past year and a half or so, I can only come up with a few.

  1. A guy yelling “put on some pants!” out of the passenger window of a pickup truck as it drove by. This kind of thing — no matter what’s being yelled — always strikes me as laughably stupid. What a cowardly way to harass someone.

  2. An overly-muscled “man’s man” walking down the street with a peroxided barbie doll on his arm who sneered “nice skirt” at me as they passed. I just grinned and said “thanks” (a kilt is a skirt, after all). Somehow, being “manly” enough to be comfortable wearing a kilt strikes me as being far preferable to being “manly” enough to spend half your life in the gym (or taking steroids), overdosing on testosterone and making snide comments to guys a third your size to impress the vacuous bimbo at your side. But that’s just me.

  3. A few very amusing conversations with “gangsta” style guys who just couldn’t quite comprehend what they were seeing. “That’s a skirt.” “Yeah.” “But you’re a guy.” “Yeah…it’s a kilt.” “A what?” “A kilt…a skirt for men.” “Uh…it’s a skirt.” And round and round we go. These really make me laugh (and, interestingly, I’ve never gotten that level of absolute befuddlement from any other group of people…not sure what, if anything, that says, though).

  4. Occasional other minor “nice skirt” style comments, which generally either get ignored or just answered with a simple grin and “thanks!”

That’s about it, though — and those instances are far, far outnumbered by the number of compliments I’ve gotten and conversations I’ve gotten into with people curious about the kilts. Of the encounters I’ve had, it’s easily somewhere in the general vicinity of a 95% approval (or at least acceptance) rate.

So, that’s it — that’s the “draw” of the Utilikilt. Hopefully I haven’t rambled on too terribly long, but it just wasn’t a simple two-paragraph answer. In the end, at this point, if it weren’t for the uniform required by my job, I probably wouldn’t bother with pants at all.

To finish off, here’s the “official” Utilikilts Top 10 List:

  1. Because throughout history, men have worn un-bifurcated garments.

  2. Because if women had an appendage hanging between their legs we guarantee you they wouldn’t be wearing pants.

  3. Freedom, and increased mobility.

  4. You only go around once, so why shouldn’t you be as comfortable as possible.

  5. All men deserve air conditioning in the summer. You will chafe no more.

  6. No more adjust, right side, left side…say goodbye to wedgies.

  7. A word about the pockets: Unlike pants, the Utilikilt’s pockets are only sewn down on top, so that they move with the garment but not with your leg. No more bulky crap contorting the shape of your leg. The Workman’s can carry an entire six pack. You don’t have to wear your cell phone on your belt. With the Workmans kilt, you don’t need a tool belt (for lighter stuff).

  8. The Utilikilt is made in the USA. You are supporting local industry. Your mojo will thank you.

  9. Easy access….

  10. Fringe benefits:

  11. Physical: Your virility may increase. You will experience the pleasing sensation of air conditioning.

  12. Mental: Wearing a kilt shows a sense of security with yourself, and you will inspire much debate in others.

  13. Spiritual: Without physical constrictions, you burden will be lighter, your sense of freedom less impaired, and your sense of yourself, will have room to grow.

31 thoughts on “So what’s the deal with the kilt, anyway?

  1. I’m also not a doctor, but from what I’ve heard whenever any man is having problems with his swimmers, almost invariably his doctor recommends switching from briefs to boxers (I’m a boxers kinda guy myself anyway) so that has to be at least PARTIALLY correct. :)

  2. Amusingly, I’ve never been a big fan of boxers as underwear, simply because theres enough fabric that any twisting/bunching up got to be really uncomfortable. I keep a couple pair around for sleepwear when people are visiting my apartment, but that’s about it. Briefs or nothing appears to me my approach.

  3. I’m wearing my wellworn sunfaded blue kilt right now. A few thoughts thereon:

    When wearing a kilt, you have to strut. A fellow walking about with shoulders hunched and head low would only make a kilt look silly. Kilts are strut inducers. Like powdermilk biscuits and tom waits music, they give shy men the strength to get up and do what needs to be done.

    Utilikilts are extremely flattering to the wide variety of male forms. Kilts compliment men’s straight waists, and, I dunno, somehow, shift attention to the shoulders, which is rarely a bad idea.

  4. If I were of Scottish or Pacific Islander decent, I would probably wear a kilt too, but since I’m decended from Dutch Immigrants and London Criminals, I don’t think a kilt really suits my heritage. I can understand the practicability, and would probably look good in one, but I would just feel pretentious.

    Also, I am clumsy as all hell, (I had to go to co-ordination lessons in Primary School), and would probably get arrested for indecent exposure the first time I sat down in a public place.

    Finally, I was poorly circumcised at an early age and as a result, unless everything is fastened down, a stray brush from loose underwear can result in an embarrassing situation. For that reason I always were Briefs or a Male G-String. Remember kids, don’t let anyone chop off your cheese maker and make sure you clean thoroughly.

  5. I get questioned about the heritage angle every so often — especially with the red hair and pale skin. I definitely fit the sterotype for someone of Scottish or Irish descent.

    From what we know of the family lineage, while there’s no provable Scot in our background, there is Irish…though it’s so far removed that I figure I’m about 1/128th Irish. Not really enough to make the heritage claim.

  6. Thanks Michael for taking the time for such a thoughtful answer to my questions. I have always liked the picture of you in a kilt that is posted. Kilts are very stylish! I had always assumed that they would indeed be comfortable. I believe that you are right about the confidence and health issues too. I may just go out and get “my Michael” (just to specify which one not to signify ownership:) a kilt!

    By the way congrats on your and Prarie’s new place. It is always exciting to move into a new space and find new possibilities.

  7. I’d have to agree on almost every point. I’ve dealt the insults right back, I’ve taken the compliments and, frankly, it’s about equal to wearing pants, but more unique. I don’t consider myself good looking, though not ugly, but I’ve had at least one person say, “So, what’ve you got under there?” out of the blue (a stunner she was and had a massively territorial boyfriend, no less).

    The strutting point, brought up by Brandon, is also true.

    Daniel: As far as indecent exposure goes, it seems like it would be difficult without doing it purposely. That or really strong winds. I’ve been wearing my UK around for a year now, though not half as regularly as Michael. I also pin the lower right-hand corner of the front-flap with a button (since day one). It really seems to irk women when I sit down, spread my legs out like I am wearing jeans…and don’t expose a thing. I’m always being told that I need to hold my legs togther. The hell with that, I say. It’s all about comfort, freedom and doing whatever I feel like, for me. I’ve never once exposed even the edges of my underwear (I haven’t gotten enough confidence to go au natural yet).

  8. I’ve never once exposed even the edges of my underwear (I haven’t gotten enough confidence to go au natural yet).

    It depends for me. If have my 3.5 year old with me who likes to grab and pull on the kilt when he is tired and wants attention I have a very loose pair of boxers on as well other people really don’t need to see whats under there in general, and when I wear the kilt to work as I checked the dress code and it says to have something under the skirt (I am sure they were not thinking about kilts but if they let me wear it I am not gonna argue). But it is nice to go without when I can.

  9. Thanks Amy — glad I didn’t overload you! ;)

    Daniel — Robert’s very right about the exposure bit. In all honesty, I’ve found that in most cases, you actually have to work at flashing someone! The fabric is heavy enough (especially so on the Workman’s, Denim, or Survival kilts, the Original and Mocker use a slightly lighter-weight material) that short of a sudden strong burst of wind, they’re very good about hanging well and keeping everything covered. Plus, the Workman’s and Survival kilts have a “modesty system” that allows you to button the front and back together, turning the kilt into pseudo-shorts if you’re ever climbing up on something and don’t want to inadvertently offend anyone.

  10. I was in Entropy (the small store) on the campus of Carnegie Mellon this morning. As I entered, a guy was leaving and he was wearing the Utili-Kilt. I said, “Going with the utilikilt huh?” He responded with a wink and by saying, “Notice I don’t have a backpack.”

    grin

  11. I have to say, the harshest critic I’ve had to deal with is not someone complaining about my kilt as a skirt, but the CEO of my company (a true Scot — as opposed to me, a Scott ;-)) who will yell at me from down the hall, (Imagine a brogue that is thick enough to cut with a knife…)

    boss: “That’s not a kilt!”

    me: sigh OK, boss, it’s not a traditional kilt. It’s a man-skirt that ends above the knee, so we call it a kilt…

    boss: “Man-Skirt! Are you calling a Kilt a skirt!”

    And round and round we go….

  12. The Original’s only $125. Still not cheap, I’ll grant you, but — obviously IMHO — well worth it, considering they’re handmade at a small local business. I’ll give $125 to a local company for a kilt over $40 to a major corporation for a pair of pants any day, especially when I’m likely to get far more wear out of the kilt.

    Besides, you’re looking at it wrong.

    The kilt isn’t the alternative to pants. Pants are the alternative to the kilt if you’re in a position or climate where the kilt isn’t practical. ;)

  13. Nice skirt ;)

    (and I really do mean it)

    It’s cool (I guess in more ways than I’ll ever understand…) and sexy.

  14. Actually, Julie, they aren’t that cool. Heat rises, and gets trapped at the belt.

    Unless, as I’ve pointed out before, you happen to be in a raised floor data center, with the air conditioning blowing 50deg air straight up!

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  16. I have to say that you’ve managed to make me want a kilt. :-)

    I also usually run around with black boots and black socks. And it would look great on the dance floor!

  17. I have to say that you have certainly encouraged me to think about getting hubby a kilt (hubby is Splinter from the Brogblog). I am not 100% sure that its the most practical piece of clothing with his recent purchase of a motor scooter though. Now that would be serious air conditioning ;)

  18. Nothing is sexier than confidence, and I myself am attracted to legs. My beloved has awesome legs! (martial arts and a few years in the army) RAWR! :D I swear, one day I will get him in one of those utilikilts. I owe you thanks for letting me know they exist. :)

  19. Amen Brother
    I have worn a kilt often through out my life. My mum is very strong in her ancestorial beliefs and bought me my first kilt when I was 5 years old. The thing of it is that some of the comments that are said are different because of the size of the person in the kilt. I have never had a problem. Because of my size I am 6″ 0″ and I weigh 285lbs. and I am a farmer. So no one messy with me. But just keep on wearing your.

  20. Very nice answer. I just found this through the Utilikilts website and thought your answer was very complete and correct in why we wear the utilikilt.
    -Cheers

  21. I find it very funny some of the responses I have received by wearing my Utilitkilt…My wife & I were on a date & one young teen girl acually had the courage to say somehting about my kilt…she told me that me skirt was nice…I said that it was a kilt…she said “A what?” She had no idea what a kilt was…so I just said to her, “Women wear shirts…men wear kilts.” and on our way we went, leaving her with a dumb look on her face like she had no idea of what we were talking about…

  22. I’m saving this page to pass along to my friends who look at me like I’ve gone daft for wearing my UK. You nailed it on the head as to confidence. Shoot, you nailed it on the head for everything. Nicely done.

  23. I am a gay man and love the two utilikilts I have the original and the mocker both in black and I treat them both like a Sunday suit because they are so wonderfully made, comfortable to wear, and they get the respect from me bacuse they are such fine products that I don’t want to damage. I am an avid Square Dancer and do the follow part and the twirling in a kilt is just magnificent for me, my partner and the audience. Get all kinds of positive complements from men and womaen alike. Thanks for the fabulous products.

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