Monday, July 18, 2011

My Adventures as Kiltdown Man

As no doubt anyone who’s read “Bodice-Ripping Scotsmen from Mars,” knows, there is a certain romance or magnetism with folks who wear authentic Scottish garb. I experienced this myself last weekend, and have lived to tell the tale.

My wife had bought tickets for us and a friend (who shall remain nameless; you know who you are) to the Portland Highland Games this year. For those not in the know, it is one of the larger (largest?) gathering of Highland Clans and activities in the Northwest, held at Mount Hood Community College campus.

We wanted to see for ourselves the traditions, clans and activities. This event is held in wide regard. It is an all-day affair, with pipe bands, drum major contests, a Kilt run (yes, they run in kilts), Shinty (kind of like hockey on grass, the mowing kind) and the famous Caber Toss. If you’ve ever wanted to see brute-force throwing and flipping of telephone poles (OK, but 19 foot 165 lb poles are still BIG), you won’t be disappointed.

A couple notable items. Pavilions are set up based on Clans (there were at least 12 that I saw; I’m sure I missed some), and amazing history and armory shown. Booth owners represent their clan, and are happy to describe their history and provide booklets and links for more info. Everyone was very friendly, and were happy to get their pictures taken. The swords and weaponry were in great condition and wide variety. There was no evidence of clan rivalry. Which is not to say that any fights-to-the-death did NOT happen; I just didn’t happen to see it.

As expected, the majority of attendees were in Scottish garb, and that includes wearing kilts displaying the tartan pattern of your clans. As you might expect, there were several vendors marketing everything from bagpipes to kilts, and even more fun, a couple of booths offered pirate and Steampunk items as well.

My big interest has always been window shopping (now pipe down, men, you do it too when you’re at a hardware store), so I was perusing by a kilt shop, when a salesmen called me out with, “So, are you interested in a kilt?”

“Well, my wife has always tried to talk me into one, but I’m still on the fence about purchasing one. You know, perception and stuff.”

The salesman smiled, “Yeah, we get that all the time, but these are really practical items! They keep you cool, and they’re durable. And contrary to popular belief, there are places to put your phone, wallet…once you try one, you’ll understand better. We always encourage folks to try them on first, before considering buying one. Here,” he gestures, “come on in and fit one on, and you can see for yourself.”

“I’m not sure…hey, how much are one of these, anyway?”

The salesman gave a figure. Kilts aren’t cheap, but they are along the price lines of other clothing I’ve seen. But being Broke-On-My-A$$ Man, I have a reputation to keep.

“Well, that’s out of my price range...”

He nods, “Totally understand. But let’s try one on, and see what you think, OK? You don’t have to buy.”

Fair enough. I look around: it’s an open 8x8 foot pavilion, with the kilts on a rack facing an adjoining closed pavilion.

“So do I step into some booth, or…?”

“Let me walk you through it,” as he measures my waist (and asks me to quit trying to suck in my stomach). “There”, and he pulls a kilt from the rack, unsnaps it open to create a wide swath of cloth.

“Now face the rack,” and as I do, he sweeps the kilt so that it surrounds my back and my sides in a “U”. Obviously he’s just going to button it over my pants.

“Now go ahead and drop your pants.”

“What?! Now?!”

“Yep, don’t worry, no one can see,” as folks mill by us in the DID-I-MENTION-OPEN-PAVILION!...

What to do? I dropped my pants.

With a swift action, he swings the kilt around to overlap in front, very professional. “Now go ahead, “ he gestures, “and fasten these snaps in the front, and it’s on!” I do so, easier than I thought.

“Just one item: the kilt should sit lower, on your hips….”

“You mean, like gangster style?” The visualization of this crosses several paths of decency.

“Oh no, NOT like that. Just lower it a little so it seats correctly.” Done.

With my test garb on, I glance down the vendor row. My luck, the Misses and her friend are in the booth next to us.

I lean out, and call out, “ If you want to see me in a kilt, now’s your chance!”

The crowd visibly relaxes as they realize I’m only speaking to my wife, who hurries over with a grin on her face.

I remember that my wife is brilliant, generous and frugal. There are very few items that she will just buy at first glance.

As she comes into view I start, “Honey, this kilt is kind of expensive, it cos-“

“I’ll buy it!”


“Great!” The salesman smiles, “another happy customer!”

The wife holds out the shopping bag. “Now just drop your pants into here, and we can go.”


But, if you’re going to go kilting, best way is at an event where everyone has one. As we walk along, I note the advantages: It doesn’t bind, it does hang low to the knees like my shorts, and it does have plenty of pockets. And my belt fits, another plus. Best one: it is breezy, so I cool off like 10 degrees just wearing it.

I had to learn on-the-fly (or lack of one) some stuff. Like how to go to the restroom. I had to observe another person at the urinals on the “flip and let it fly” method versus the old “unzip and let it fly”. But not observe too closely, or else they would glare at me and I would have to improvise with, “Sorry, you seem to be a pro at this,” or “You seem to have a handle on this junk.” Leading to more awkward conversation, or possibly a good-old-fashioned beating.

You women with dresses and skirts, I salute you. We men are not tidy creatures, so trying to keep your kilt out of the way during these activities seems nothing short of miraculous; I can’t even imagine how you folks do it…

We watch the rest of the events (only once did someone below on the bleachers advised me to cross my legs; appreciate that) and had a blast. On the way home, my wife asks if I’ll wear this on the weekends (she won’t push to have me wear it work, for example). I, willing to try new things that I unwittingly step into, agree to do that. After all, it IS comfortable.

I was curious throughout the rest of the weekend as we went shopping, what people’s reactions would be: surprisingly, they are very accepting of my new look. No one stares, and even out of the corner of my eye, no raised eyebrows or gestures. Only once in a store, did I notice a child staring wide-eyed at me before his dad yanked him into the next aisle. And, I HAVE seen these around. So I think they’re slowly gaining acceptance. One tip: when showing off your kilt, do NOT pirouette; it sends the wrong message, and you’re forced to discard phone numbers you’re offered.

I’ll continue the grand experiment; it’s something new for me, and it does increase the time my wife and I spend together (mostly because she gazes admiringly from below as I go up and down the stairs, and she seems to drop stuff more often near her, asking me to pick them up). And I’ve already thought of ways to upgrade. Like installing Ground FX Under-The-Skirt LED glow mood lighting, or gas kilt-lift shocks.

Anything in the name of Research….now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get manly, and take my kilt out of the dryer and straighten the pleats…