A Real Man in a Kilt Tells All

Today I have a special treat for you... a real man in a kilt answering my questions (and yours) about what it's like to actually wear a kilt, not just on special occasions, but all the time. Shawn was very generous with his time and information and may even drop by to answer your questions, if you have any additional ones.

Welcome, Shawn and thanks for providing all this great information! Why do you like to wear nothing but kilts?

I bought my first kilt after I started taking bagpipe lessons. I figured I better get used to them before I had to wear one during performances. As it turned out, there was nothing to get used to! I liked wearing kilts so much that I stopped wearing anything else. There were some adjustments that I needed to make. The first thing I learned was that you really shouldn't bend at the waist. Unfortunately, I learned that lesson in a room full of my girlfriend's friends. The second thing I learned is if you walk next to a wall and there's a quick gust of wind, your kilt ends up flat against your back. Otherwise, kilts are surprisingly well behaved on windy days. Other bonuses include riding in convertible cars and floor mounted air-conditioning vents.

Whoa! Okay, this is giving me some visuals. :)

There's also the connection to the past. I have several Scottish clans in my family including Gordon, Mac Neil of Bara, Campbell and MacDonald. I know, I know... Campbell and MacDonald... sometimes I have to beat myself senseless in my sleep to keep the feud going. :) Occasionally someone recognizes the tartan I'm wearing and I'll meet someone I'm distantly related to.

LOL!! Too funny! We were just discussing the Campbell MacDonald feud in one of my groups. What other interesting things can you tell us about kilts?

You're a romance writer so I'm assuming you're interested some of the more intimate details of kilt wearing. Kilts don't have pockets, of course, so the solution to that is the sporran. What is less obvious is that the sporran is a modesty shield. When you drop your sporran, there's no doubt about what it was keeping in check. Kilts are not pleated in front so the apron of the kilt just follows any contours that are under it.

See, this is yet another reason women like kilts on men so much. So, what kind of reaction do you generally get from women (strangers) when you wear a kilt?

The reaction I get from women is overwhelmingly positive. Kilts are the male version of the wet t-shirt. If you wear a kilt, you'd better be prepared for women behaving badly. Boston is a college town and this time of year we get a flood of new students. The other day I was standing outside my house and two college age women started yelling at me in French (I assumed they were actually French). The only words I understood were 'ooooooooww!" and 'keeelt!' In another case a woman grabbed my rear end in front of her boyfriend. More commonly, I get cat-called by women driving by. I just smile and wave.

In general, I get asked the typical question, "What's under your kilt?" I have a bunch of stock answers... The sidewalk.... Socks and shoes... etc. More conservative women ask if I wear kilts for comfort to which I reply "No, convenience." I also get photographed a lot. Even more so when I'm walking my Irish Wolfhound, Fergus. He's a handsome hound and more of a ham than I am.

While not strictly kilt related, another thing that women seem to like is the sgian dubh, the 4" knife that's tucked into your kilt hose. I have two. One is a Scottish stag horn coronet handle and the other is black wood with a silver and amethyst stylized thistle pommel. Women will crouch down or get on their knees to get a closer look at it and run their hands over it. There's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Umm, I think they may be trying to take a peek. Okay, and what is the reaction from men to your kilt?

I get a mixed reaction from men. The guys who don't get it tend to be guys who clearly have insecurity issues. Jocks or office workers who only wear cotton twill pants and tasseled loafers seem to be the most common. A couple of weeks ago some guy in olive Dockers, loafers and this ridiculously loud Hawaiian shirt snorted "What? Are you from Scotland?" I just looked at him and said "What? Are you from Hawaii?" and then laughed. These guys get really freaked out in the men's room. Often a guy will walk into the men's room, see me at the urinal, turn around and walk right out. I get a chuckle out of that every time.

The guys who get it are either butch construction worker types or successful business men (think Mr. Big from Sex and the City). I've had a bunch of conversations with tradesmen about whether you can get any work done in a kilt. I tell them that heavy lifting etc. is actually easier in a kilt because you don't have to hike up your trousers, but if they do any work on ladders their coworkers may or may not appreciate the view. Then they ask if they really have to go 'commando'. I'll tell them there's not really a rule per se, but we get the word commando from the Highland regiments. The drill sergeant would carry a mirror on the end of a rod and walk behind each man. If anyone was caught wearing underwear, he was officially out of uniform. Besides, answering 'boxers' to the classic question would be kinda lame.

That's true. Have you worn a traditional great kilt or belted plaid? If so what did you think of it and was it difficult to put on or wear?

I don't own a great kilt. I do want to get one, but I probably won't until I join a band like Albannach. The time it takes to hand-pleat the cloth alone would make wearing one with any frequency impractical at best. I do like the way they look, though. They also make for dramatic disrobing. Unhook the belt (the only thing keeping the kilt together) and pull the buckle - the kilt drops and you're standing there naked with a three inch wide belt in your hand. Wait, now I'm thinking I should get one of these sooner rather than later.

LOL! Well, now I know I wrote my historical Highland heroes disrobing properly. :) Speaking of real Highlanders and their environment, what is it like wearing a kilt when it's cold out?

Kilts are actually warmer than most people think. In fact, in the summer, even a light weight kilt can be uncomfortably warm. In the winter I wear thick wool kilt hose which are actually warmer than your typical pair of pants. On really cold New England winter days, I wear a full length wool overcoat that is essentially an Inverness cape with sleeves. When I'm dressed for the weather, I'm actually more comfortable than the people around me who have waist length jackets and jeans on. There were two snow storms last winter where shoveling the snow was a bit uncomfortable, but it would have been uncomfortable even if I was wearing jeans... and I can shovel much faster in a kilt so it's worth it.

Interesting. What are you favorite kilt accessories, aside from the sgian dubh?

Hmmm... Not sure if I have a favorite kilt accessory. Kilt pins are fun. Right now my favorite pin has a small St. Andrew holding up his cross. No matter how bad a Monday is, I can look down at the poor bastard and say 'Could be worse.' :) The sporran is definitely more useful. There's no transferring your wallet, etc. to the next day's outfit. In the evening you take it off and in the morning you put it back on.

What do you think of the non-tartan kilts, like the Utilikilt, and do you wear them?

First, there are non-tartan traditional kilts. The Irish wear saffron colored solid kilts... but I know what you're saying. I have four Utilikilts that I wear mostly for yard work. I wouldn't try to pass them off as anything but functional. Occasionally, someone makes a comment that Utilikilts not 'real' kilts and I point out that since their pants don't lace up the middle, they aren't 'real' pants. The point being that clothing changes over time.

I actually think these comments say a lot about traditional kilts. From Roman times through the 16th century, the kilt (brat) was basically a woolen cloak. Then from the 16th century up until the early 18th century there was the great kilt. Since the switch from great kilts to kilts that have the pleats stitched in place, there hasn't really been a need to change the design in the past 200 years. It's pretty impressive that the kilt has only had two major design changes in the past 2000 years! If modern kilts have some design changes that make life easier, I really don't see a problem with that even if they are less formal.

I think one of the big problems with Utilikilts is they're often worn by guys who have trouble dressing themselves in general... kilts, pants or otherwise. Kilts are about the waist and calves. If you're the type of guy who can't stand to have your shirt tucked in, don't wear any type of kilt, you'll look ridiculous.

When I visited Scotland, I only saw a few men in kilts (maybe 3 or 4) and they were usually playing bagpipes outside a tourist attraction or else they were tour guides. I've heard Scottish men don't like to wear kilts these days. Is this true and if so why?

Well, if you're playing the pipes, you'll just look better in a kilt... unless you're from northern France. Le Bagad Cap Caval from Brittany wear trousers when they perform, which is their custom.

I have a few acquaintances who are Scottish (in Scotland) and like wearing kilts but only wear them for special occasions. I think there's an aversion to kilts among Scottish men because of the stereotype or because it's an old-fashioned style of dress. It may be similar to people who live in older London flats who absolutely detest their fireplaces. I love my fireplace, but theirs reminds them of an outdated form of heating... something that poor people who couldn't afford gas heating had to use. Not being Scottish myself, I can't be 100% certain, but this is the impression I get.

I bet you're right. Scottish men need to know that women love kilts, so put some on, guys! Give a few American women tourists a thrill. :) Thanks so much for being here today, Shawn, to give your very honest, candid and fun answers to our questions! This is important research information, for me especially, because most of the heroes of my stories wear kilts. And when I write from the male point of view, I need to get the kilt info right.

So, ladies, do you have any other questions?
33 Responses
  1. Fun and informative post! I can't say that my husband wears a kilt for anything except formal Campbell functions, but when he does man oh man his legs are drool-worthy! And as Shawn stated, something happens to women when they see a man in a kilt. It's like setting a diabetic loose in a candy shop--all self control is gone, and even the meekest woman in the room can't resist the urge to sneak a peek. Of course, this is where men and women part ways. Put a hand up a man's kilt and he'll just give you a wink--put a hand up a woman's skirt or dress and most will pull back a bloody stump--unless the person happens to be a MacDonald, then it's game on! lol


  2. Carly Carson Says:

    This is a great interview, funny and entertaining.

    Personally, I think the sporran should be banned, or moved elsewhere!

    (Couldn't resist.)

    I can't help wondering about the man who first decided a sergeant needed a mirror to look up other men's skirts. (Or were you pulling out legs?)


  3. Carly Carson Says:

    Whoops, meant to say 'our legs' but this gives me the opportunity to say no Campbell should be challenging a MacDonald!!! Who was in the wrong?

    Well, it's progress that we can laugh about it, right?


  4. Uh-oh, can't let that last volley go unanswered! LOL Now, I'm only a Campbell by marriage but as my husband has told me on more than one occassion, "you're Scots now." (my Italian nona & nono are rolling in their graves) Below, I'm sharing a bit of Campbell history.

    "The Campbells supported Bruce and have been supporting the rightful (or presently sitting) Scottish monarchs ever since. Rather than go against their monarch as the MacDonalds did, the Campbells cooperated with the ruling powers. When Scottish king needed help to put down the MacDonalds or other troublesome clans, the Campbells were there to do the job. As a reward, forfeited lands came into their possession."

    Truce, Carly? lol


  5. Linda Warren Says:

    Informantive and funny post. Loved it.

    I don't care for the sporran either.

    I wonder how many women are tempted to put their hand up those kilts. LOL


  6. Carly Carson Says:

    OK, I came back on to say I was just kidding about the Campbell thing. (I hope that was obvious, but on the internet, you never know. Where are the emoticons for comments?)

    But now I have to bite my tongue! Biting, biting, biting!!!

    Ah...truce! lol I'd much rather think about the hand up the kilt thing.


  7. Fascinating! Thanks Nicole and Shawn.
    Julie


  8. Shawn Says:

    @Carly I'm not pulling you leg about uniform inspections. The mirror on a rod is really not as big of a deal as it sounds. If you've worn a kilt for more than a week, someone has seen your tail anyway. Kilts are not for the bashful.


  9. Shawn Says:

    @Carly @Linda
    Tip: Next time you see a pipe band, pay attention to the drummers. They have to wear their sporran to the side or in back so that it's out of the way of the drums.


  10. What a fun post, Nicole! Thanks, Shawn, for giving us the source of "going commando." When dh wears his kilt, he retains his undergarments---at my request. But he does look fine.

    As to the McDonald/Campbell thing, don't sweat it. After we married, dh and I discovered his Scots roots are in Clan MacDuff, mine MacBeth. A friend who is into numerology and the like insists we were "destined to close the circle." Maybe. Maybe not. But it works for us.


  11. Ari Thatcher Says:

    Kilts and a wolfhound...*heavy sigh*! Very interesting interview, thanks for sharing, Nicole!


  12. Shawn Says:

    @Gwynlyn If I 'retained my undergarments', I'm sure I'd walk down the street like a cat with tape on its paws.


  13. I love the dog! The other pics are nice, too, but I love the dog. Thanks, Nicole, for adding the pics and Shawn, for providing them.


  14. Nicole North Says:

    Thanks everyone, for checking out the interview! And thanks again to Shawn for answering my prying questions. :)

    Gwynlyn, why would you punish your DH that way? :)


  15. Carly, I was only teasing! ; ) As to the pictures? Mmm-mmm-mmmmm, my cup runneth over the bar and onto the floor. Very nice, Shawn. :D


  16. Shawn Says:

    @Gwynlyn Fergus is a handsome hound and a loyal friend.

    @Nicole No problem!

    @Lisa Glad you liked them. I can't believe I don't have any pictures of me dressed more formally... oh well.


  17. Formal, informal, naked---you're not going to get a complaint from me, Shawn. ; )


  18. Lea Says:

    nice article, nice pictures. Hey Shawn thanks for sharing. and Nicole thanks for inviting Shawn.
    Lea


  19. Very informative post - thanks for sharing, Shawn. When I was in Scotland five years ago, I saw several young men wearing kilts in Edinburgh. It seemed sort of like a "back their roots" kind of thing.


  20. Cameo Brown Says:

    This was great! Very informative and interesting. Thanks Nicole and Shawn...and great dog, btw. :)


  21. Kristin Says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!


  22. There is nothing SEXIER than a man in a kilt.


  23. Hi Shawn, what an interesting and fun blog!

    I spent two weeks in Scotland this summer but I was dissapointed that I didn't see one man in a kilt. I visited four castles while I was there and thought I'd see a kilted man somewhere.


  24. JACLYN Says:

    Often a guy will walk into the men's room, see me at the urinal, turn around and walk right out. I get a chuckle out of that every time.

    LOL YOU HAVE A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR. ENJOYED THE TALK.

    BUT I HAVE TELL YOU, IF MY UNCLE GEORGE MAC NAIR SAW YOU BARE-CHESTED IN A KILT, HE'D LAUGH AND SAY, NO-O ,MON, HE NO KINNA BE A TRUE SCOTCHMAN.
    BUT IN THE BEDROOM, AYE!

    JACLYN


  25. What a wonderful interview! I must have my husband read this immediately. He wears one of 2 kilts (Gunn tartan and MacBean) when he attends Highland games in the US. People stop and ask so many questions and this interview has many answers he can share.

    One big problem he has? His sporan is a real Badger head and women come up and PET it. Remember where it is situated? He's happy, I see RED.

    Nancy B.


  26. Nicole North Says:

    OMG Nancy, LOL that's hilarious!!!! Maybe that's why he chose a badger head. LOL Just kidding!

    Thanks everyone for dropping by to comment!


  27. Jody Says:

    Thank you Nicole and Shawn for this lighthearted look at the kilt. On my third trip to Scotland in 2007 I found that there were more men wearing the kilt than in past trips so that is a good sign. We have on our local Games on Labor Day weekend so I will get my last fix of the season until Hogmanay. Though I can't help but chuckle everytime see a man I a kilt, I think of when Billy Connoly was asked what was worn under a kilt... a trace of lipstick.


  28. Mona Risk Says:

    WOW Great interview!!! So they REALY don't wear anything under, I couldn't believe until I read it here. Thanks for sharing.LOL


  29. Love it, Jody! That was a good one.


  30. Oh my gosh, Nicole and Shawn, this interview was the best thing that has happened to me today! Thank you both for your sense of humor and to all the ladies making comments, GOD BLESS YA!!
    What a fascinating blog and so humorous.
    Shawn, if I ever get to Boston and see ya walking down the street I promise to be nice (although naughty would be more fun) and just shake your hand. hehe


  31. Kris Kennedy Says:

    Hey Nicole & Shawn~
    Thank-you so much for the fun, informative interview! I enjoyed reading.

    I think your reasoning about why kilts are less in evidence in the Highlands makes sense, Shawn. Things tend to cycle, don't they? What was necessary becomes disdained, until enough time passes, after which it becomes coveted for fashion's sake. Funny, that. :-)

    I think my hubby would look great in a kilt. Wonder if he'd give it a go.

    Thanks Nicole & Shawn!


  32. criomag Says:

    Lovely interview! Very candid and informative! Lots of info to tuck into a story or two.

    Why don't you see many people in Scotland wearing kilts? They are hellishly expensive ($700 or$800)-- you save them for special occasions. In the 19th-early 20th century, the only people who could afford them were soldiers and Highland proprietors (with posh English accents).

    However I belong to a Gaelic choir and the men have been known to find bargain kilts in the charity shops for $30 or $40. So when you go to Canada, look around the second hand shops for your friend/lover/husband! It isn't likely you'll find a tartan that belongs to your family, but tartans named for families are only about 200 years old anyway. Wherever they come from, people who lived in a given district wore what was made there,
    An Englishman went to the Highlands in 1618 on a bet, and was given Highland gear to wear to a hunting and hosting. Everyone was expected to wear what the locals wore.

    I am fortunate enough to have a good friend who is a kilt maker -- the only one left in our area. She has made kilts for a lot of the pipe bands here, and She did a fine job on a long lady's kilt for me. Men's kilts are done entirely by hand, but ladies' kilts are machine sewn. She can even make a Highland jacket out of a man's dinner jacket. She tells the men to find a black jacket in a charity shop, which they do for about $25-30 and for another $175 she transfomrs it to fit. They usually cost about $300-400. Now isn't that very Scottish?

    Biggest thrill at Highland Games: the tug-o-war -- seeing the losing team tumble over; but they wear
    underpants. Still.

    Sharron


  33. Shawn Says:

    @Lisa Now if I were naked, I wouldn't be the man in the kilt, would I?

    @Carol Yeah, right now the rebellious types are sporting the kilt and why not, they're pretty bad *ss.

    @Helen Well, come to Boston and you'll see at least one man in a kilt. I keep hearing that there's another guy in my neighborhood who only wears kilts, but I've never seen him myself, so you might see two.

    @Jaclyn Tell your uncle George that there was alcohol involved in that bare-chested piping scene. He'll understand.

    @Nancy Ah! I've never liked those full-mask sporrans, mainly because I'm not fond of sharp teeth anywhere near my genitals, but since your name is Badger, it makes more sense to me now. You hang out at the NH games... I'm surprised people ask so many questions since nearly everyone is kilted!

    @Jody Kissable lipstick has completely ruined that line! Oh well I guess that's progress.

    @Mona We're REALLY not kidding about what we wear under our kilts. I do occasionally run across guys who... I don't know, scold me, for wearing my kilt regimentally. I'm always shocked.

    @Valarie Nice looks better on salespeople... and do say hi.

    @Kris Your husband should own a kilt. Just be careful measuring as pants companies lie about waist measurements and kilt makers want the ugly truth.

    @criomag You can get hand made light-weight hand-made kilts for about $150 at www.usakilts.com. These are not formal kilts (which they also make), but they are machine washable and very low hassle.


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