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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Old Fools Journal: I love my Kilts

August13, 2008

Kilt From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The kilt is a garment in the form of a knee-length skirt with pleats at the rear, originating in the traditional dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands. Since the 19th century it has been associated with the culture of Scotland in general, or with Celtic (and more specifically Gaelic) heritage elsewhere. It is most often made of woollen cloth in a tartan pattern.
Though the Scottish kilt is now worn mainly on formal occasions or at Highland Games and sports events, there are some (mainly in North America) who seek to revive it or adapt it as an item of everyday male clothing. The name 'kilt' is also used for some other forms of traditional skirt-like garments worn by m
en, and for a similar garment worn by girls.

I love the kilt!

First: because of the freedom of movement that is nearly as free as when I lived where I could work outdoors naked or nearly so.

Second: because It is a male garment and recognized as such. It needs to follow a few simple rules to be so but that, in concept, is easy as contemporary Kilt makers have proven. A recognizable Kilt will not be mistaken for ladies wear except by the intellectually challenged. A kilt has class and is in a class of it's own.

Third: unlike sarongs it has taken on a certain complexity and has become slightly mysterious in its construction. That complexity makes it acceptable to some folks sort of like pants. The construction of a kilt is obvious except for the little things that have made them more comfortable and better fitting over the years. Those little things can be rather complicated but the basic pattern is understandable. To me there is nothing obvious about cutting out a pair of pants.
Pants are complicated and the tailor that can make a pair of comfortable pants has my highest respect. I've never had any. Kilts on the other hand are easy. Making one correctly is not easy. A kilt being basically a wrap around skirt is likely to be comfortable, even the sloppiest made one . It's the details that make it difficult.

Although I have admired Kilts over the years I have not had the opportunity to have one until recently. Even the Scots I have known could not afford them. That has changed now as they have become affordable (as in cheap). Also, I decided that since I could build a house, a boat and a bicycle I could build a kilt as well so I did. I have built two as a matter of fact. The second is better than the first but I wear both.

Kilts as defined by me: a wrap around skirt with pleats in the back. That basically is all that is required. The type of pleats do not matter, the front may or may not overlap but there are no pleats in the very front. (old paintings show men in kilts with pleats in the front but modern Kilt snobs ignore that.) It should hang no lower or shorter than the knee cap unless its cold. (That is also not held up traditionally). There are those that put other restrictions on it even going so far as to say that no matter how it is made it is not a kilt unless it's worn by a highland Scot. I reject that. If it is made correctly it will not fit a woman unless she is built like a man. I have met women that were built like a man but that did not make them any less feminine than my funny shape makes me any less masculine.

The sarong on the other hand is the garment of the people. Unlike kilts the sarong has many names and is used in many societys. It is can be made by anyone. It is cheap. It is basically a rectangular piece of fabric. It can be narrow, it can be wide, it can be flat or sewn together into a tube. It is unisex. The word “sarong” like the word “skirt” does not have a gender. Who it's on determines its sex. If you have a towel that you can wrap around yourself and fasten then you have a sarong, lava lava, pareu, Kikepa or any number of names given it around the world. Anyone can make a sarong so they are not of much interest to manufacturers. I am a great fan of the sarong and have been wearing them for more than thirty years. I sew my own and and they are a little more complicated than the traditional but that is my choice. I like a strong waistband, pockets and Velcro closures. Just a personal choice but not necessary.

If there is enough fabric in a sarong to pleat the back and that is done then it becomes a kilt. Having 3 layers of fabric where the pleats are and 2 layers where the aprons overlap it also becomes hot but the kilt hangs different than a sarong and to me it is more comfortable.

Anyone can make a kilt as well. A kilt is basically a long rectangular piece of fabric that is wrapped around the lower body and is arranged with a flat apron in front and pleats in the back. What is difficult about that? The originals were not tailored so why would they have to be now? No needle and thread is required just patience and, of course, the fabric itself. Present day traditional Kilts have evolved into a ridged fashion statement format, sort of like pants and jacket evolved into the formal tuxedo. It takes a lot of skill to do either correctly.

Wearing a traditional heavy wool (or any other heavy fabric) kilt in a hot humid climate is not so comfortable. The kilt evolved in a cool climate. Made of wool and in its original form it allowed a multiple layers wrapped or pleated around the lower body and the extra overflowed around the waist and could be gathered up and brought up over the upper body. There was so much fabric that the excess could be used up over the head to ward off the weather or could be wrapped around the body for sleeping. It's not hot in the highlands but it is hot in the tropics. A loincloth is more appropriate but even a very light loincloth traps moisture where it is not needed.

In this very humid and hot climate in the summer (SE Louisiana) my guess is that 99 out of a 100 men have some kind of crotch rot because of the way they currently dress. Style, custom and inertia have become more important than comfort and health. As an observer I am sorry to say that I believe that most American men are insecure in their manhood as well. Hanging on to their pants as a sign of manhood is futile since women have completely made pants into womens wear. When was the last time you saw a female in a dress or a skirt? Women can wear anything they want men think they cannot. So who has the most balls? Who wears the pants in your family?

I put the garden in this spring (2008) wearing a kilt (contemporary, poly/cotton) alternating with light shorts. The kilt won and you know I didn't feel girly at all.

Now if I could just figure out how to make a steampunk kilt.