We get asked a lot about what it’s like to wear a kilt for the first time. How do you deal with stares? How do you deal with negative comments, insults or verbal attacks? What is the best way to get started?
In a nutshell, here’s what you do …. Just do it.
Stupid simple? Simple, yes. Stupid, no. You see, most humans tend to overthink things when it comes to a new experience or doing something outside of their comfort zone. Wearing a kilt for the first time is sort of like a young kid getting ready to dive into a pool on the first day of summer. The nervousness about the water being cold is far far worse than how it feels once he actually jumps in. And any “shock” he feels dissipates super fast. Then, almost all of a sudden, he is having a blast!
Now maybe you’d rather tiptoe into the shallow end instead of cannonballing into the deep end. That’s cool, too. There’s NO Wrong Way to do this.
Here are the easiest ways to wear a kilt for the first time…
1. Dress up at home.
When you get the kilt, try it on and make sure it fits well. Make sure you have done up the buckles properly and that you have it placed on your body correctly. Try on all your accessories. (Remember, USA Kilts has video guides to all this.) Check yourself out in the mirror. Once you look good to yourself in the mirror — Keep The Kilt On. Don’t just take it off and hang it up. Wear it for a while, get used to how it moves, how it feels to walk in it. Practice sitting — work on your “pleat sweep” and your expert Man Spread (pro-tip: kilted guys do not “sit like a lady”).
The longer you do all this, in the comfort of your own home, the more natural the kilt and accessories will feel. You’ll also have a chance to work out any bugs — like if you decide your sporran was hanging too low when you first put it on, or your belt could be a little tighter. Practice = Confidence! You don’t want to feel hesitant when you go out in public. Rather, you want to feel like you look like you’ve been wearing the kilt your whole life.
2. Go out with friends.
Pick a day (or night) when your crew is going to go out for some drinks. Really, it could be any entertainment. But if you’re sitting in a dark movie theater, you’re not going to have any random social encounters. Nor have a chance to get used to standing around, sitting, talking, using the john, etc. The goal is to just interact normally until you kinda even forget you’re wearing a kilt. (except when someone compliments you!)
Before heading out, let at least a couple of your friends know you’re going to wear your kilt. They got your back and you can stay close by them if you’re feeling nervous. Or if some yahoo decides to make a joke, you got your wingmen to remind you you’re rubber and they are glue. But honestly? That’s not likely to happen. More on that later.
3. Go out with Kilted friends!
Hey, you may have friends who already have kilts. In that case, just go out with them! You KNOW they got your six. One of our favorites is wearing matching kilts in team colors to a game. A kilted pub crawl is another great idea. Or attend a big event like a St. Patrick’s Day parade.
4. Channel your Inner William Wallace!
Here’s the thing. Some guys feel weird wearing a kilt for the first time because they are worried people will say they are a man wearing a skirt — a man wearing women’s clothing and therefore unmanly. This is basically BS, of course. But depending on where you live, it may or may not feel more “real” to you. For instance…
“I’m going to the bar in a skirt!”
…May feel different to your subconscious from…
“I’m going to a bar in the traditional National Dress of my ancestors!”
In other words, if negativity you’ve been raised with is getting you down — throw on the armor of Celtic accessories. If you’re reading this, we are assuming you are interested in tartan kilts of the gaelic type. If so, you have the advantage over guys going out in a utility kilt or some other contemporary M.U.G. (male unbifurcated garment). A lot of those look more like a woman’s skirt. But the Celtic kilt looks…well…Celtic!
If you wear tartan, a black leather sporran with a cool knotwork design on it, and a kilt belt & buckle, you are less likely to get stupid comments. You will get some typical questions about Celtic culture. (See below) You can double down by adding a Scottish/Irish design t-shirt or Scottish clan crest t-shirt.
5. Go to a Fair, Festival or Convention.
This dovetails with #3. Wearing a kilt to the local Highland Games or Celtic Festival is a very easy step. You won’t be the only kilted person there. You may also meet people who are members of your Clan or share common interests or style. The only downside is you may not get as much attention from admirers because you won’t stand out the same way.
Conventions are another great option. Most pop-culture Cons (Steampunk, Sci-Fi, Anime, Gaming, etc.) are full of very open-minded people and fans. It’s generally taken as a given that guys will express their style and individuality in what is built to be a safe space. These events are ideal for trying out a new look. Heck, at DragonCon you can even enter the famous “Kilt Blowing Contest”, if you dare. Now that would seriously be diving in at the deep end!
6. Make it a Wager
One last mental trick we have heard about is to make wearing the kilt for the first time a bet with a friend so you are less likely to back out. This seems to assume some sort of hostile environment (or that your friend is a little bit of a jerk), but it can certainly work.
7. Join an Online Kilt Group.
This may be sort of a “pre-game” step to take. There are lots of groups online for those who love kilts and the kilted lifestyle. Shameless plug: We actually started one of the more popular groups ourselves — Kilts & Culture which is intended to help new kilters. Other groups include Brotherhood of the Kilt which is very broad base, and Traditional Kilters, which focuses on classic Highland Dress. If you don’t do much social media, you can try out a more old school forum like ‘X Marks the Scot’. Each group has its own personality, so you will quickly find guys who share your perspective. Online groups are also useful for getting tips on how to dress and feedback on buying gear.
What to expect when you wear your kilt for the first time in public
So what can you expect when you go out in a kilt for the first time? In a word…attention. You WILL get looked at if you are in a place where you are the only guy in a kilt. Remember, you are in control of how you react to this. You can acknowledge the looks or ignore them. You will probably do a bit of both.
99% of the glances will be admiring ones!
Confidence is sexy and wearing a kilt says you’re secure in who you are. As long as you keep your head up and shoulders back, you will project confidence. People will admire you … or envy you.
And just a reminder — You will look better in a Celtic kilt than in pants! Wearing the kilt does two things. First, it encourages good posture. You will naturally walk taller with your shoulders back and your chest out. And you’re proud to be wearing the kilt, so this happens naturally.
Second, a kilt creates a cool “hourglass” body shape that looks more manly. Imagine the top of the hourglass is your shoulder-line….the narrow middle is your waist….the bottom of the hourglass is the bottom hem of the kilt. This works for bigger guys too. It’s a flattering effect that can’t be achieved very well with a utilikilt. (See illustration)
Common questions you will get when you wear a kilt:
- “Are you a bagpiper?” / “Are you in a band?”
- “Are you from Scotland / Ireland?”
- “Have you been to Scotland / Ireland?”
- “What clan are you?”
- “Is there some event going on?”
- “Are you in a parade?”
- “Are you in a play?”
- “What plaid are you wearing?”
- “Where did you get your kilt?”
- “What is that bag thing?” (meaning the sporran)
- “Don’t you get cold?”
- “Is it true what they say about what’s under the kilt?” This one deserves some discussion….
What Should You Wear Under Your Kilt?
Whatever makes you comfortable and happy. That’s it. There are NO rules! When you get asked The Question, you can respond in a number of ways. There are so many joke answers to this that we actually sell a T-shirt. As we said above, YOU can control the interaction.
Option A: You don’t have to answer at all…
“A true Scot never tells.”
“A lady doesn’t ask and a gentleman doesn’t tell.”
All fine answers. Do try to smile though.
Option B: Be matter of fact…
“I prefer to go regimental.”
“I wear running shorts.”
“It depends on the weather.”
Also fine answers! Sometimes people really just want a basic answer that confirms this bit of trivia about Highland dress. You do not have to entertain their curiosity if you don’t want to. And if they don’t like your answer, tough cookies.
Option C: Flirt!
It’s our experience that the lion’s share of people who ask kilt-wearers questions are women. That includes the regular questions above as well as The Question. Guys in our culture are often too self conscious to show their curiosity (straight guys at least). And very often, the ladies are asking because they want to flirt a tiny bit, or see if they can make you blush. Some see it as turning the tables and who can blame them? Hey, kilts are titillating. And they will be until all men everywhere wear kilts 24/7.
So how should you respond to the flirtatious admirer?
First of all. NEVER assume that asking is a come-on for serious romance. Especially if the asker has been drinking. Second, gauge the person’s level of prudery. If they seem (*ahem*) outgoing, a more bawdy answer may give everyone a good laugh. If they are just being rude or obnoxious — trying to goad you — you might just make THEM blush. Of course a little embarrassment might be just what they need. Use your power wisely!
Here are some of the classic bawdy answers to What’s Under the Kilt?:
“Nothing is worn, everything is in perfect working order.”
“I can’t tell you, but if you give me your hand…”
“My back-up claymore.”
“The Loch Ness monster.”
“String. I had to tie it up so it didn’t hang below the kilt.”
“Why? Did something fall off?”
“If you don’t know by now, what’s the use of me telling you?”
“Socks and boots.”
“The future of Scotland.”
What about Hecklers?
The classic example of kilt hecklers is the carload of kids zooming past you and yelling insults you can barely make out. Hecklers like this are usually in a group. They are usually behind a barrier – the car in this case, or a wall or a window or the Internet. They are basically cowards trying to prove something to themselves by showing off in front of their buddies. It’s basic stupid human group-think.
What should you do? Ignore them. Worthy men do not need fake bravado like that. You out-rank them.
What if you have some drunk goon who won’t back off? In our experience, this happens very rarely. If it does, you just have to treat it the way you would any ordinary encounter with such a person. Remember, your friends and most of the people around you will be on your side. Don’t get flustered. That’s what a heckler wants.
A final word.
There has never been a more kilt-friendly time in history. There are more men in kilts, both traditional and contemporary, walking our streets than ever before. They come from all walks of life and lifestyle. It’s no fluke or fashion fad. It’s not restricted to anyone. In a sense, the hard work of paving the road you’re on was done decades ago. So relax. You are among friends and surrounded by people who like what you’re doing, or simply just don’t care which is great. Kilts are becoming a more “normal” clothing choice every day. You’ve got the freedom to move (literally!). Kilt on!