With loads of weddings, engagement parties and other social things coming up over the next wee while, I’ve decided to buy a kilt. Not because my hairy white knees are desperate for a taste of freedom, but because I hate wearing suits (I’ve got a thing about ties: they’re evil). While full Highland dress is equally uncomfortable, you can often get away with a kilt, ghillie shirt and big clumpy boots combo.
I naively assumed that buying a kilt would be a fairly simple affair. I’d go into a kilt shop, tell ’em my measurements, hand over some cash and walk away with a brand new kilt. Easy!
What I didn’t count on were the three big evils of kilt buying. Number one, an awful lot of kilt shops seem to be staffed by complete and utter tools. Number two, kilts are complicated and require approximately 400 million accessories. And number three, they’re unbelievably expensive. You can get round all three by buying a Â£45 kilt from eBay, but don’t kid yourself: it’s not a proper kilt, and if you wear one then proper Scotsmen will laugh at you or possibly kill you.
When I say that a lot of shops are staffed by complete and utter tools, I mean the ones that are actually open: the first few shops we tried don’t open at weekends, presumably because they believe that anybody who’d actually wear a kilt doesn’t have a job. So we ended up in the city centre shops, whose main client base is american tourists and whose staff hate the entire human race.
I wonder if you can help me, I said to the sour-faced man in the shop. I want to buy a kilt, but I’m not sure what I need to get.
– What tartan?
– Right, he said. You need this one.
It was nearly Â£500. Â£500 for, let’s face it, a jumped-up blanket.
Is that the only option? I asked.
– No, he said. There’s a lighter weight, but…
It was a good trick. Without actually saying anything, he made it crystal clear that if I considered anything but a full weight kilt, I might as well dress up like Girls Aloud and hang around biker bars.
There are two things you need to know about heavyweight kilts: they take “expensive” to a whole new level, and they weigh a bloody ton. That’s fine if it’s the sixteenth century and you’re running through snowy fields with a big sodding sword, but not so good if it’s the middle of August and your testicles are on fire (I got married in August, on the hottest day of the year, in a kilt. Well, actually I got married in a hotel. But I was wearing a kilt. Full weight. Hot day. Not recommended).
I tried again, and asked if I could compare the weights. He lifted over a full-weight kilt. It dislocated my shoulder.
It’s a little known fact, but the reason the Scots were ultimately defeated by the English armies way back when wasn’t because of strategy or weaponry; the weight of their kilts dragged the Scots armies into the very core of the Earth, which enabled the English to ponce about as if they owned the place.
Can I see a medium-weight kilt, please? I asked.
He sighed and handed one over. It was still really heavy, but didn’t dislocate anything.
– That’s more of a football kilt, the man said, rhyming “football” with “gay”.
I preferred the medium weight kilt to the full weight kilt – given my back problems, strapping four and a half tons of wool to my backside isn’t the most sensible idea – but it was obvious that this bloke had absolutely no intention of letting me buy one. So we tried elsewhere. On to another city centre kiltmakers where
AAAAAGH AMERICAN TOURISTS EVERYWHERE RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN
So that didn’t work out either.
Off to Clydebank, then, to a family business that’s got a great reputation. And they were great – they wanted to know what I wanted and didn’t try to sell the most expensive stuff in the shop. Measured up, kilt ordered, job’s a good ‘un. Â£250. Ouch.
– Do you want to order the flashes just now?
– Because if you do it’s only Â£15, but if you order them later it’s Â£25.
Flashes are bits of tartan that go on your socks. They are, apparently, very important.
– And have you got a sporran?
The Sporran is the pouch at the front of the kilt, which has been used since the early 14th century as a convenient carry case for cigarettes, zippo lighters and digital cameras. Â£80.
Then there’s sporran chains. And the belt. And the belt buckle. The bill was now close to Â£450 before I remembered the kilt pin (which stops the kilt blowing open and showing your tackle to surprised pensioners), which was another Â£20. And we didn’t even go near kilt socks, the skean dhu (dagger, for non-Scots), clown shoes (not their official name) or any of that malarkey.
The upshot of all of this? Having handed over more than you’d pay for an Xbox 360 on eBay, I’ll go and pick up my kilt at some point in january – at which point they’ll nag me about the accessories I haven’t bought yet and talk me out of another couple of hundred quid.
With hindsight, I should have bought a tartan dog blanket and wrapped it around myself a few times. And then bought an Xbox 360.
* traditional “hilarious” answer to the traditional lady-question, “so, is anything worn under the kilt”?