No, madam. Everything’s in perfect working order*

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 £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?

Black Watch.

– Right, he said. You need this one.

It was nearly £500. £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. £250. Ouch.

– Do you want to order the flashes just now?

Flashes?

– Because if you do it’s only £15, but if you order them later it’s £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. £80.

Then there’s sporran chains. And the belt. And the belt buckle. The bill was now close to £450 before I remembered the kilt pin (which stops the kilt blowing open and showing your tackle to surprised pensioners), which was another £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”?

23 thoughts on “No, madam. Everything’s in perfect working order*

  1. Tony Kiernan says:

    The ‘kilt’ you’ve bought will have no resemb;lence to anything wornm in the 16th century. ‘Full Highland Dress’ was Victoria’s repeal of the ban on tartan so she could have some chocolate box soldiers around Balmoral.

    BTW. Most second hand shops in the west end are buckling under the weight of kilts they have for sale.

  2. Gary says:

    > You don’t have to wear a tie with a suit, you know

    Yeah, but then you’re veering dangerously close to miami vice territory :)

    Tony, you’re a mine of information.

  3. tm says:

    actually you’re veering dagerously close to ‘dotcom wanker’ territory, and getting spat at by right mided people everywhere.

    Although to be fair in a relaxed environment you can probably get away with wearing a collar and taking the tie off fairly quickly after you’ve arrived.

    The t-shirt under a suit is just a no-no though.

  4. Laura (Vic's pal!) says:

    ‘Jumped -up blanket’ is quite possibly the funniest description I have heard all year, and has been making me laugh all weekend. Can I steal it from you?

  5. Stephen says:

    the skean dhu (dagger, for non-Scots)

    Are you saying you can be armed with an edged weapon in the UK if you wear one of these skirts?

    Might be worth it…

  6. Gary says:

    Not any more, I’m afraid. Thanks to anti-knife laws you have to carry a replica rather than the real thing. Unless you’re a ned, in which case you carry a breadknife and a cleaver inside your shellsuit.

  7. Richie says:

    If you’re a bag piper in full dress number uniform you get to wear a 12″ Dirk as well as the skean dhu and it’s a real blade.

    As for second hand kilts and ex hire etc, you never know what sweaty bollocked bastard has gone commando before you purchased it. Bear it in mind folks.

  8. Gary says:

    Oh, I didn’t know about the piper thing.

    > As for second hand kilts and ex hire etc, you never know what sweaty bollocked bastard has gone commando before you purchased it.

    Yeah, that was definitely a factor in deciding between brand new or second hand. I dunno whether it’s got any basis in reality or if it’s just an old wives’ tale, but when I got married I was warned by Calum (and others) to wear boxers underneath a hire kilt for hygiene reasons…

  9. Squander Two says:

    Buying second-hand would be fine, ’cause you get to wash the thing and spray it with Dettox yourself, so have some confidence about how well it’s been washed. Wearing nothing under a hired one involves trusting the hire firm’s washing standards based on no evidence whatsoever. Perhaps not really all that risky, but certainly worrying.

    Of course, either way, you look ridiculous. And this from a man who has been known to wear a skirt on stage.

  10. Gary says:

    > Perhaps not really all that risky, but certainly worrying.

    Yeah. Few people would be willing to buy second-hand pants, I’d wager :)

    > Of course, either way, you look ridiculous.

    Bah, kilts are cool. So nerrrr.

    > And this from a man who has been known to wear a skirt on stage.

    I always wondered about that. Was it for ventilation, or just to wind people up? The effect was very Darth Vader…

  11. Squander Two says:

    It was to look a bit interesting. As you once said, the band shouldn’t look like they’re just there to do the plumbing. The Darth Vader effect’s down to my amazing tallness, and is particularly pronounced when I’m surrounded by stumpy wee Weegies.

    No ventilation: I wore it over me trousers.

  12. mupwangle says:

    >>What’s wrong with American tourists?

    The specific breed of tourists you find hanging around kilt shops and twee scottish tourist shops are a unique species who are really rather loud, slow and annoying and going on constantly about their great-great-great-great-great grandparents who they think were from somewhere they can’t pronounce. They also tend to be american. Not all american tourists are bad – only the ones you find in scottish tourist attractions. The ones you see in England are nothing like.

  13. Squander Two says:

    My aunt emmigrated to Florida in the 40s or 50s, very rarely comes back, and appears to have become the worst American tourist ever, because she remembers what Britain was like when she left and doesn’t realise that the Twentieth Century happened here as well as in America. She genuinely believes, for instance, that many people in Britain don’t have bathrooms or indoor toilets. I suspect she thinks we spend all our spare time morris dancing.

  14. Heather says:

    >>What’s wrong with American tourists?

    They walk around yelling about their fanny packs.

    (I’m allowed to make fun of American tourists – I used to be one.)

  15. Davie duff says:

    “Not any more, I’m afraid. Thanks to anti-knife laws you have to carry a replica rather than the real thing. Unless you’re a ned, in which case you carry a breadknife and a cleaver inside your shellsuit.”

    Gary the Skean Dhu has actually been given a reprieve from that law and was given special status due to it being part of the nation dress

  16. Squander Two says:

    How comes a kilt with a skean dhu gets to be considered national dress but a shellsuit with a breadknife and a cleaver in it doesn’t? If we’re making exceptions for vibrant native ethnic traditions, Glaswegians should at least be allowed hammers with stanley knives gaffa-taped to them.

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