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The Sexual Allure of the Kilt


The rise in Scottish nationalism allied to a cultural resurgence north of the border has brought Scotsman the confidence to don their national dress. To be Scottish now is to be hip cool and trendy. Everyone from true blue Scotsmen such as Ewan McGregor to honorary Celt Mel Gibson sport the kilt.


One of the few redeeming features of, the dire Americanised big screen version of The Avengers, the classic British 60's television series, was the glorious sight of Sean Connery, the first and best 007, clad in plaid. In my humble opinion a magnificent sight, that was worth the price of admission alone.


In the last episode of This Life, the cult BBC drama about law students sharing a house, an answer was provided for those who wonder what a Scotsman wears under his kilt. It is when the kilted Lenny as played by Scottish actor Tony Curran, is being graphically buggered by Ramon Tikaram, in the role of Ferdy, in the men's toilets at the climatic wedding reception.


And, we now have evidence to prove the Queen of Pop herself, Madonnna, is a fan of the kilt. In the run up to her marriage to Guy Ritchie, which took place, of course, in Scotland, she was reported to have confided in Elayne Grimes, the Northern Constabulary's media relations officer. Apparently, Madge admitted that Ritchie was "incredibly sexy in his kilt" and that he always goes commando, the phrase that applies to a man leaving nothing to the imagination to what lies beneath. Truly, a devil in a skirt, but how did that particular description of a Scotsman came about?


The two most commonly attributed phrases "devils in skirts" or "ladies from hell" appeared to have been applied to the 51st Highland Division during the First World War and both expressions appear to be interchangeable. It was German intelligence, which like the British kept a record of those enemy divisions that were opposite them in the line. Some divisions fought harder than others, with the 51st joining the top of the German list, after the clearing of the Y Ravine in the autumn of 1916. The two expressions became popular around this time amongst the German soldiers, who were as fond of nicknames as the British Tommy. With time, it has become applied to all Scottish regiments that wear the kilt, whether in battle or on the parade ground.


The kilt is one of the few items of male attire men can actually wear without being labelled a transvestite or latent homosexual, or both. Real men wear the kilt from gruff Scottish actors, such as Peter Mullan, to black US movie stars like Samuel L Jackson. Fashion houses such as Burberry have also spotted a trend that has, in reality, never gone away. Very few men would dare doubt a man's heterosexual status for wearing the kilt, unless they happened to be an ill-informed US tele-evangelist.


Jean-Paul Gaultier, the camp London-based French fashion designer, has been dogged in his persistence to popularise a modern version of the kilt; without much success it has to be said. Could it be that his designs were too obviously homoerotic? Yet it is from strange that Gaultier should be enamoured of the kilt, as there is a long, and friendly, association between France and Scotland, as opposed to those south of the Anglo-Scottish border.


No Englishman would ever be brave/stupid enough to go up to a big, hairy Scotsman and insinuate that his friend from north of the border was less than one hundred percent pure heterosexual? Unless, of course, he was inordinately fond of hospital food, that is.


As Edward Lucie-Smith explains in his introduction to Jack Fritscher's American Men: 'It tells us nothing of the sexuality of the subject, but much about the image-maker's own reactions to the world which surrounds him - the things he is attuned to, and it likely to notice and record.' To cut a long theory short, beauty is in the eye of the viewfinder. As George Mazzei, former managing editor of the American version of GQ Magazine from 1968-75, has explained, the erotic charge of the kilt is the nudity underneath its pleats; or rather the assumption of nakedness.


One photograph, in American Men, entitled 'Actual Prison Guard, American Kilt, 1990' captures perfectly the erotic charge of the kilt, an athlete is engaged in throwing the hammer at a Highland Games. The shorts he wears beneath his kilt add a sensual frisson, rather than detracting from such a magnificent sight, as the referee, also kilted, watches on.


Though, dear reader, one need not have to search far for further images of men in kilts, as the cyber highway is crowded with a plethora of photographic evidence of those fellows who rebel against the trouser tyranny of the modern Western society. One e-group, based on Yahoo, called rather unimaginatively it has to be said, men-in-kilts, boasts a huge number of virile young bucks clad in plaid. And, there are more than I could possibly mention in such a short article as this, but take it from me, there are plenty more. The kilt still remains an icon of style, despite the vagaries of fashion, although over the years it has been touch and go.


Of course, not every man is a suitable candidate for wearing the kilt. David Duchovny of X-Files fame made a bad fashion mistake when he wore one. Others with offensive knees, or sticks for legs, should also be heavily dissuaded from donning it.


The origin of the modern short kilt, or philibeg, however, is still a subject of heated debate in some quarters. Thomas Rawlinson was an Englishman who adopted Highland dress, whilst working as the ironmaster at the Glengarry works in the eighteenth century, is considered to be the prime originator of the kilt as now know it.


There is no available evidence to suggest that the kilt, in its present form, existed before the early 1700's. This has failed to stifle the controversy, which, if truth were told, has all this to do with the fact that the first man to wear it was far from being a favoured son of Caledonia but a damnable Sassenach.


However, if you, dear reader, do decide to take to the kilt, do not forget the sporran. Which is very useful for keeping your small change and keys, as well as anchoring it down in a stiff breeze. Also, it is much more aesthetically pleasing than those dire bum-bags that have infiltrated the high street from the ski slopes in recent years. As well as that, forget the fact that sporran is Scots Gaelic for purse!

Kilt (if ye dinnae ken hoo tae pronoonce it, ah'm no gonnae tell ye) n. 1. a piece of plaid cloth attached about the waist to show that one is a highland warrior or an American tourist who claims a Scottish nationality 2. a "Power Skirt"

A kilt is a type of skirt which had its origins in the transvestite culture in the united states in the 1950s. Patterned after the catholic  uniform skirts for girls  which had been in use since the 16th century when Catholic missionaries first prescribed such garments for the indians (of both sexes) whom they were attempting to convert, the transvestite culture adopted a close copy of this skirt in an attempt to "skirt" the anti-crossdressing laws of that era. An elaborate mythology concerning the origins of the garment was then developed, ascribing it to ancientscottish culture so as to "pass" it off as a man's garment. Scotland was chosen because it is a small, extinct country and culture that almost no one knew anything about at the time (or now, for that matter).

In the photo at top right of this article, a late 20th Century Scottish  highland warrior is shown as he readies for action. Such images as this struck terror in the hearts of modern armies worldwide who thought they were facing an army of psycho-loonies stoked on PCBs. This individual is wearing an authentic Scottish kilt which exhibits a pattern known as the Macbeth plaid, the official clan tartan of Clan Macbeth. Members of this clan share a pathological fear that trees will attack their homes and this particular Scotsman can be seen to be keeping his bow and arrow trained on the nearby forest in case of trouble.

The Catholic school uniform skirts are very expensive garments requiring a high order of skill in seamstressing in order to make them fit properly. For example, they are made from expensive twill woven worsted wool and are individually tailored to the wearer's body.

Because the transvestite inventors of the kilt were men (and therefore couldn't sew) and because they couldn't afford the expensive school uniform skirts (because they couldn't hold jobs), the uniform skirt was simplified both as to its design/construction and material.

First, the inventors decided to make the kilt out of a cheap fabric - polyester - which was not only inexpensive, but was also easy to care for, requiring but little ironing, a skill which was unknown in their society (again, because they were men).

The construction of the garment was also simplified in that it was not individually tailored to the wearer, but instead was constructed on the waist with only a single length measurement. Other design changes were that the kilt is hemmed (in contrast to the school uniform skirt, which is made on the selvedge), and the waist is elastic in order to accommodate the expanding waistlines of the transvestites as they grew older. (Note that although the school skirts have adjustable straps and the material has some give as well, the stretching of the fabric to accommodate growth in the girth causes an unsightly phenomenon known as scallopping.)

It's only a skirt if you actually wear something underneath it >_>

Further simplification was introduced in that the strict requirement of symmetry in the patterns was dropped. As a result, in contrast to the school uniform skirts, which are all symmetrical in their patterns (that is, they exhibit the same sequence of lines, stripes and colors in both horizontal and vertical directions), the Scottish kilts are normally asymmetrical. The kilt pictured at the top of this article (the Macbeth plaid) is symmetrical in its pattern, but that is the exception. The pleating in the photo suggests that the wearer does not know whether he is coming or going, and that is not the exception.

In an example of one of many such ironies in history, Scottish textile manufacturers decided to adopt the newly-invented kilt as a way of increasing their revenue stream from the sale of yard goods. Over the years since that time, the sale and export of such goods has managed not only to revive a previously failing Scottish industry, but has made significant inroads into rectifying what had been an unfavorable imbalance of trade for the wannabe country.

Once the kilt had been adopted by the textile industry, a group of disaffected Scots set up a quasi-religious order whose chief function was to imbibe large amount of distilled spirits whilst wearing the kilt. The cult spread and soon all manner of people, most having little or nothing to do with Scotland, began assembling at large gatherings on the pretext of celebrating their alleged Scottish heritage. Along the way, they invented the world's first trashsport - caber tossing - wherein grown men, apparently in a state of inebriation, attempt to impale each other with telephone poles (see photo at right).

Meanwhile, the true origins of the kilt were quite forgotten, and instead the fictional story invented by the early transvestites was taken up wholesale and passed off as the truth, though sometimes it is said as an alternative that that the origins are "lost in the mists of time", a formulaic statement of folklorists everywhere commonly used to cover their state of confusion or inebriation.

In early 2000, the Dennis Uniform Company, the principal manufacturer of school uniform skirts for girls in the United States, announced that the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) had just granted their patent application covering plaid patterns. The company, stating its intention of defending their intelectual rights, then brought suit against manufacturers of plaid garments, whether called skirts or kilts, alleging that the Scottish kilt had the same "look and feel" as the older and better quality school uniform skirts, of which the kilt was but a cheap imitation.

As a result of this legal action, anyone wishing to manufacture or market plaid garments in United States must first obtain permission from the Dennis Uniform Company which holds the patent on such items.

However, the attempt by the Dennis Company to reserve exclusive use of the term kilt on trademark  grounds failed. In a landmark court ruling, it was held that the trademark had been lost through dilution resulting from common usage. In other words, the word kilt had become generic, much llike the previously protected terms escalator, mimeograph, and kitten huffing have become generic through common usage. Thus, although the plaid patterns themselves are protected through patent and must be licensed, the garments may continue to be called kilts.In recent years a variety of garments whose intended target market is men have been produced, resembling in outward appearance the Catholic school uniform skirt. The marketers decided to call these garments "kilts" as a marketing ploy to avoid the problems of marketing skirts to men. In addition, in order to circumvent the patent ruling in re: plaid patterns, the manufacturers make these garments in a variety of fabrics in plain colors. In other respects they are patterned after the school uniform skirts, sometimes being constructed in detail to the same pattern. Thus, while they are more expensive than the traditional Scottish kilt (pictured at top of page), they are still less expensive than the exemplar school uniform skirt.It is a sad fact that today there is a great deal of confusion over just what is and what is not a kilt and this confusion is only partly the result of the interesting (but little known) origins of the kilt. As a spokesperson for the Lying Court (not to be confused with the Court of the Lord Lyon, or Lyon Court, which has nothing whatsoever to do with kilts as they clearly state on their web site) put it: "It never ceases to amaze me that so many people confuse girl's school uniform skirts with the true, authentic Scottish kilt. As a people the Scots are renowned for their frugality. So why would anyone suppose that a true Scotsman would spend upwards of $800 for a garment when a perfectly fine and serviceable authentic kilt can be had for around $40?"The kilt, or "Power Skirt", as its later adopters named it, was a symbol of a man. It said "Fuck off, I'm wearing a dress", and that's pretty much what was on the mind of every enemy of the Scottish warrior. The Scots wore high socks which concealed large knives, called dirks, to defend themselves against any ass in a back alley that said "Hey, he's got a skirt, easy money." The Germans in those times called the Scots "The Ladies from Hell", and damn if they weren't right. Not only did they conceal knives in their knickers, but they also carried a purse, or sporran, that was hung about the waist. I, being the intelligent young man I am, don't think there has ever been a more tantalizing fashion statement. The sporran screams "Want my gold, come 'n' git it!" Not only was it on the front but it was hung low enough to cover the crotch, daring anyone to even think of going near the bagpipes