There are a few things that seem odd when traveling, but how about a man who likes to travel in a kilt? Our Wanderer, Nicola, has done it for years: traveled with a man in a kilt! She had to; he’s her father!
What’s it about? Tell us Nicola:
[Disclaimer: No plaid or tartan was kilt in the making of this blog]
I should have seen it coming. After all, looking back now, the puzzle pieces all fit together. Little did I know that the signs were there all along…
- My sister and I donned plaid kilts at school from kindergarten up until graduation day (we even wore matching tartan headbands… all the rage in the 90’s). In addition, a kilt-clad bagpiper led the annual Halloween parade at our school
- Locals used to flock to McDonald’s on the US base in Bermuda until it closed in 1995. Oh… wait… scratch that, McDonald’s isn’t Scottish is it? [I’m just teasing! On a serious note, brothers Richard & Maurice McDonald of the famous franchise were Irish-Americans]
- The first fashion show that I ever attended, in France of all places, was tartan-themed. Truly exquisite!
- Harry Potter fans, like myself, all know JK Rowling first jotted down ideas at the Elephant House in Edinburgh in the late 90’s (while exploring Edinburgh in 2009, my sister and I visited this café where HP was once just a scribble on a napkin)
- My favourite actor is Scotsman Ewan McGregor, who also penned two of my favourite travel books. But then again, maybe that circles back to him being my favourite actor. Hmm… it’s debatable.
- My roommate & friend from my semester in Paris was a McGarry, hailing from a Scottish family in Fergus, a town in Ontario of Scottish heritage. Fergus actually hosts the largest annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games outside of Scotland [I had the pleasure of attending the festival last weekend with the McGarry clan, where we got our fill of highland dancing, piping, the caber toss and of course kilts, kilts and more kilts]
Okay, enough foreshadowing – let’s get straight to the facts. My name is Nicola Arnold and my father wears a kilt. There. I said it.
It’s been happening for just over two years now, triggered by a family wedding in Australia, where other men were also affected. As I mentioned above, the kilt may run in our family. While I was not present when my father’s symptoms started, family friends had sent me photos of the first outburst at the airport in Bermuda.
Slowly, I began to learn more about what to expect of a father with a kilt. While it was shocking at first, we have learned to deal with the staring, the laughter and the plain curiosity of others. It’s only natural, after all. You get used to the attention, especially when travelling, as the whole paraphernalia is rather conspicuous. After all, airport security is most curious about, well, everything weird, wacky and wonderful.
You think it’s rough when security asks you to take off your scarf, boots and watch? Try wearing a formal kilt outfit! You may have to strip off any/all of the following: your kilt hose (woollen socks), your garter flashes (RELAX! They are sock ribbons), your ghillie brogues(Scottish shoes), your sporran (pouch), your kilt pin, your jacket & vest, your kilt belt & buckle, and your sgian-dubh (kilt knife, though for obvious reasons you may not be travelling with one).
After having borrowed a kilt for several functions, my dad jumped into the deep end. Last summer, my family traipsed to Paisley, Scotland (just west of Glasgow) for our complete “dad is buying a kilt” experience. Indeed, Houston Kiltmakers did not disappoint us.
As you can imagine, the kilt spawns plenty of questions. Some are stereotypical… some are hilarious… some are bold… some evoke deep thought… and some are downright bizarre. Regardless of the type of wonder & awe exhibited, one thing is certain – the kilt exudes happiness :)
Top 10 questions, comments & concerns:
1. Are you a true Scotsman/What do you wear underneath the kilt? [Most popular by far!]
2. Do you play the bagpipes/Are you in a pipe band?
3. May I have a photo taken with you? [Or, there are the less courageous admirers who, be it with smartphones or bite-size digital cameras, take more clandestine photos]
4. What clan is your tartan? [Dad wears Mackenzie Ancient tartan, FYI]
5. What is the special occasion?
6. What do you do when the wind blows/Are your legs cold?
7. I love a man in a kilt!
8. Are you from Scotland?
9. My niece/great-grandfather/uncle/friend’s dog… is/was Scottish!
10. Comments on smartness, regality, stunning beauty of the wearer [For a man who has dressed up as Mrs. Claus for past Christmas parties, and almost upstaged me at my university graduation, the phrase “dress to impress” has not been overlooked!]
Plus the understated (yet much-noticed) non-verbal affirmations: whistles, thumbs-up signs, laughs and chuckles, openly gawking children, teenage monosyllabic grunts, or some form of acknowledgment or look of approval from other men.
My hands-down favourite moment? While waiting for a train in the Toronto subway, an elderly lady on the platform across from us, Scottish flag hanging from her wheelchair, yells out loud to my dad, “I like yer kilt!”… AWESOME!
I shall sign-off with a famous quote, with a twist: “What lies behind the kilt and what lies ahead of the kilt are tiny matters compared to what lies underneath the kilt.”