Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Friday, September 26, 2008

[men in kilts] Skirting the issue

Last time out, I outlined the variations of the Kilt Response, and mentioned that this phenomenon alone was not enough to put me off kilt-wearing, but that there were other considerations involved.

The first of these underlying issues for my not wearing kilts this summer was a purely practical one: my everyday kilt hasn't quite fit like it used to. I bought my first kilt, the khaki Neo-traditional, about eight years ago. With the passage of time from barely-forties to hittin' fifty, I got a little broader in the beam; to be fair, the kilt has shrunk a little as well. My size and shape has been somewhat modified by my recent exercise regimen, but the kilt still doesn't quite fit the way it once did. My dark green Neo-trad hasn't shrunk as much, but it's just a little dressier, and doesn't quite feel like everyday clothes (it looks better with boots than with sneakers). In slightly larger sizes, my maroon Spartan sport model is only suitable for extremely warm weather, which we didn't have much of this year, while the tan Workman's kilt is too heavy unless it's cool out and the grey twill Mocker is clearly too formal. These workaday concerns were a part of my switch to biking pants over my vacation.

A less tangible issue for me to deal with was over-identification as the Kilt Guy. It got to the point last year that if I failed to wear a kilt, some people were disappointed or would berate me. It was as if I had become more than just a person making an unusual wardrobe choice; I was a symbol of something else. When I put on sweatpants sometimes, it was because I felt like Glenn Ford at the end of The Sheepman, when, after fighting long and hard to force the cattle-raising community to accept his sheep flock into the landscape, he just wants to have steak instead of mutton for once.

But perhaps the biggest source of reluctance to continued kilt-wearing was my growing discontent with the materialism that they came to represent in my mind. Look at that rundown of five kilts above: that represents about $800 worth of clothes. It's ridiculous. I could get enough clothes from Value Village for that money to last me ten years; a good pair of pants might run me five bucks (I got my Carhartt's for three!). Why the heck was I committing all this money to clothing, more than I had spent since I was a police detective in the Miami Vice era, just because they were kilts? Wouldn't a true minimalist just wear whatever was cheapest, preserving resources for things that really mattered? It bothered me.

But, they're there now, hanging in the closet, so I guess wearing them isn't doing any more damage to the universe or to my soul. That's why I made the decision to wear the kilts to school once again this summer. So far, I've overheard the whispered "that guy looks cool in his kilt!" from a passing crowd of students; I was chatted up by a young fellow (proclaiming his Scots-Irish heritage) who was thrilled by the kilt (he told me it was "sick," which apparently means "really cool"); and one student asked me "What's up with your trousers?" during class introductions (I told him I wasn't wearing any and the class laughed). So, That Teacher who Wears a Kilt is back, at least for now.

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