It has been a long time since kilts were worn by Scots who needed to stay warm as they marauded across the Highlands or fought with the English. Today, they are most often worn with a tie and jacket at formal events the costume of rebellion has become the garb of the establishment. But one Edinburgh clothes designer offers a line that's intended to restore the kilt's status as an icon of rugged individuality and defiance.
Howie R. Nicholsby's 21st Century Kilts (www.21stcenturykilts.com) utilizes denim, tweed, PVC and leather, as well as traditional wool, for a line of funky but functional daily wear. Instead of a sporran (the purse that hangs around the waist), they come equipped with airplane seat belts and detachable pockets. Most of Nicholsby's kilts which go for $500 to $2,500 are designed for casual occasions, and are meant to be worn not with dress shoes but with combat boots. "Kilts are too often seen as stuffy," he says. "But that's missing the point kilts can be cool."
Nicholsby, a third-generation kiltmaker, sells his collection on the top floor of his father's store Geoffrey (Tailor) Kiltmakers and Weavers on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. The two don't always see eye to eye. The elder Nicholsby's company is one of the most revered kiltmakers in Scotland, specializing in the traditional numbers against which his son's designs rebel. But Nicholsby says the uneasy alliance is good for business, offering a range of looks under one roof: "If a father and son visit Edinburgh, they might want different things." And if a customer comes in looking to maraud through the Highlands or fight the English? "We have camouflage kilts," he says. "But I wouldn't recommend it."