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Are Kilts Pan Breed?

By, Alan Moore

Another one bites the dust! – the first words of congrats from my oldest friends when I announced my engagement last year. After that, the kind words of congratulations and well wishes followed, but that was first instance where I got to see first-hand how differently the engagement journey is for bride and groom.

I’ve worked in fashion for more than 10 years. I’ve studied at Glasgow School of Art and the Royal School of Needlework. I’ve worked for large retailers and small retailers and now run my own menswear brand. I’ve designed prints for dresses, embroideries for coats, tartans for kilts and tweed for jackets across both menswear and womanswear, from the traditional fashion seasons, to one off standalone projects. Yet there has always been one area of fashion and retail that I’ve avoided; The Wedding Market.

Recently my business has seen a lot of customers looking for wedding outfits that isn’t traditional Highlandwear. I love Highlandwear, done well it makes any man look resplendent. It’s smart, tasteful, subtle and regal, yet there are some men who have a real aversion to wearing it, especially the kilt. There seems to be a shared view that kilts are a bit dated, that it’s not quite worth the investment and doesn’t have the same versatility as a suit. Times have changed and people want to wear their wedding outfit more than once, so that makes sense. But what’s wrong with the kilt? Why are modern discerning gentlemen shunning the national dress over practicality?

The hire industry has a lot to answer for. My few experiences of kilt hire probably echoes that of my father’s and his father’s before him. Shops that I’ve visited are dated and tired. They feel like what I image Scotland was like in the 70s; modern retail units, with strip lighting and blue carpet tiles, pictures of Archie Gemmill and Big Jock and stories of World Cup could have been’s. A time where a man wasn’t supposed to care about clothes and if he did, it was emasculating; you wear what you’re told and you’re told how to wear it. I recently heard a story of a chap being given a shirt to try on with his kilt that was still warm from the last customer who tried it on. Not the contemporary luxury experience a gentleman should be receiving. Retailers seem to be oblivious to a changing consumer attitude and expectation, only fulfilling the basic requirements. Bridal boutiques welcome brides-to-be with champagne and chocolates, dote on them in luxurious surroundings, with subtle relaxing strings playing in the background. What do the grooms get? A pint of patronisation to a soundtrack of Clyde One travel updates.

It’s clear to everyone that menswear is enjoying a real renaissance, and men are becoming increasingly particular about clothing, for all occasions. Gents are interested in their clothes, in the fit, the fabric, the details and the provenance. The idea of one size fits all has never been accepted in womanswear, and it’s being questioned more and more in menswear. For some of us, we will never stick to that 300 workout we started; and we’ll never look like Gerry Butler. Some of us have shoulders that were made for tossing salads, not cabers, and the only pecs we have are the Gregories on our face. Then there’s the demographic that have carefully sculpted their body over time, routinely exercising their vocal cords in armchair football management, on a staple diet of rolls and sausage and pints of Bellhaven.

The point is, no two people are the same shape and size, and as we become ever more aware of that, we become ever less tolerable of clothes that don’t fit. Times have changed; regular sleeves are too long or too short, regular shoulders are too wide and too high, that wool blend has too much blend and it’s too hot. These things used to be ignored, but no longer. It’s time the Highlandwear industry looked itself in the mirror, pulled up its socks, straightened its tie and tried to become a modern gentleman.

So what do you think, is the kilt outfit pan breed? Is the problem the outfit or the experience? Are kilt hire shops stuck in the 70s?