“Aren’t you supposed to wear one of those fur bags?”
No. (And the bag is called a sporran, for what it's worth.) I was not playing dress-up-as-a-Highlander. Instead, I wanted to be comfortable at work without succumbing to the lowbrow short. Moreover, I had read that kilts are beneficial to men’s health, though the full benefits of kilts can only be obtained by not wearing underwear, which practice I abstained from for reasons of good taste.
I should caution, however, that before donning a kilt to work, men should check with their workplace about general sartorial guidelines. I, for one, first confirmed that Atlantic Media — The Wire's parent group — had no injunction against men wearing shorts or kilts. Some workplaces, however, could be more conservative in their dress codes. Yet, as a lawyer familiar with employment law told me, a man who was subject to disciplinary measures for wearing a kilt could potentially have grounds to file a complaint if he were “a person of Scottish descent and [he] routinely wore kilts as an expression of [his] Scottish heritage.” In addition, he suggested that any workplace that allowed women to wear skirts would have to allow men to wear kilts or potentially face a sex discrimination suit.
I am happy to report that I encountered no discrimination whatsoever on my day of wearing a kilt at The Wire's offices. Made by the Southern California company Sport Kilt, the kilt is woven from poly-acrylic fiber that feels like wool, but is much lighter. I certainly did not get hot walking around in viscous heat that approached triple digits; if anything, the office’s air conditioning actually chilled my legs – a strange sensation for your average trouser-wearing male.
Nevertheless, I encountered some skepticism from my male colleagues to the kilt as an everyday choice. While they were perfectly fine with my having donned one, they did not appear ready to follow my lead. The political reporter Philip Bump told me "Nope" when I asked him if he would ever consider wearing a kilt. Alexander Abad-Santos, a culture reporter, was curious but ultimately unconvinced: "I guess the only situation that might goad me into wearing a kilt is if it were very hot outside, and the kilt could give my sweaty thighs some kind of relief. But, aren't they made of wool? Isn't that warm? Yeah, no thanks." Others expressed similar reservations – though nothing more serious than that.
Nolan, the Gawker writer who urged people to swear shorts, also proved to be a skeptic when it came to kilts, telling me in an email, "I would say I am opposed unless the man is physically located in Scotland." That would, on the face of it, rule out both Manhattan and my beloved Brooklyn.
But others are starting to see the kilt as a potential summer option:
I realize that my kilt experiment won’t solve the shorts debate, which moved from the office cubicle to the church pew over the weekend. The kilt, rather, is a way to avoid that debate entirely – all while keeping cool and comfortable.
Photos: AP; Wikimedia Commons; Eric Levenson
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.