FOR THE most part, men in Scotland dust off their kilts when it's time for an event such as a wedding or a funeral. That's if they even have a kilt at all.
So it's unlikely that in 2006 Edinburgh's civil servants or Glasgow's solicitors would feel comfortable taking off their trousers in favour of wearing the "Scottish skirt" to work.
But if they knew what comfort and joy they could experience by donning a Utilikilt, then maybe, just maybe, they would be willing to pack away the usual two-legged look and bask in the freedom of a washable fabric, pocketed skirt for men … made in America.
"It's a really cool, new take on an old thing," says Steven Villegas, the Seattle, Washington, owner and creater of Utilikilt.
Fed up with wearing trousers, Villegas decided in 1996 to take the two-legged fiends and chop out the crotch. The first Utilikilt – a washable man skirt with pockets – was born.
Although he says there was no Scottish influence to his design, Villegas recalls the moment when he first started selling his kilts - at a very Scottish Highland Games event in western Washington. He sold a few of them from his car and handed out business cards to raise awareness.
Ten years later Villegas owns a shop and produces his own sartorial creations right next door. He doesn't advertise the way other companies might. His business is run almost entirely by word of mouth.
The Utilikilt comes in many colours and fabrics – leather, bright orange and gray camouflage, red corduroy, even a black, pleated tuxedo version – and it sells around the world, particularly in Denmark, Norway, Canada and Australia.
We must not forget that while the traditional kilt remains commonplace at important Scottish events, businesses in the Old World are also in tune with the hip and trendy. Leather, pinstripe, camouflage and denim kilts are made and sold to a growing consumer base in our native land.
Meantime, Scottish customers of the Utilikilt buy double the number that are shipped to England, but don't look for it in any tartan. Villegas, who has a Scandinavian-Mexican background, says the traditional Scottish attire - with sporran, tartan and jacket - is not for him.
"Everything that it is, this isn't," he says comparing the traditional look with his own version.
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Dr Joe Germano of Germano and Associates, oceanographers, in Bellevue, Washington, embraced change a few years ago when he walked into the Utilikilt store and quickly decided that the man skirt would be his company uniform. He buys the special kilts for subcontractors he hires and his personal favourites of the five that he owns are the Hawaiian print and the tie-dye version.
The kilts have even drawn attention from people in Scotland on his recent visits. One man told him that he had been made to put on a kilt when he was a boy and this put him off wearing it when he grew up.
Still Germano hopes that more men, Scots for sure, will become more comfortable wearing kilts everyday.
Adam Bogle, an Ashland, Oregon, real-estate agent is comfortable wearing his Utilikilt. Unlike most other American realtors who feature their faces in advertisements, Bogle has full-body photos printed for business so clients can see him in his unique attire. His theory is that any client or potential client who isn't comfortable with Bogle wearing the kilt isn't someone he wants to work with.
Bogle bought his first man skirt two years after he saw another man wearing one.
"I just thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen," Bogle recalls.
He sent his wife to ask the man where he got it.
"Guys won't say, 'Hey dude, where did you get your skirt?'," Bogle says.
Once Bogle put on a Utilikilt he knew he didn’t want to wear trousers anymore.
"The denim one is my favourite," he says. "It wears great and is easy to launder."
Bogle owns about 10 kilts and would like a leather one, then the tux version if he ever came into some money. He would never wear a Scottish kilt though. Bogle is allergic to wool and since the Utilikilt has pockets there’s no need for any add-ons.
"There's no sporran to worry about around your … you know," Bogle says.
When a Utilikilt is sold in Seattle it's a wonder you don't hear it in Scotland. There is a huge gong in the store that resounds a mighty Bong! whenever there is a sale.
Customers are also invited to sign the guestbook that asks, "Would you barter for a Utilikilt? If so, what?" Clients from as far as Wisconsin, Illinois and New York offer up everything from a massage, plumbing, jelly donuts, and in one case, a girlfriend.
Speaking of girlfriends…
The "chick vibe" that Villegas mentions when he's talking about the Utilikilt is something Germano and Bogle have had first-hand experience.
"It's definitely true," Germano notes. "It drives women wild. If I was single it would be the best strategy."
The first time Germano wore a Utilikilt on a job in Portland, Oregon, he walked into a hotel lobby and a woman fixed her eyes on the snaps at the front upper region of his kilt.
"She said, 'Oh my God. Can I touch it?'," Germano says. "I said, 'Lady, I haven't been asked that in 30 years.'"
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Kilts: tightly woven into Scots culture