True Scotsmen are told to cover up

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IT MAY be a tradition, but Scottish men's habit of "going commando" in a kilt is increasingly disgusting firms hiring Highland dress.

Several companies are now requesting that customers keep their pants on when they hire a kilt to protect staff and future customers from unhygienic tartan.

Leading Scottish kilt-making firm Slanj has written a clause into its hire terms requesting that underwear is worn at all times. Other firms, such as the prestigious Geoffrey (Tailor) Kiltmakers and Marchbrae Clothing, both on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, have said they also back this policy.

The companies have introduced the clause because of the habit of some men to return extremely soiled garments.

While the firms dry clean the garments before they are hired out again, some kilts are so dirty they are unhygienic for staff to handle.

Slanj, which has made kilts for Sir Sean Connery, Ewan McGregor and Billy Connolly, has just launched its hire service but introduced the clause because of previous experience. The company has come up with a rhyme that is displayed on posters around its stores in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, in a bid to encourage its customers to consider wearing underwear.

It reads: "Though Scots like to prance/About in their kilts wearing nae pants/Fir the next punter make it fair/Dinnae firgit to wear a pair."

Craig Halley, Slanj's co-owner, said: "A lot of our staff worked in the hire sector previously and found the biggest problem was cleaning the kilts. People were hiring them to wear at weddings, parties and football and rugby matches.

"It doesn't require a huge leap of imagination to picture what kind of states they would come back in. Because of this and the potential hygiene problems, we are politely asking people to wear underwear."

Other hire companies with a similar policy have said say the move is for their customers' own good. Gary Wilson, manager of Marchbrae Clothing, said: "From a personal point of view, I certainly would wear underwear with a hire kilt for my own hygiene reasons and most hire companies do encourage it. You don't know where it has been beforehand."

However, other companies believe that forcing people to wear pants is going too far and are backing a man's right to free choice on the matter.

Marty Stevens, manager of Davison Menswear and Kilt Hire, said: "I wouldn't wear underwear with a kilt because that's not the way it is supposed to be done. Wearing a kilt is quite warm even on a cold day and it is more comfortable.

"We've had customers who have absolutely no shame whatsoever, with soils front and back. But 98 per cent will be all right, with just the usual beer spills, and if they are gross then we'll charge the customer even more for cleaning it."

The wearing of kilts in Scotland can be traced back to the 16th century, but became popular across the whole of the country in the 19th century.

Not wearing underwear under a kilt is a Scottish military tradition. During the First World War, some Sergeant Majors reportedly used mirrors tied to the end of golf clubs to look up and under the kilt during inspections.

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Howie Nicholsby, designer kiltmaker

Wears pants

"AFTER nine years of wearing a kilt every day, 90 per cent of the time I'm wearing underwear. It's only when I'm at a wedding or a special occasion that I might not, because it's more comfortable and for health reasons.

"Generally, wearing a kilt is better for your health because you're not constricting that area and the air is able to flow around.

"I think true Scots who like to wear kilts a lot will wear underwear, it's just more hygienic. Generally, people who make a big thing about not wearing underwear are doing it for the show-off factor. It's a mindset and stereotype that we could do with getting out of."

Gavin Hastings, former Rugby Union player

No pants

"I don't hire my kilts, I've got my own. But they've always said that when you hire a kilt you pay for the dry cleaning anyway, so what's the problem? People have the choice; they can buy their kilt, and those who wear them a lot will do that – for the rest, they can just get them dry cleaned."

John Smeaton, Glasgow terror attack hero

No pants

"IF YOU want to be a true Scotsman, you don't wear underwear. It is tradition and you should stick to it.

"I can understand if they're hiring them out that they feel that way, but they should expect that true Scotsmen won't wear underwear. Maybe they should just add a little bit more to the bill for dry cleaning."

Mark Cousins, film critic

No pants

"WHY would I wear underwear? The whole point is for extra comfort. I'm in Calcutta at the moment and I get asked that question ten times a day.

"It's stupid. This company is trying to be cool and unbossy, but if they don't like the business, get out of it. It undoes the whole reason for wearing a kilt."