the bonnie kilt: putting the hairy legs back into hip

A Hogmanay special from the flower of Scotland: Anna Burnside on what the laddies will be wearing, and Nicholas Barber on his long New Year

Drummer Tony Odolbhailein wears an old faded one from a second- hand shop when he plays wild pipe-band music. Hairdresser George Paterson finds it very comfy for cutting hair. Climber Matt Glover scales Munros in his. The kilt used to be the last word in naff, worn only by Royals, extreme Scottish nationalists and the resentful children of vindictively traditionalist parents. But this Tuesday night, Princes Street in Edinburgh will be packed with party beasts only too pleased to be able to show off their tartan for Hogmanay.

The last time the kilt was truly popular was in 1822, when George IV visited Scotland. His dress kilt was made from satin, cashmere and velvet. The gold badge for his Glengarry was set with diamonds, pearls, rubies and emeralds. His white goatskin sporran was lined with silk and topped with gems. He caused an understandable sensation and sent the Scottish establishment into a tartan frenzy. To emulate George IV would be a bit much for the contemporary drunken outdoor ceilidh or New Year rave-up. But if Mel Gibson can carry it off, anyone can.

George Paterson has a shaved head, a white boxer called Dottie and a big thing for tartan. He has been called the wild boy of Scottish hairdressing, a label he just loves to bits. "I always hire a kilt so that every time I wear one I can try a different tartan. For the show at Wembley I wore it with a white collarless shirt and boots. I know it's attention-seeking but I like that. And it feels good, a bit hanging loose. I always wear a kilt for a formal do because I hate wearing a shirt."

Paterson never looks less than immaculate, but the kilt is just as happy with a ratty jersey as with a Katharine Hamnett shirt. The guys in Gutty Slippers, Tony Odoibhailein's anarchic pipe band, wear skanky old kilts, T-shirts and Doc Martens when they play at festivals, conferences, parties and weddings (including Paul Gascoigne's).

"One old guy in an RAF blazer did give us a blast of venom once, he said we were a disgrace to our country. But I think people can see that we are not mocking the kilt but that we are proud to wear it and we enjoy wearing it. I think what we do is close to the way it used to be worn, it wasn't always pristine and pressed. We are reclaiming it from the Victorianised, Anglicised version."

Matt Glover has two kilts and has walked across Scotland, from Braemar to the Knoydart peninsula, in one of them. "I wore my kilt on Christmas Day, I wear it if I'm asked out, on any occasion that's not too dressy. And I take it abroad if I'm going on business. If I'm wearing the dress kilt I wear a Montrose jacket with a lace jabot because I think it's more authentic. Highlanders didn't have good shirts, that was why they wore the jabot. Mind you, mine does have Velcro on it.

"It's comfortable for walking: you have nothing on your legs except boots and short socks. I've even slept outside in my kilt, with a bivvy bag, in May and June. I don't feel we make enough of our culture and history, so I like wearing the kilt because it is a link to the past."

Some events demand the full regalia. For concerts and competitions, Kenneth Thomson conducts the Glasgow Gaelic Choir in an Ancient Campbell of Argyll kilt and silver-buttoned Prince Charlie jacket. "When I joined the choir in 1968 not all the men wore one but now, when you go the Mod, virtually every man in every Gaelic choir is wearing a kilt. My son Fergus asked for one for his 21st, because he goes to a lot of balls at university. It is very fashionable and it is young people that are making it fashionable. I am delighted that something that was getting a bit shortbread-boxish is now really popular."

With the right legs and the confidence to carry it off, there is only one problem. Coping with the attention. "Everyone wants to talk to you," says Matt Glover. "I've met lots of nice people and had so many good conversations in my kilt."

"It's murder if you're anywhere with a lot of women," says Tony Odolbhallein. "And they are always the wrong women. I've had to learn to be quick with my drumsticks." AB

A Sassenach's Guide to the Kilt

t You don't have to be Scottish, but you do need chunky legs and a sturdy brass neck

t Loathe your family tartan? The Edinburgh Festival, Scottish Rugby Union, even Rangers and Celtic all have their own tartans, or there are catch-alls like Flower of Scotland

t Length is crucial. The kilt should just skim the break of the knee

t The pin is not a hangover from punk. It is there to weight down the "apron" at the front of the kilt

t Underwear is a vexed question - everyone wants a wee keek. Only loin kings with toned buttocks should go without. Colour-coordinated silk boxers for everyone else

t Kilt hire shops may run out around Hogmanay, Burns Night and busy weekends in high summer

t Tartan ties with kilts are extremely naff. But tartan socks are highly desirable

t Ghillie shoes are meant to have extremely long laces. They go up the legs, like Seventies espadrilles

t Nose-rings, leather sporrans, fetish boots ... It's all been done before and the world is still spinning. You won't offend us. Wear what you like and enjoy your kilt

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas