I wasn’t sure I could go through with it, even as I left the house that afternoon and walked down the block to a car2go. A group of dudes was drinking on the balcony of the Airbnb overlooking the street, but I didn’t hear any comments while I waited for the car to communicate with the mothership and unlock itself.
I can’t remember the last time I was so self-conscious about my appearance. But it was going to be damn hot at the downtown music festival, and a kilt seemed like a solid move to stay cool.
Anybody who knows me is well-aware of my aversion to pants. Often, the first thing I do when I walk through my house is de-trouser myself (not if I have Simone there, of course). In the summer, I wear linen pants, because they’re light and airy and feel like pajamas (and look nice, too). I like shorts, but they can feel restrictive when they ride up. If I had my way, I’d forego wearing pants at all.
At WideFoc.us, we only hold office hours Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, because I don’t want to be confined to an office (or pants) five days per week, and I don’t think my team should be stuck there, either. They can work from home or coffee shops or wherever on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as long as they stay focused and get their stuff done.
As for me, unless I have meetings, or other reasons to leave the house, I celebrate #nopantsTuesday as often as possible. Amazing how much I can get done, sitting at my kitchen counter or up on the balcony, working away sans pantalones. If I find myself unable to focus, then I reluctantly get dressed and make my way to a coffee shop for a few hours.
In winter, because traffic is unbearable on the weekends, I generally go snowboarding every other Tuesday or so for a bit o’ #snowpantsTuesday. According to my baby sister, when she spoke to my father about my success in building a company that not only paid the bills but gave me the freedom of a more flexible schedule, it took him awhile to come around to the idea that taking Tuesdays off to go snowboarding was actually my way of living the dream, even if it meant I wasn’t out hustling up new business.
Anyway, I’ve always thought kilts at rock shows seemed cool — both figuratively and literally. I’ve been curious about them for some time, and I’ve seen bad-ass rugby players rock the Utilikilt for matches. It seemed to me that it would take an especially <ahem> ballsy guy to rock a kilt in public.
So I did a little research, looking up kilts on Amazon and elsewhere, reading reviews, tweeting for opinions (one old friend was decidedly against), and asking what people thought of men in kilts in general. I also read a ton online — kilt-wearing men have a sort of brotherhood, where they prop each other up about how manly and secure they are. The interwebs are full of lists about why one should wear a kilt, and how to respond to questions about it.
Most common question:
“What do wear under your kilt?”
And don’t get me started on purveyors of kilts and kilt-related products. Their marketing is replete with tough looking dudes in skirts doing manly things like trail running, playing rugby, and wrasslin’ bears. The over-compensation and endless self-aggrandizement seemed like a desperate assertion about the masculine richness of being one of the tribe, but it wasn’t enough to put me off of the idea.
So a few days before the street concert, I ordered an olive green kilt via Amazon Prime and tested it out when it arrived. Simone took photos of me wearing it, while I switched out shoes, so I could send them out and get a second (or third) opinion about the overall idea.
In the end, though, it didn’t really matter what anyone else thought about me in a kilt. If I was going to wear it in public, I was the one who had to feel comfortable. But nothing I could do or tell myself or hear from others was making me feel at ease.
If I went to the festival in the kilt, I would be stuck there for at least five or six hours, from late afternoon until deep into the evening. No going back, no changing my mind. It would have been an easier decision if I were going with friends—but everyone who’d originally planned on joining me bailed (or forgot), which left me with no choice. If I really wanted to see those bands, I’d need to sell my extra ticket and head over solo.
The decision, finally, wasn’t about whether the kilt would keep me cooler than shorts or pants, or if it was going to be a style choice. It came down to me daring myself to be ill-at-ease for a day. Would I willingly put myself in that uncomfortable situation, and brazen it out? Once I put it that way, of course I had to do it.
So there I was, driving the little car2go into downtown, be-kilted.
My legs stuck to the seat a bit as I dragged myself out of the car, and then I was hoofing it to the festival gates—they’d cordoned off a couple blocks, so we were routed through an alley to the entrance. I walked with purpose, not looking to either side of me, feeling more than hearing the reactions from three very young women walking behind me. I was shuttled through the entrance, and among the sparse crowd of revelers making their way to the south stage.
A beer in hand was my top priority, and then I was watching a killer punk band rally the crowd. Nothing smooths the sharp edges like a drink in the sunshine watching live music.
The first 30 minutes or so was the hardest. I can make myself comfortable in nearly any situation, and I’ve learned in my travels that acting like you belong someplace is the fastest way to blending in. But the sidelong glances and outward stares were disconcerting at first.
And then a pretty, tattooed woman made a point of coming up to me to tell me how much she liked my kilt. The music was loud, so I only caught every other word, but the smile and the thumbs-up said it all. I thanked her, and she went back to her friends, having no idea how that single compliment settled me in for the long haul. Fuck the skeptical stares and ironic “nice kilt, bruh” call-outs—the interactions were largely positive, with plenty of high fives and appreciative nods.
And, holy crap, the up-skirt breeze on a hot day was transcendent.
By the time night fell, I had a gentle beer buzz and had crossed paths with one of my neighborhood friends and her pal, neither of whom bothered to comment on my attire. We strolled from band to band, dipping ourselves in the late spring euphoria that sun and warmth (finally!) and the Denver vibe brought on. If one girl standing behind us during Nathaniel’s set couldn’t stop swiping at the pleats on the back of my kilt like a bad kitty, and then apologizing again and again, it was a small price to pay.
As an extroverted introvert (or maybe it’s the other way around?), I like being the center of attention, as long as I’m not required to actively seek it out. The kilt was a low-key but still flattering way to stand out from the shorts and t-shirted men in the crowd. And after awhile, I mostly forgot I had it on.
It felt akin to when I have the trucker ‘stache for Movember, or when I’m wearing my new glasses or my summer hat — it’s not my usual style, but it still has merit, and I get looks from people who wouldn’t normally give me a second glance. It’s a fun, temporary foray into someone else’s aesthetic.
By the time I was walking home at the end of the festival, I was actually kind of stoked to be wearing the kilt. My boys were nice and cool, I was less self-conscious, and I knew I’d wear it again to another summer show. Plus, I’d dared myself to do something uncomfortable, and followed through.
But…I probably wouldn’t just wear it out for a day in the sun. I guess I’m not quite that ballsy.