James MacMillan

Brother for Life
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Everything posted by James MacMillan

  1. James MacMillan

    Advice from an old kiltie....

    Advice from an old kiltie...... I should start this off by saying that I don't know it all. There are many people more knowledgeable than I am. I do wear the kilt, and I try to wear it with respect and pride. Over the years, I have learned some things along the way that I would like to pass on. Not that it is any great distinction, but I am a dedicated, full time kilt wearer and have been for several years. OK – Here we go……….. I continue to be asked by those who know me and those who just meet me about kilts. Most people, when they find out or realize that I wear the kilt full time, get curious. Some consider also getting and wearing the kilt. Some wives have even called me a bad influence. Be that as it may, I get asked for advice quite often. So I decided to customize some sage words that might fit the average new kiltie. (Kiltie – somebody who wears a kilt, usually a man.) Maybe if the words below are heeded you can avoid some of the mistakes that I made. Assumptions: Some assumptions are in order. I assume the individual I am writing this for lives in the U. S., but with today’s access to the internet, this advice holds true for almost anyone. I assume that the individual has never worn a kilt before (maybe he once wore a rented outfit at a wedding or Burn’s dinner.) I assume he is an out-going, vivacious extrovert and is not afraid of trying something new. Let’s face it, if you don’t want to stand out in a crowd, you shouldn’t wear the kilt. If you aren’t thick skinned enough to handle a little teasing, you shouldn’t wear a kilt. I assume he doesn’t already own a kilt. For lack of a better term, I will refer to the clothes you currently wear as Saxon clothes. These are your jeans, shirts, suits, belts, socks, sport coats and all the things you now use to cover your body. Generally, kilts can be broken down into two very broad categories: tartan and non-tartan. Tartan kilts tend to be made in the manner that has been adopted as the national dress of Scotland. Tartan kilts have pleats in the back and an apron in front. Generally, tartan kilts don’t have pockets. Non-tartan kilts have been called modern, non-traditional, contemporary and many other names. Non-tartan kilts are made in many different ways. Some have small aprons, different pleating styles, even pockets. When addressing this type of kilt, the rules or conventions go out the window. I am not talking about non-tartan kilts. So, I make the big assumption that we are talking about tartan kilts. I am also going to assume that you want to wear your tartan kilt in a more conventional manner. This means you wear kilt hose (knee socks) with your kilt. It assumes you will be wearing a wide kilt belt (your narrow Saxon belt just won’t work.) It means you will be wearing a sporran, because you don’t have any pockets, and you need someplace to stash your wallet and keys. Research: The first thing that the new kiltie or kilt curious man needs to do is to educate himself. One great way to do that is to get and read a copy of “So You Are Going To Wear The Kilt” written by the late J. Charles Thompson. This is a concise, well written, easy to understand primer on wearing the kilt. It is still in publication and can be found in libraries and on line. Used copies can sometimes be found for around $5. Get this book and read it. Sure, some advice is a bit dated, and some even a little controversial, but all-in-all this is a great place to start. Again - Get this book and read it. Next spend many hours on your computer using google or yahoo or dogpile or whatever. Search and read what you find when you type in relative words, like kilt, Scotland, highland attire, etc. There are many, many good sources for kilt information. Some established clans have extensive information. Ditto some museums. Don’t rush into the first kilt purchase! Get all the information you can. Visit and join on-line kilt forums. One of the best is the Brotherhood of the Kilt at kiltsrock.com. There are many others such as Bravehearts and HexMarks..... Ok, you want to wear the kilt and you want it now! You’ve made the decision to buy your first kilt. What should you do now? Again, don’t be in a hurry. In order to respectfully wear the kilt you need several things. You need a kilt. You need kilt hose and hose flashes. You need a sporran, kilt belt and sporran belt. But, really that’s about it. I recommend you start small – Heaven forbid, you may not like it. Starter kilt: Your starter kilt turn-out can be very cost effective. A starter kilt can cost as little as $30. (Still Water) A very nice usable sporran can be had for $55. (Buzz Kidder) Kilt hose can be found for $15. (On e-bay from Scotland) Starter sporran belts run $15 and kilt belts about $35. (almost everyone has these items.) The look we are going for here is a casual one; not really good enough to go to a wedding, but perfectly fine for bar-hopping. Realistically, you can get a very presentable outfit for under $200. Most, if not all, of your present Saxon shoes and most of your Saxon shirts will work with the kilt. Wear plain colored shirts with no stripes or patterns with your tartan kilt. Lean to match the color of your shirt, hose and flashes to compliment the colors in the chosen tartan. Can you wear your Saxon sport jackets? – No! For now be satisfied wearing a light windbreaker jacket. Remember - You are not ready to go to church kilted - - - not yet! Go at this slowly; take your time. I suggest that you get a very inexpensive kilt first. There are several on-line manufacturers that sell low cost kilts. One of the best is Still Water Kilts. Jerry, the owner, only offers on his web-site those things that he has in stock. His delivery times are very fast. He sells great “starter” kilts. With a little modification by you, even his $30 Thrifty kilt can easily be made to double in value. More on that later. Regardless of the source, this starter kilt will not be high-grade Scottish wool. It may have Velcro instead of the traditional belts. It will be made from man-made fiber. It will have been manufactured and assembled in another country. Who cares? You will look good. If you follow the advice here and in Mr. Thompson’s book, you will not embarrass yourself. In fact with a little bit of effort, you can go to a local Highland game, and walk around with all the old kilties, just like you’ve been kilted for years. Back to this first starter kilt - - If you opted for the lowest price, this kilt will not have the pleats sewn down from the waistband to the hip. This needs to be done. Take a little time (an hour or so) and hand sew down the top eight inches or so of the pleats. You need to measure down from the waistband to where your rear end is at it’s widest. Get your wife or girl friend to help (maybe she’ll take pity on you and do the sewing for you!) This will give a more finished look to the low-end, low-cost kilt. It will make it fit better and also enhance the swing. Almost as important as your first kilt is your first kilt belt. A very serviceable casual kilt belt can be purchased at your local home improvement store or hardware. Look for plain leather tool belts, the kind that carpenters use to attach those big tool pouches from. I still have and use one that I got years ago for under $10. It is made of good quality leather and still gives good service. Wear this starter kilt a lot. Get out in the public. Go to the market. Go to the local pub. Find out for yourself that the kilt is more accepted than you may have thought. Have fun! Maybe buy and sew down the fell on a couple more low-end kilts. Get another pair or two of kilt hose. Make some nice flashes. Red flashes go with almost any tartan. Decision time! Do you still enjoy wearing the kilt? Are you man enough? Can you handle the harassment? No? You’re not out much money. Yes? Then it’s time to look into getting a little better quality kilt. Second level kilt: For your second level kilt I recommend the type and style of kilt sold by USA Kilts. Rocky uses a high-end Poly Viscose fabric that offers easy care and good style. His kilts are machine made, but custom made for you, none-the-less. You can get a quality kilt from USA Kilts for $100 to $200. Rocky also makes higher quality wool kilts, but we’ll talk about them later. OK - Several months have passed. You have your low-end Still Water Kilts to knock around in, maybe a couple of USA Casual Kilts for when you want to look nicer. You feel comfortable in your kilt. The people at the local bar now only make a remark when you fail to wear your kilt. The things that bug you now result from the poor choices you made. Instead of looking for the $55 Buzz Kidder sporran, you found one on e-bay for $12. From the same vender, you got your first kilt belt for $15. You now hate them. The leather is cheap, almost cardboard. The color is coming off, and the leather is cracking. What’s more, you can fit almost nothing inside this cheap sporran. You are now in the market for a better quality sporran. (If you bought the $55.00 Buzz Kidder, you’re ahead of the game.) Sporrans: The best sporrans are hand made by fine craftsmen. I recommend that you check-out Thorfinn Sporrans or Wyvern Leather Works. Both Turpin and Donnie make quality items that last a lifetime. There are also a few others: Joe Gondek, Bob Marlin and Tom Hay come to mind. And you can sometimes find some quality items at a local Scottish Game. If at all possible, touch and feel the product before you buy. Belts: For leather belts, both kilt belts and sporran belts, I recommend Oconee Leather Works. Steve makes top of the line products that also will last a lifetime. While I am on the subject of belts, remember that sporran belt that came with that cheap sporran? The one that is a chain and leather combination? Throw it away; far, far away. The chain sporran belt will damage even high level PV fabric. Reserve chain belts for formal wear, and even then, consider backing that fancy formal evening wear chain with black velvet or suede. Throw away that cheap leather chain combination, it’s an abomination. Hose: You are probably OK with kilt hose, but you’d like some different options. Look into Rugby or Soccer socks. They offer modern yarns, good durability and often nice colors. For cold weather or more dressy times track down some nice wool hose. There are really too many to mention. So here you are. You have several kilts, usable leathers and you now want to think about going to some place which requires a little more dressy appearance. You need a kilt length coat or jacket. Do you really want to spend $200, $300, or more on a jacket? I didn’t think so. What you need to do now is pay a visit to the local Good Will or D. A. V. used clothing store. Look for a tweed sport jacket in your size and cut it down as described in Mr. Thompsons’s book. Then you will be set. If you don’t think you can handle it, there are always local tailors that do alterations who will probably do the job for under $50.00. Top of the line kilt: You now can look for a personal kilt maker. You are probably ready to spend some big bucks on a really quality garment. I suggest that you avoid ordering a kilt from Scotland. Sure, they make good products, but the currency exchange, and sometimes import duty will and can easily double the price for that hand-made kilt. Many companies sell the full blown, heavy wool traditional kilt and you may be overly influenced by the price. Expect to wait three to four months for your kilt to be delivered. For the truly top of the kilt maker’s art, I recommend people like Barbara Tewksbury, Kathy Lare or Wallace Catanach. These individuals are at the pinnacle of their field and they make garments that can be passed down from generation to generation. A high-end kilt made from high end, heavy weight wool fabric can easily cost $750 dollars. This is a decision not entered into lightly. If you are considering a high-end kilt, you are probably also considering high-end exotic fur sporrans, formal evening jackets, formal sporran chains, Ghillie Brogues and maybe much more. Welcome to the addiction. Again, take your time; don’t rush it. Do your research. You probably are now in a position to give advice to others. Wear your kilt with pride! You notice I didn’t touch on contemporary kilts or which tartan to wear; I didn’t talk about dirks or sgians dubh. No mention of canes, walking sticks, cromachs or even a pair of cadadh. Not one word about hats. These subjects and many more can easily take up and do page after page and book after book. These subjects are also subject to more personalized habits and behavior. I will say that Glengarry Hats sell some nice quality items. There, you should be able to find the Balmoral or Glengarry of your dreams. Good luck young kiltie.
  2. James MacMillan

    Advice from an old kiltie....

    Yes - I'm still alive. I just re-read what I wrote those many years ago, and I'm suprised that most all of it still fits. Question, should I do a re-write? --Jay--
  3. James MacMillan

    Sgian Dubh Ramblings...........

    Sgian Dubh Ramblings. First off I should say that I am a full time kilt wearer. I generally wear Scottish traditional attire. I have very few non-traditional kilts and even when I wear a non-traditional kilt, I tend to wear it in a traditional manner. By that I mean that I always wear a kilt belt and sporran, and kilt hose and sgian dubh. To me, a kilt without sporran and hose looks like you are getting ready to compete in the caber toss, just got thrown out of the house by the old lady, or are just plain too lazy to pull your sox up. Now I know there are some out there who choose to wear their modern kilts without hose or sporran, and they seem to pull it off OK. But this isn’t for me. I don’t feel comfortable dressing like that. I am not throwing stones here; but dressing in some of the “modern” kilts (that to me, look more like a skirt) just isn’t for me. A man’s a man and all that. Where I am going with this, is that when I pull up the kilt hose; tie or strap on the flashes, the next thing I do is to slide in a sgian dubh or other similar sized sock knife. All my sgians and knives have a sharp edge and can cut things. Having a knife that can’t cut something is like pouring your coffee into a cup that leaks – it just doesn’t work. Why some men are afraid of knives is well beyond my ken. Carrying a knife of some sort has been a part of my daily habit since I was but a wee lad. If I want to carry a sgian don’t or other non-cutting instrument, I can slide it into the left hose top. Having a bottle opener at the right time can be a boon, but that’s why God gave a man two legs. Knife in power hand side and sgian don’t or pen, or pipe, sun glasses, or what-have-you on the weak side. For me that means knife in right hose top and when wanted other things in left hose top. I am an old curmudgeon who usually presents a non-threatening although bearded appearance. I am authorized to carry concealed, and usually do. But, what is not concealed is the sgian dubh – and I have never been challenged about, nor had a problem wearing it. Properly worn the sgian dubh is NOT a concealed weapon. Fully one third of the sgian dubh should extend above the hose top. In fact, this is a good rule of thumb about how to wear the sgian – On third visible works fine. Two thirds in hose top ensures that the sgain is secure in all activities but is still readily available for use, when needed.. Sure, I don’t carry a sgian dubh onto an airplane or in other locations where our stupid society has deemed that we don’t have the right to defend ourselves. The proficient search would reveal that I am not, even in those situations, un-armed. Did you know that ceramic, nylon, or plastic blades don’t set off the “metal” detector??? Plus when properly trained, a person can defend themselves with a ball-point pen. But, I digress. I always wear a knife. Over my years of wearing Scottish attire I have collected, purchased and/or made a wide variety of sgians dubh (Yes, that’s the proper way to say it! Sgian means knife and Dubh means black.) Each and every one that I deem worthy of wear can be used. A worthy sgian dubh should be fit to the wearer. It should fit into the hose top comfortably and be of small enough size for the wearer so as not to malform or stretch out the hose. The side of the handle that fits next to the leg should be made to conform to the body comfortably and the blade edge should be pointing in the correct direction. You should be able to wear a sgian dubh all day or night without it causing discomfort. When I make a knife for another I need to know two things. Is the man right or left handed and does he want the blade to face front or back? Right or left-handed is an easy fact to discern. Which way to have the blade face can easily lead to hours of discussion. Let’s explore that aspect. How do you want the knife to be presented when you draw it out of the hose top? Do you want the knife to be in your fist with the blade sticking out the thumb side or the pinky side? Do you intend to use the knife like Norman Bates in Psycho or Riff and Bernardo in West Side Story? Do you want to use the knife as a meat cleaver as you would on a chopping block or as you would when gutting a deer? Each style has it’s proponents. In the hands of a properly trained individual either style can function perfectly well, but you need to know. Now we come to the sheath. The sheath of a sgian dubh is made only to protect the wearer from the sharp and pointy part of the knife. It must be fully functional is this role. It must be rather loose fitting. A sheath that remains on the knife when the knife is drawn is stupid. When drawn, the sheath remains in the hose; only the knife emerges. For me, I favor soft leather sheaths. The soft leather rides easy against the leg and doesn’t cause damage to sometime expensive hose. Since the sheath is always hidden inside the hose top, there is little use in expending much effort to decorate it – but, that’s me. Oh, and there is worry about cutting the hose when you draw the knife. I don’t know why this is, but it is true. In thousands and thousands of times drawing a knife out of a hose top, I have never cut my hose. This seems counter intuitive, but it is true none-the-less. You will not cut your hose! Let’s review. The sgian dubh should have a sharp and usable blade. The handle should be comfortable against the leg. The sheath should protect the blade and wearer. The blade should point in the preferred direction for the user. Some questions still remain: What is the best handle material? What is the best blade metal? Hell if I know! I do know what attributes the handle material should have. The handle material should be sturdy enough to support the blade and be fashioned in such a way as to be comfortable in the hand. The handle should be durable enough to be exposed to body sweat and road grime. Many materials serve well: antler, stable hard wood, man-made composite and ivory all have proven workable. I am currently experimenting with scraps from kitchen counter-tops. There is some really pretty stuff out there. The blade metal should hold an edge. It should be sufficiently flexible and yet stiff enough to not break when used. High carbon steel is my current favorite, but quality stuff is expensive. Stainless steel is good, pretty, but harder to sharpen. I am currently experimenting with ceramic blades – interesting stuff. These are some of my views - - - - What are yours?????
  4. Generally kilt wearers can be divided into two groups: Traditional and Non-traditional. Notice I said generally; there are many, many ways to wear the kilt. Traditional kilts are made in the style sort-of standardized in the 1800’s: tartan fabric, pleats in back, wide aprons in front, belted and with a sporran to hold stuff. (More stuff is of course also needed, like knee socks, flashes, sgian dubh, etc. etc. etc.) –and NO pockets! Non-traditional kilts are made almost any way you want, of any fabric, with multiple things added on: wide pleats, narrow aprons, low-rise – so many variables that it is hard to think of all of them – and pockets! But here, I am talking about kilts fashioned to look like the full blown traditional kilts: Dress kilts, semi-dress kilts, casual kilts, knock-around kilts. No pockets. The question – How many of you, who wear traditional kilts have had a small pocket added on under the apron? This question arises because I have noticed that even when dressed in the most casual manner possible, I still want a few things with me. For me it comes down to three items: ballpoint pen, zippo lighter and pocket knife. I almost always have these three items with me. The pen usually gets stuck in the shirt pocket. The lighter and knife gets tucked into the waste band. A few of my casual kilts have a small pocket under the front apron. This pocket gets used a lot. I am considering adding a pocket to all my kilts. They will be about 3” X 3” and I will attach them to the under apron at the waste band, about 6 inches from the right side.
  5. I bought this Stillwater Standard Weathered MacKenzie too large = waist 44" I have worn it once.... It's still too large. I'm not sure why I bought it too large in the first place. Sure, I could exchange it with Jerry, but I already have a full blown bespoke kilt in this tartan, so I decided to let one of you guys have a deal. I will let it go for $65 plus shipping and it includes a hand-made antler tip kilt pin that is currently on it. First come, first served. Further info can be had at Stillwater Kilts ..here..
  6. James MacMillan

    Hope To Be Coming Back

    Hi people - I hope to be coming back. I wonder if any of the old crew is still active? Many things have changed in the last three or so years. Total remission, older, new expanded Shrine activities, some of the old responsibilities have dropped off, still wearing the kilt full time. Still old and cranky. Had to re-activate my membership cause I lost old passwords. Anybody remember me? --Jay--
  7. James MacMillan

    Hope To Be Coming Back

    Hi people - I hope to be coming back. I wonder if any of the old crew is still active? Many things have changed in the last three or so years. Total remission, older, new expanded Shrine activities, some of the old responsibilities have dropped off, still wearing the kilt full time. Still old and cranky. Had to re-activate my membership cause I lost old passwords. Anybody remember me? --Jay--
  8. James MacMillan

    Kilt Built

    Every so often I let my imagination run wild and punch in weird things that pop into my head into google just to see what comes out of the search engine. Check THIS out. I wonder if their workers actually wear kilts?
  9. James MacMillan

    Boxes, boxes, Who's got the boxes?

    Haven't heard anything lately - Where are the two boxes???? Who has the Thistle box??? Who has the Highlander box??? Fess up! Who's sitting on them??
  10. James MacMillan

    What Do You Want For Christmas?

    Can I ask for Whirled Peas....?
  11. James MacMillan

    Happy Birthday Pain

    Happy Birthday
  12. James MacMillan

    Happy Birthday Sydnie7

    Happy Birthday
  13. James MacMillan

    Frank Buckles

    Wow One hundred and ten...... the things he's seen. I wonder if he has an e-mail address? Most of the WW II vets that I know do NOT, so I can guess that a WW I vet does not.
  14. James MacMillan

    Won A Jay Blade

    Glad you like it Jack! That one was hard to sell, I wanted to keep it. I really like the way it looks sticking out of the sock.
  15. James MacMillan

    Made This One For Little Ol Me

    Master Piece!
  16. James MacMillan

    Another Auction

    OK, I like this idea of an auction, but I'm lazy. I just listed two of my hand made antler handled sgians dubh on e-bay. Item numbers 180613960932 and 180613962055. 100% of the selling price will be donated to the Australian flood relief. KT EDIT - here are links to the auctions: Sgain 1 link - http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180613960932 Sgain 2 link - http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180613962055
  17. James MacMillan

    Another Auction

    Looks like Sathor got bid out (out bid?) by a last minute transaction. If you are still interested in another of my knives, send me a PM. Jack - yours should go out as soon as the formalities are cleared. I'm new to ebay so I don't know the rules yet.
  18. James MacMillan

    Another Auction

    Well, assuming there aren't any last second bids, it looks like the winners are going to be in family..... cool! I've already made a donation that this will partially re-pay. But I'm considering doing this again. To the winners, please use the E-bay system to pay, because I am still trying to learn my way around over there.
  19. James MacMillan

    Brotherhood Of The Kilt Forum On Your Smartphone!

    Works on Droid 2.3 fine.... I did not notice any of the problems that M. I. D. mentions above. ?????
  20. James MacMillan

    Metallic Kilt Pins And Shawl Pins

    Gorgeous work!!! I particularly like the third one from the left on the bottom row.... PM sent.
  21. James MacMillan

    Smartphone Leather Case For A Kilt Belt?

    This type of question always puzzles me. Why do some people think that the kilt isn't a modern garment and can be worn for ever occasion. Sure, I have plans to get a "smart" phone case made for me, but why doesn't the regular case that I have go with the kilt? A while back, I talked to Donnie and he will soon make me a case for my Droid, but in the meantime I use the case that fits the phone. Is modern technology somehow not fitting for a man in a kilt to use and wear? Do not men who wear kilts not use computers? Or are these same computers dressed out in tartan? I don't get it.
  22. James MacMillan

    Another Auction

    Not that there was ever any real doubt - The Commandant has decreed that: "A Marine is a Marine. I set that policy two weeks ago - there's no such thing as a former Marine. You're a Marine, just in a different uniform and you're in a different phase of your life. But you'll always be a Marine because you went to Parris Island, San Diego or the hills of Quantico. There's no such thing as a former Marine." General James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps,
  23. James MacMillan

    Newguy Question

    Two ways. Right way (the way I wear it) or Wrong way (the way a lot of other people wear it.) Two ways. Scottish way or other way. Two ways. Good looking way or ugly way. Two ways. Traditional way or modern way. Two ways. Dress-up or dress-down. Two ways. Every day or only sometimes. Two ways. Knowledgeable or uninformed. Two ways. With bagpipes or without bagpipes. Two ways. As normal clothing or as a costume. Two ways. Straight way or crooked way.
  24. James MacMillan

    I Lied............

    I needed something yesterday at the local Ace Hardware store, and I really wasn't in a good mood anyway. So when the guy behind me in the check out line asked: "Do you play the bag-pipes?" I just said - - - "Yes."
  25. James MacMillan

    Jumping At Its Best

    I know that there are several others here whose lives have depended on a few scant yards of nylon, so the below is for you guys. Oh to have a body young enough to do this: >>>http://www.dump.com/2010/12/25/wingsuit-base-jumping-at-its-finest-video/<<<