If you have read previous blog posts you might now that I am not British, but I consider Scotland as home and I have proudly worn its national dress on many occasions. It is this experience and the intense cycling training that I am undergoing that has led me to establish various links, as well as discuss some common “myths”
1. A real man wears tights and skirts
‘Why does that man wear a skirt?’It is the question that tends to get on the nerve of every Scot. Those of a more sensitive disposition might even see it as a veiled insult. But to outsiders, it is a perfectly natural question to ask. In all fairness to our visitors, to the uneducated eye, the kilt does look like a skirt. ‘It looks silly!’ I’ve seen many a tourist smirk. The same problem arises with cycling clothes. To the novice, the question: ‘Why do you wear tights?’ is also quite standard and acceptable to ask. Let’s face it, tights and skirts are not ‘traditional men’s attire’.
It is only when you delve deeper into the reasons behind the wearing of these items of clothing that you come to appreciate it. The kilt is centuries old. It is not only a piece of clothing, but also a symbol of the individuality and defiance of a nation that has fought fervently over the centuries to protect their customs and way of life. When a visitor understands the history behind it, it seizes to be seen as a silly costume but rather what it is: Attire of historical importance. It is a symbol of strength and a unique identity that can only be worn with pride.
Cycling gear sits tightly. It improves aerodynamics, reduces weight and on certain occasions can also prevent accidents. If you are new to the sport, the padding in the shorts might make you feel like you are wearing an oversized nappy. It can be hard to get used to at first. But after your first long ride without the right attire, the reason behind wearing tights with a built-in nappy becomes very apparent as you nurse your chafing and saddle sores. Over the years, cycling shorts have become a symbol of endurance, strength and going the extra mile.
To an outsider, both pieces of attire can look very silly. It is only after some education and experience that these outsiders also come to realise the importance and beauty of it all… and why men have to wear them, and proudly so.
2. Commando is the word!
The greatest of myths around kilts, just as with cycling shorts, it is the “norm” not to wear underwear underneath it. Even so, many still do. I always find it intriguing that people become so interested in what goes on in the underwear department as soon as you put on a kilt. This fascination is also sparked when you walk around wearing cycling shorts! Yes, I have seen their questioning expressions… So, do I wear underwear? It’s for me to know…
3. The real pioneers of Man bags.
In 2006 there was an article in The Guardian newspaper on the advent of the man bag: A fashion satchel to be worn like a traditional handbag. Years ago, most men won’t be seen dead clutching anything that even remotely resembled a purse. The Scots have been centuries ahead of the rest of the country (world) it seems. The sporran, traditionally worn with the kilt is the world’s first ever man bag. A foreign comedian (okay, not too foreign, just English) Michael McIntyre, jokingly referred to it as the ‘cock bag’ because of its location. Cyclists also have something similar (albeit on the opposite side), three handy shirt pockets at the lower back. f you are in need of more storage space you can also use a very practical saddle bag. For ease of reference, I decided to collectively refer to these useful items as ‘bum bags’!
4. Flashy flashes for a kilt, flashy lights for a bike.
My wife always jokes that I look like a Christmas tree when I go out cycling: A high viz jacket, two (flashing) lights on my helmet and additional lights and reflectors on the bike makes for an elaborate advertisement for road safety. Even so, I am happy to be visibly kitted out. The ‘flashier’ the better. The same can be said for highland dress. Highland dress is very distinctive. Even with just a kilt and a plain shirt on, you will stand out from the crowd. But it is not proper highland dress in the complete sense of the word if it does not also come with long flashes to keep up the socks, kilt pins, a Sghian-dubh (that famous knife that never goes through airport security) and of course, for a real formal do: A Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket which might also make you look a little bit like a woman to the untrained eye… isn’t that bonnie what our Charlie did?
Who would have known that men in tights had so much in common with men in kilts? I think I will be wearing a fair amount of both this year as I train and go from Rotary Dinner to Rotary Dinner to raise awareness for this project and End Polio Now. I hope I will need more than one bum bag to fill up with all your generous donations. Why don’t you do something today that will make yourself feel as proud as I feel when I wear a kilt (and my cycling gear)? Why not donate to End Polio Now and help me to eradicate this terrible disease? Now is as good a time as any. Any kind of help, no matter how small will be greatly appreciated. So, please share this blog with your friends and do what you can and let’s feel good. Thank you!
Training continues as planned. More Rotary Clubs continue to give us a hand in many ways. The Rotary Clubs of Annan, Pitlochry and Cheadle & District have all offered accommodation along the route. As I have mentioned before, not having to pay for hotels is a great way to help because the equivalent amount of money is then added by myself into the total funds raised for this project. On a worthy note… Rotarians of Cheadle & District will be travelling to India to take the battle against Polio on their own hands. They will participate in a National Immunisation Day!