andy fraser, tartan butler

Curious about whether you can pull off a tartan plaid in 2012?  Look no further than Andy Fraser, the new Tartan Butler at Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel. A master at tracing Scottish ancestry, Fraser scoured over 30 variations of his own family tartan to trace the clan as far back as the early 13th Century. Coming quick to the realization that this talent was more than just an avocation, the local Edinburgh resident partnered with Rocco Forte’s Balmoral to share his expert guidance with guests wanting to find out a little more about their Scottish heritage. The gentleman definitely knows his history, too: “It was the Dress Act of 1746 that tried to bring the warrior clans under government by banning the tartan and other aspects of Gaelic culture,” says the Scotsman. “When the law was abolished in 1782, it was no longer ordinary Highland dress but was adopted instead as the national dress of Scotland.” Just imagine: plaid, a political statement. Once Fraser has established a connection to one of the thousands of clans and traditionally recognized tartans, he can arrange a trip to Kinloch Anderson, one of the city’s most established Highland dress shops. Or better yet head to my friend, kilt maker Howie Nicholsby, for an altogether 21st century kind of statement.


going (bespoke) native

This website started almost a year ago with a post about Howie Nicholsby and 21st Century Kilts, so it seems logical that I would eventually circle back to Howie with a post about what is now my second kilt:  a mossy green tweed that Howie measured me for way back in May.  My first bespoke kilt, we designed it together, adding two detachable front pockets with a reverse pleat, two detachable rear pockets for a wallet and cell phone, and a matching waistcoat with an added ticket pocket.  Best of all is the flash lining, which you can’t see here:  bright orange polka-dotted silk that picks up a faint trace of rust in the tweed.   Conveniently in Edinburgh right now, I was able to swing by the shop and pick it up in person – and get the VAT back, too.  My Kitty librettist joined me and was so taken with it that he took the plunge and bought one off the peg himself.


birthday socks

I got a long overdue birthday package yesterday courtesy of the Royal Mail.  Nothing quite matches the excitement inherent in unraveling a parcel that’s been copiously taped and bundled and shows all the wear and tear of traveling across an ocean.  This particular box did not fail in igniting my imagination:  dented, partially crushed, not only was it pock-marked with random stab wounds,  but the postal tape indicated it was mailed almost eight weeks ago.  No bother, since A: I wasn’t expecting anything fragile; and B: the distressed look only added to the romance and mystery of it all.

I noticed from the outset an Edinburgh return address, which immediately set my expectations high.  So imagine my grin when peeling back the lid I found a pair of brown knee-hi boots and a thick pair of proper kilt socks to go along with them!  A big shout out and thanks to Howie Nicholsby, the creative life force behind 21st Century Kilts, as well as the man who taught me everything I needed to know about kilts.  I’ve already written a bit about Howie and my minor kilt obsession.  In fact, Howie was my first posting on this website and only recently I decided that a return to Edinburgh for a new kilt should be in the cards this year.  It’s killing me that this snowy winter weather is delaying the return of spring, daffodils, and my exposed legs.  Could it be that good things really do come to those who wait?


bucket list: 2009 edition – May



TURKS & CAICOS:  Providenciales has to be one of my favorite islands when I’m looking to kick back and relax. (A rare occasion, but nevertheless….)  So naturally there was an epic internal struggle when I found myself at the minimalist-chic Gansevoort South for a weekend-long fitness bootcamp.  Led by the inspiring  – and very fit – founder’s of NYC’s Core Fusion classes in an outdoor pavillion at the onsite exhale spa, it was a butt-lifting, yoga-infused sweatfest that had me comfortably fitting into formerly-snug jeans by the time I headed home.  And sporting a great tan to boot.

hiking up yer kilt

SCOTLAND:  There must be some Scottish blood in me somewhere because I always feel particularly at home here in Edinburgh.  Even in a kilt – which was the occasion for this particular visit. Interviewing the irascible Howie Nicholsby, designer and founder of 21st Century Kilts, I was tempted to try one one.  After a laddish afternoon together in full kit, I was hooked and had to have my own.  If you’re the kind of guy that thinks a rambunctious puppy or a well orchestrated baby is a chick magnet, I’ve got one word for you:  kilt.  And if you think that chocolate lab melts the hearts of ladies everywhere and leads to phone numbers in pocket, you’ll be bowled over by the inquiring and admiring eyes that greet a man in a kilt.  Gentlemen,  it defies fashion.  And a little bit of turbulence in a kilt goes an awful long way, too.


unbifurcated bliss

If ever there were an advertisement for the awesome power of the kilt, it would be Edinburgh’s Howie Nicholsby.  Diminutive and dashing – with a flash of the rapscallion about NEWStoreHowieoutsidehim – he’s on a one-man free-balling crusade to bring the kilt into the 21st century.  Actually, make that a two-man crusade:  my conversion from skeptic to skirt-wearer came about with astonishing speed one semi-sober Scottish afternoon in Howie’s company.

Straight men:  you have no idea what you are missing out on.  Apparently all it takes is a couple of pleats and a flash of knee to get lady strangers flirting with you in elevators, at streetlights, and on the subway.  Not being a straight man, I can’t really appreciate the attention – but it’s amusing to think that a garment many men would consider feminine turns out to be as hyper-masculine and full of bravado as a matador’s.

More on the kilt to come – so get ready to drop some trou.

21st Century Kilts


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