I love my dinner jacket, but sartorially speaking it is something of a straightjacket: dinner suits come in very few varieties (notch lapel, peaked lapel and shawl neck basically) and are constrained by many rules as to how they should be worn. That’s why, in spite of the traditional elegance of the dinner suit, I'm obsessed with the kilt.
The kilt comes with endless freedom from the strictures of traditional black tie (and not just the freedom you may be thinking of….). The kilt means choice: even one you’ve picked your tartan there are multitudinous choices: do you pick the glitzy Bonnie Prince Charlie Jacket adorned with 18 silver buttons or do you go for the more staid and militaristic Argyll jacket – always a hit with the singles in the room – maybe you're going to go retro and pull out the jacobean shirt, throwing the rules of black tie in the bin and turning up looking like a dashing William Wallace. And then there are ties, a tartan ruched bow tie perhaps? Who knows? Who cares? They can never take your (fashion) freedom!
On top of this, the kilt means colour. From the endlessly varied tartans that you can choose from to the delightfully garish thick woollen socks you wear a kilt will make you stand out as something different – and then there is the shiny stuff. Men often don't get to show off at this kind of event. Maybe, if you are lucky, you can get away with a fancy watch or a nice pair of cufflinks – go too far and you will be judged. The kilt is free from this. You can accessorise galore. A standard outfit will have many shiny buttons on your jacket, a silver pin holding the front of the kilt down, a huge belt buckle (clan crested of course), a slightly menacing but nonetheless pretty knife sticking out from the socks and, of course, the sporran. The man bag to end all man bags. Ranging from staid leather pouches, through hand crafted sealskin sacks, to behemoths of rabbit fur, the sporran epitomises the slightly crazed fashion choice that the kilt is and is sure to be a talking point, if perhaps useful for nothing else.
The kilt is, ultimately, just a bit more fun. Less constrained than normal formal wear it provides an easy way of expressing personal fashion choices within a dress code not exactly known for personal flair. That’s why I'm wearing it to as many formals as I can, and anyone who can, should.