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Tartan army; Wedding season always brings Graham Henry out in a rash - it's when tradition dictates he's forced to don a kilt. So, he asks, why is the fashion world so obsessed with this itchy scratchy fabric? Because the fashion world, and women in general, have no idea just how much of a bane it is to the life of a real Scotsman...

SO the iconic Scottish cloth that is tartan is making a comeback apparently - cue rapid applause from north of the border.

According to fashion hawks at Vogue, checks are making a comeback - with Prince of Wales patterns "abounding" on the autumn and winter catwalks, usurping denim as the "key fabric" to double up on.

It has decked the collections of noted fashion brands Daks and Yves Saint Laurent - so clearly the idea of a check comeback is gaining traction.

Various male celebrities - including a glut of non-Scots - have already donned kilts in public in recent times, including Samuel L Jackson, David Duchovny and Robbie Williams, joining an army of Scottish advocates that include Sir Sean Connery, Ewan McGregor and Gerard Butler.

But if Welsh male fashionistas out there are looking to catch on to this trend, I'll let you into a secret about wearing kilts and their various tartan cousins.

Tartan isn't fun. As a Scot, I've been forced more times than I can remember into a kilt for a special occasion - especially as I'm from Perthshire where every other occasion takes place in a castle.

It is expected that men will have to wear kilts for almost every wedding and anniversary, as well as many birthdays and even some funerals - and it's an experience you'd do well to avoid, Wales.

The fashionista-led comeback of tartan seems to be led by women thus far, but it's only a matter of time before the dreaded man-skirt sees an upsurge in popularity - and woe betide should it come to a wedding near you.

For those that are unfamiliar with the Scottish man's plight, the process of squeezing yourself into the national dress is a complex and lengthy one.

Firstly, there's not just the kilt to contend with.

If you're doing it properly, you'll need a (proper) kilt jacket, a waistcoat, bow-tie, sporran (the pouch at the front), proper socks with flashes, kilt shoes...and that's not mentioning the traditional kiltpin and Sgian Dubh (kilt knife).

Late tartan legend Harry Lindley - a director of Edinburgh's Kinloch Anderson - alludes to the mammoth operation with his quote: "We don't just make a kilt. We build it."

All this combines into making the kilt feel like a heavy anchor weighing your entire body down, a big downside when you are trying to sashay around the wedding reception dancefloor.

There's yet more problems with wearing a kilt - in that it's possibly the most uncomfortable garment you can put on.

As well as weighing a ton, wearing tartan is as itchy as can be. Wool on skin is never good at the best of times, and in sensitive areas it's even worse, so "real" Scotsmen are at an even bigger disadvantage.

It is also never, ever appropriate for what can be challenging weather conditions.

In inclement weather, you run the risk of an upskirt draught causing you embarrassment (underwear or no underwear), and your legs get unbearably cold in windy conditions.

If you are unlucky enough to have to wear a kilt outfit in the heat, you'll have to contend with overheating the entire time that you wear it.

I have personal experience of how tricky a kilt can be in hot weather, having had to wear the full shebang for my sister's wedding - helpfully organised in Mauritius, where even in November the mercury stayed stubbornly at a balmy 35C. Despite this, a full kilt was required with full knee-length woolly socks and multi-layer costume - resulting in a less hardy family member fainting over the course of the day.

This isn't even getting on to the issue of traditionally hilarious jokes about "what's underneath" a kilt.

All of this may be revelatory to non-Scottish males who (probably) don't have to contend with the perils of skirt practicalities regularly, but I concede I'm likely to get little sympathy from women, who contend with these problems each day they don a skirt.

And - in the interests of fairness - there are some upsides to wearing a kilt.

For some reason, with certain women in particular, a kilt appears to be attractive, with the power to transform even the most frighteningly plain-looking men (cough) into a dish of some sort.

They also eliminate any requirement to ever think about what you might have to wear to formal occasions in Scotland. Wedding? Easy... Oh, it's your birthday? I'll get the tartan out.

But even these considerable benefits are not appealing enough for me to endorse it.

So while Fearne Cotton and similarly fashionable ladies are free to pull off a double-decked tartan outfit, I think I'll leave my tartan creations in the wardrobe.

It'll probably be safer for everyone that way.

CAPTION(S):

* Fearne Cotton in a tartan cape for Littlewoods as the fabric prepares for yet another revival this autumn/winter
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 26, 2011
Words:799
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