The kilt. That pleated skirt of old may seem like a garment specific to bagpipe players and the Scottish.
But thousands of miles from Scotland there’s a community of daily kilt wearers — or kilters as they’re known — right here in California. After all, Kanye wore one, and H&M sold them for a while. And now, on East Colorado Blvd, there’s Off Kilter Kilts, SoCal’s first multi-brand retail kilt store.
Owner J.T. Centonze knows all about kilt culture.
“We like to refer to it as Kilture,” Centonze says.
There are a surprisingly large number of guys out there wearing kilts, according to Centonze.
“It was only really horseback riding and the industrial age that got us into long pants,” says Centonze. “Skirts, kilts, however you want to look at them, are generally easier to make and considerably more comfortable to wear, so we’re just trying to bring it back.”
Off Kilter Kilts is a one-stop shop. Centonze sells the traditional pouch called the sporran that’s worn like an ancient fanny pack, and he has kilts for toddlers, too. He even sells the music you should listen to while wearing a kilt.
“We carry a selection of Irish, Celtic and Faire music,” Centonze says. “We’re really the only place you can get them unless you’re at the faire or seeing the band in a show.”
But as a daily kilt wearer, Centonze wasn’t content with shopping for his bottom half at local Renaissance Faires or Highland Games. The modern kilts he carries in the shop are not costumes.
“We can put you in a kilt for construction work, we can put you in a kilt for office work, we can put you in a kilt for the golf course or basically anything in between,” says Centonze.
And that means Centonze is also a purveyor of what’s known as a utility kilt, a sort of mix of pleated skirt and cargo pant, some of which can carry almost a 12-pack of beer. “That’s their claim to fame,” Centonze says.
But, if you do want to go with a traditional kilt, you’ll have to pick out a tartan — that’s the criss-crossed pattern seen on Scottish kilts. Luckily, Off Kilter Kilts has Stefanie Harbeson, resident tartan maven.
Harbeson says Off Kilter carries the common Wallace Clan tartan and the Blackwatch tartan, which the Scottish army has been using for almost 200 years. They even have the official tartan for the State of California.
“It’s really pretty,” Harbeson says. “It’s got blue, which is representative of the Pacific Ocean and all the lakes and the rivers we have. The green is for our state parks and a lot of the iconic forests. And then we’ve got the red, yellow and blue stripes which are symbolic of the arts, science and industry that are very important to California’s culture.”
California's official tartan pattern.
Harbeson can also help you pick out a tartan that can be traced back to your Scottish roots. But what are you supposed to wear underneath a kilt?
“We get this question a lot actually,” Centonze says. “And the truth of the matter is you wear what you want. If you think about it, Scotland, generally cooler weather, nice green pastures and what not. Southern California, blazing hot, nice reflective concrete — you don’t want to get sunburned in places you don’t want to get sunburned in.”
Centonze admits he still has work to do when it comes to convincing men to ditch their pants. “Because, quite frankly, they’re still a little worried about it,” he says.
But tartan expert Harbeson offered one incentive.
A lot of women, myself included, think men in kilts are pretty sexy,” Harbeson says. “There’s just something about a guy in a kilt that screams confidence and he knows who he is and he’s not afraid of anything and there’s so many women who have come in and totally swoon when they see their guy in a kilt.”