Archives for : December2014

Christmas Greeting

Dear Friends, Customers and kilt aficionado’s ,

Since 1996 our family business has gone through many changes, both planned and well maybe not so planned. We started as a hobby and your interest and kind appreciation for what we have been doing has made us grow far beyond what we originally envisioned as a hobby.
This last year was no different, as the depression may have made the economy depressed, you as customers were not. This year came in like a lamb and has ended like a lion.
I wanted to take few moments and share my heartfelt thanks to one and all of you that have helped share our heritage.
Please enjoy this Christmas time and from Sean , Laura, Dana, Diane, Kayla and Cheryl, we wish you a merry Christmas.
We look forward to sharing our mutual love of our heritage for many years to com.
All of us at the kiltsdotcom team wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and great Hogmanay and First Footing.

Ghillie Brogues Cont’d

Over the years I have been hot and cold about ghille brogue shoes. Some companies offer a shoe that is nothing more than a novelty and an a front to those of us that want to offer you a quality product. I have , over the years, first tried the shoe before we offer it to you. Currently we are offering a medium quality shoe that offers a good value. I am honest about this , and we can get you a premium quality shoe , but no one takes me up on it , as they are double the price. It stands to reason that if a good dress shoe price starts at nearly three-hundred dollars, then a specialty shoe of the same quality will cost more. No one has yet taken me up on the three hundred dollar ghillie brogue. Two reasons, first is that price and second is that a true dress shoe has a leather sole. Most of our sales these days are pipers, drummers and others that march or are on their feet a great deal. The high end shoe companies simply do not offer a rubber sole. So we offer the best shoe we know of that does what people;e want it to do. The Marching Brogue has by far been our most popular shoe. The “Doc Martin” like sole is a good enough reason to be drawn to this shoe. Avriel, the distributor for this shoe gave us an opportunity to off our customers an upgrade called the Orthotic that offers an improved insole with firmer arch and is removable. An ideal shoe for those that march and diabetics that wear the kilt. As , is my duty to wear what we sell to evaluate the product, and to report to you what you can expect from the product, good and bad. I am currently trying out those new Orthotic shoes. I have a about a half dozen wears of mixed weather including some pretty hearty rain. Walking in Oregon requires a rubber sole shoe, as leather takes far to much of a beating. One of the main reasons I picked this shoe was the rubber sole , to keep my dress leather sole shoes nice. The rubber sole is as advertised , nice and cushioned and gives you a comfortable walk. The surprise come from the Orthotic sole. Wow, what a comfortable shoe. The full leather upper seems to be wearing well, and my next project will be to shine these and see how they take shoe wax, that and to keep the leather flexible, or supple as they say. Whoever they are? We offer the Avriel shoe line in six separate shoes and soles. The point being, you get what you pay for. Our low-line shoes in both leather a rubber sole is for the guy that wears his shoes one a year to the Burns Dinner. The Marching Brogue rubber sole, and the Premium Dress Leather shoe are exactly that, an excellent shoe for bit more money. We also offer the Ultimate Marching for those busy Pipe Bands, the issue with these and the Military shoe is that they have a metal heal cleat that is for outdoor use only.

Ghliie Brogues

The Ghillie Brogue is the standard shoe to be worn with the kilt. I do not always follow the rules. The real problem I have had with ghillie brogues is that almost all of the shoes are what I call a “novelty shoe”. Nothing more than a cheap product to fill a need. Then again many people treat the kilt and the Highland attire nothing more than a costume. I do not look at the iconic image of my Forefathers as a costume, and I certainly do not wear it on Halloween. I am also a person, and I hope you are to, that wants to purchase quality. There are many reasons to buy quality product, as in the long run, they end up costing you less than if you purchase a cheap product and then have to buy it again and again. It also may seem odd, since I own a retail business, but I do not like to shop. No, not even for stuff I like. I research my purchase and then make a purchase, done. I buy the best I can afford and that way I have to shop less by not having to buy it again latter. Ghillie brogues are one of those excellent examples. For the first few years we were in business, I did not carry brogues in our shop, because the quality of the shoes out there was so poor. After a while and many, many requests by customers I broke down and bought the best we could find at the time. Naturally I bought a pair for myself and went about wearing them. It was not a dozen wearings and the upper leather cracked at where my foot bends. So here I am buying another pair of ghillie brogues. We recently renewed a relationship with a popular dance shoe company that has come out with a new premium line of shoes. Avriel of Canada. Six options in all from an economy brogue to a high end military shoe and everything in between. My purchase will be a pair of the Premium Dress Leather Sole shoes, because I wear leather sole shoes for all dress occasions, and predominantly I wear my kilt in dress situations. I am so impressed with this line of shoes that we are producing videos of the benefits and differences in each of the models offered. For those who purchase a pair of brogues from you will receive a demonstration video on how to tie your ghillie brogues.

Blended Whiskey Grant’s

Well on our last trip to the Pleasanton San Francisco Highland Games, for us in Oregon California offers an opportunity to purchase hard liqueur without the heavy taxes we pay here in Oregon. Not that I would transport any alcohol over state lines, I would never do that. We do have a very large trailer and in the good years there is room left over on the way back. We stopped at one of the many warehouse outlets that sells alcohol and did some light purchasing. I want to add that all alcohol I purchased was for my personal consumption.  One of the many liqueurs I purchased was a large bottle of Grant’s Blended whiskey.  Now I like a peaty and some even say harsh single malt. The blended whiskeys are normally supposed to be for a larger audience and those less likely to like the single malt characteristics. I tried the Grant’s on it’s own over some ice. I found it harsh, not in a peaty way, but as if they skipped some of the processes alcohol takes to make it drinkable.  So maybe that was not a fare test and it needed further review. You see I had purchased the large bottle, because well, it was cheap and being Scottish, nothing should go to waste so further testing was mandatory. I tried mixing the Grant’s with Coke over ice. Well that was it, it needed to be mixed with something and found it very drinkable. Apparently too drinkable.  After several different tries , I found the same results the following mornings.  I ezperienced a headache and a general sense of nausea.  Well back to my favorite single malt, wher I wake up in much better shape.

Highland Park Single Malt

My last try at a single malt is the Highland Park label. Highland Park 12 year old is certainly on the smokey side of Glenlivet or Glenfiddich. The color is very amber and sits in the glass well. When you want one of the Highland Malts Highland Park should be one you try. It starts smokey and ends up with a mild sweet finish. Certainly try this one with your favorite cigar. My next is a blended Scotch under the label of Grant’s.

Tweeds are back in Highland Jackets

Tweeds, a return to traditional men’s clothing. When it comes to kilts a tweed jacket precedes everything else that the industry currently offers. The cut may have been different, but today’s tweed takes you back to a era that was filled with noble gentlemen and ladies of the manor. The current tweed jacket is based on the Argyle Jacket that is available off the rack in black. For many I need to cover some jacket basics. There are three basic jackets available to a gentleman kilt wearer. The best way to explain them is that a Prince Charlie is the Tuxedo jacket, the Argyle is the suit coat, and the tweed jacket is the sport coat of the three. The one that everyone thinks they need to own is the Prince Charlie, the tuxedo of the three jackets. I say the Tuxedo because it is for White Tie and Tails, or where you would wear a tuxedo. Rule of thumb here: If you would not wear a tuxedo at the event you are going to then just because your wearing a kilt does not make the Prince Charlie any more acceptable. When you tell most shops that you want a Prince Charlie, they just sell it to you without question. Not at the Kilt & Thistle, all of our staff is aware that asking you questions about where, and to what event, are you going to wear the jacket you are wanting to purchase. We ask this of all accessories, but a jacket can be an expensive mistake. Rather than go over every possible scenario , I will just go over the jackets in detail. The Prince Charlie, the tuxedo jacket is worn to very formal events. I can only think of a few places on the West Coast that a Prince Charlie would be required. The Prince Charlie is available in a smooth wool fabric known as Barathea. Colors are black , off the rack and any number of options like Navy, Dark Greens, called Bottle green and an even darker Rifle green. The lapels should always be a satin, as a cloth lapel looks unfinished. The Argyle jackets named after the cuff design , three buttons arranged around the cuff at an angle along with a material, like a gauntlet , also know as the gauntlet cuff, to make it a dashing look. This is the suit coat of jackets and is the most versatile. The material is also the same smooth wool Barathea and the same color palette is available.Lapels on this should be the cloth of the jacket. Now here is where there is confusion amongst many and I hope I can explain it to your satisfaction. There are two other jackets based on the Argyle and they are called the Braemar and the Crail. The body of the jacket and the fabric options are the same with the cuff treatment being the options. The Breamar has three buttons placed up the sleeve identical to the Prince Charlie and the Crail has no buttons on the cuff or sleeve. I will try to have a link for you to our site with pictures. The third jacket is commonly referred to as The Tweed or the casual , day jacket. Back in the day when people wore a Dinner Jacket for dinner every night, you could have referred to this one as the casual jacket, but no more. And at one time before the Prince Charlie or the Argyle the Tweed was, arguably the only Highland jacket. Here again is where it is a bit confusing. The tweed is designed and roughly the same shell as the Argyle and comes with the same cuff options. There are however dozens of tweed fabrics to match up with any tartan. All three jackets deserve their very own column. So look for one for each of the jackets. If you are unclear about any of this or just want more information, email or call me at the store. That is why we are here.

The Kristmas Customer

Why is it that a guy can remember the name of the tight end for the Green Bay Packers that scored the winning touchdown in the 2003 Super bowl, but can’t remember his wifes Birthday. Let alone her sizes and dare I say her taste in , well anything. OK you’re pretty sure that she prefers red when it comes to tool boxes and naturally Delta skil saws are her preference when doing construction. But guys, what is so hard about knowing the least little thing about your significant other? There are men that do pay attention, but why does being John Wayne include a deep lack of knowledge about what your wife or girl friend would want for Christmas?
I bring this up after many years in retail seeing a battalion of men stumble into our retail store one after another, with what I call “deer in the headlights” look on their face. They shop once a year, and not really sure why! They go for something safe jewelry, because to pick out clothing would require even more work, the rare knowledge of her sizes.

Now I will brag a little here , but I do not consider me that unusual , or work extra hard at knowing the least little thing about my wife, but I do pretty well.
I must say as much as I considered my father to be a great guy, he was just as bad as many others.
He once confided in me a story that finally even embarrassed the John Wayne of our family. My Father after many years of vain attempts to buy things for my Mother he finally gave up. He told me that year after year everything he would buy would go back as he called “trading stock”  for the after Christmas returns. So he decided why go through the effort, he finally went into the Nordstrom ladies department, ask one of the sales girls to pick out some things according to his budget, her choice, and then proceed directly to the gift wrap department. He had no idea what he had bought, but there were always presents under the tree for my Mother. Until one year, you see this kind of apathy leads to more apathy, and one year he forgot his trip to Nordstrom. My Mother was devastated, and at the time, we kids were to young to buy for her and she had nothing under the tree. Now before you judge him too harshly, that man went to a job he hated for thirty two years straight, and never called in sick. He always made sure we had food on the table and a roof over our head. Born during the Depression, he knew that the essentials were a little more important than a few presents under the tree. But what is your excuse? We have know fifty years of the greatest prosperity on the planet, and you don’t even know your wifes dress size.
One year a good friend of mine wanted me to go Christmas shopping with him. I found out that he wanted me to help him with things for his wife. When he wanted me to help him pick out intimate apparel for her, I was a little suspicious. did he think that I had seen something that I should not have? Frankly I knew her sizes exactly, not because I had intimate knowledge of her sizes , but once you know the least little bit about womens clothing, it really is not that hard. Small women are easier, the larger the girl, the harder it is to estimate some specific sizes. I have also spent a great deal of time and energy, on my own with women of all sizes, purely as an investigation mind you. Once he gave her the presents, I found out that I did guess wrong on some of the colors for that intimate apparel, she doesn’t like green, but I got the cup size exactly. Go figure!

Kilt Hose Wash and Worn

I have worn our premium kilt hose, our Piper hose, and the new high end Cheviot Hose.  I will try to cover all three separately. Below is an older post about our kilt hose in general.

The Kilt & Thistle has now been serving you, our Scottish friends and loyal customers for fourteen years. From the start Cheryl and I knew that quality and consistency would be the benchmark of the values that we held dear. It would also become a very important part of our business model.
With that in mind we use and or give every product we handle a fair testing to make sure it meets your needs.
Our new Kilt & Thistle hose , the second wearing. Cheryl refuses to let me near the laundry equipment , as a bachelor of many years I acquired a unique way to do laundry. Frankly it scares Cheryl when I even get near the washing machine. So Cheryl was nice enough to wash my new kilt hose. Washing machine on warm water and cold rinse, and the hose wear hung to dry. In my original post I mention the slight extended length, which as a fellow of six foot tall is a welcome feature of any kilt hose. This hose will work well for much taller fellows as well without comprising the look of the hose. The washed version of our new kilt hose looked as good as they were coming out of the package. They did not seem to shrink any at all and retained that little extra length that I like.
Duncan’s Tip: For any hose new or not is to stretch the hose length wise before putting them on. This lengthens those other hose that don’t quite measure up and it relaxes the fibers to go around those of us with more desirable husky calves.
My daily walk is about thirty minutes to the shop on a average day, and about a mile by foot. Since I walk this nearly everyday, I get a chance to put wear on a product and test it before you have to. The sock held up very well during my walk. It kept it’s shape all day and without any sagging. Walking home that night they felt as good as they did that morning. I am confident that if you are looking for a mid weight kilt hose that will work in most North American climates , that the new Kilt and Thistle kilt hose is an excellent value.

Cheviot Hose Update

Most of you are not going to wear your kilt as often as I do. That’s where my experience helps you, so you don’t have the awkward experience of having your kilt fly over your head or having your ghillie brogue laces caught in the elevator door. Not that either one has happened to me.

My point is that hopefully I can help you by the experience I have with the products we sell, and even a few that we don’t and keep you rock’in your kilt.

We started selling Cheviot Hose this fall, after the research we do on any product, that includes knowledge of the company and the way they do business. Cheviot Hose is woven in Scotland in Haywick and their dedication to quality is amazing. They have a strong product line that includes hose for Country Gentlemen for wellies and plus fours, along with a very attractive Ladies line.

I have now worn two models of the Cheviot Kilt Hose , the Glenmore and the Harris. I have worn them both now more than once which includes the important feature of how they do after they are washed. Surprisingly they wear a little different in performance , even though they are made from the same blend of 3 ply Marino Wool and Acrylic.

The Glenmore has a cooler feel and seems a better fit for summer wear, he odd thing is that the sock stayed up on my calf easier and with less care. I have stout calves and had a little trouble keeping my hose up with the Harris model of hose. I walk a great deal, ten blocks either way to our Salem store and just about every where I go, I prefer to walk. The other morning I was on my way to the train station, wearing the Harris model of the Cheviot Hose. They are built for fuller calves. With the weight of the sgian dubh , that sock fell while I was walking. The other fell withing blocks. The best option was to tighten up the elastic on my flashes. The smoothness of the Merino wool and the fullness design in the hose attributed to them falling down. I have had any number of kilt hose from hand knits to a dozen different manufacturers. I have never had a better kilt hose that the Cheviot Hose.

Kilt Flashes and Garters

For those of you new to kilts or have not been around proper Scottish attire, the term flashes needs an explanation. We use the word Flashes as the term for the garters that hold up the kilt socks, and they are more often referred to as kilt hose. Since kilts and the attire that goes with them can historically go back hundreds of years, it’s only fitting the terms we use do as well. Now back to Flashes or garters for the kilt socks. The kilt hose goes up the calf to just under the knee. To keep the hose from falling down a good Scot would take a piece of leather, braided cloth or whatever else he could get his hands on and tie it around the top of the hose around the calf. Like much of our Scottish clothing this adapted and morphed into what we have today. For many years the adaptation consisted of an elastic band roughly three quarters of an inch wide , for comfort, and some Velcro sewn on each end to fasten it together. You pick a place roughly three inches from the top of the hose and wrap it around. You then fold the hose over, so as to cover the elastic. Naturally we can not have function with out design and to make this attractive, strips of colorful wool, or ribbon are sewn on to the Velcro at a ninety degree angle. That way once wrapped around the calf the colorful ribbon hangs down below the folded area of the hose so as to be a colorful , yet concealed design element. The upgrade version of this is a throw back to the time when men wore garters to hold up all socks and used a metal clasp to keep the elastic together. Our Premium Flashes have a metal clasp harkening back to the quality of yesterday, available to you today from us. The newest product available harkens back even farther to the original garter flashes. Hose of Cheviot Hose Company now makes a woven wool garter that ties around the calf like those old simple original garter flashes that you wrap around and tie a knot in them. That said , they are certainly an upgrade , as a woven merino wool blend strip of cloth with fringe on both ends. The width and quality of fabric make these new Cheviot Garters a very attractive option on many levels. garter-red-on-blue-hose