Eric Schulzetenberg doesn’t quite seem to be Scottish, but the 17-year-old Minnesotan who bears a German-sounding name is exceedingly proud of his great-grandmother’s Highlands heritage, her genetic gift to him. Clan Mitchell blood thus flows comfortably throughout Eric’s Scots-American body and soul.
That’s why a few nights ago, when handsome Eric excitedly picked up his prom date, the gorgeous Jena Schoniger, he was not wearing a boring black-and-white tuxedo outfit. Instead of looking like an uncomfortable Antarctic penguin waddling about in a too-tight cummerbund, the youngster was joyfully and sartorially ablaze in a muted pattern of blue, green, black, red and white–the Clan Mitchell tartan, tailored professionally for him into a handsome and imposing kilt, complete with sporran (ancient forerunner of Americans’ common and oddly named “fanny bag”), big-buckled belt, long socks with matching tartan flashes, and all the other special trim that makes the total and classic Scots look so stunning and unique.
Eric loved his elegant, masculine outfit. His girlfriend Jena loved Eric’s outfit. The other kids at Osakis High School in Alexandria, Minnesota, loved Eric’s outfit. God Himself, who lives atop Scotland’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, (except during the ungodly winter) also loved Eric’s outfit.
School Superintendent John Peterka, with nary a dram of Scots blood in his hardened arteries, did not, however, love Eric’s outfit. Announced Super Peterka: In order to comply with the school dress code, boys must wear trousers. Super Peterka, who is no slave to fashion, ruled that Eric’s painstakingly pleated kilt, consisting of eight yards of high-quality woven wool, was actually–and I am not making this up–a pair of “shorts”! To join his date, Eric was told, he would have to change into a pair of . . . blue jeans! Even non- Scot Levi Strauss spun in his dungaree grave when he heard about the School Super’s super ignorance.
To Eric’s everlasting credit, the young American in Scottish attire said, “No way, and no, thanks!” His assessment of the arbitrary prom-night dress standards by school officials was sharply to the point: “They should be able to accept other cultures and other ideas,” Eric maturely told a Minneapolis television reporter. “That is what education is all about.” Atop Ben Nevis, God immediately was seen jotting into the Book of Life the wee lad’s courageous decision not to bow to the Minnesota Philistines.
Had it not been April in Minnesota, but February instead, it would have been, of course, fabulous Black History Month that was coinciding with the school prom. Does anyone believe for a New York Harlem minute that if that were the case, Super Peterka would have insulted and ejected from the prom any young black male who showed up wearing a traditional African bubu, dashiki, djellabah, kikoi or galabiyah, all of which are also unbifurcated garments (a non-Scottish term that describes robes or wraps worn by a guy without specially designed fabric accommodation for his two hairy legs)?
Besieged laddie Eric Schulzetenberg was dealing not only with the double standard for White European Men, but also the equally double standard for what all men nowadays are expected to wear in public from the waist down. To the question, “Who wears the pants in your family?” the answer is no longer predictable. Since mid-20th-Century revolutions in sex, feminism and selective nonjudgmentalism, most women have relegated their traditional dresses and gowns to mothballed trunks in the attic. Meantime, men can’t even try to distinguish themselves from gals by wearing manly, cowboy-inspired blue-denim jeans, because unisex-crazed ladies have glommed that once-exclusive male fashion statement, too.
The worst may be just around the corner, in January 2009, when America could be inaugurating its first female president, dedicated slacks-wearer Hillary Clinton. She has not been seen in a dress since the last time the folk of Arkansas collectively were cited by the House of Versace for excellence in fashion, style, parlance, and impeccable Ozarkian table manners.
Men’s traditional habiliments for eons were robes, togas, tunics, sarongs and other kiltlike garments. Trousers (uneuphonically and derogatorily called trews in Scotland) are a relative newcomer to males’ choice for draping. Come to think of it, that’s why we never see Hollywood period movies depicting Jesus and his Disciples, Roman gladiators, Vikings, Vatican leaders, Buddhist monks, African chieftains, blatantly heterosexual dancing Greeks, Highland Scots and tough-as-nails Albanians, plus countless other men of old, in pants. That devotion to authenticity was one reason actor/director Mel Gibson won an Oscar for Braveheart, the epic film story of Sir William Wallace, Scotland’s most heroic kilt-man, who with his outnumbered, skirted band of warriors smashed King Edward I’s entire English army of pants-wearing fops.
In the interest of full disclosure, I confess that I, a boringly normal Scots-American, just counted in my master clothes closet alone 45 pairs of bifurcated raiments, plus one garment that is uncompromisingly unbifurcated and fashioned from the tastefully rich Thompson dress blue tartan. The first wise guy who orders me to ditch that lone kilt or whistles at me when I put it on, I guarantee, will himself be kilt immediately, with Mel Gibson and The Man Who lives on Ben Nevis as my witnesses to justifiable homicide.