Nice legs, babe!

A Magnolia designer converts men to kilts.

Believe it or not, men in skirts are hot these days. Blame it on Russell Crowe's invincible Gladiator look, but fashionable men in San Francisco and Paris are discovering the comfort and style of skirts made especially for the male figure. Are Seattle men ready for the new hemlines—or any hemline for that matter? If it were up to local artist and designer Steven Villegas, every guy would be fitted with a Utilikilt, an update of the traditional Scottish kilt made of the same sturdy duck cloth used for workmen's uniforms, military camouflage, or brushed denim. Pleated and falling just below the knee, Utilikilts have a rugged, masculine appearance. Of course, the wearer's confidence also factors in. Villegas, who has been selling his Utilikilts at the Fremont Fair as well as on his Web site, www.utilikilts.com, has been gaining a growing number of fans both locally and abroad. The site, which is chock full of kilt humor, includes a full catalog as well as a 'zine devoted to the kilt lifestyle.

"When I originally designed [the Utilikilt], I thought punk rockers would love this," says the hyperenergetic Villegas, who runs his business out of Magnolia. "But it's not the young kids [buying them]. If it's a question of masculinity, they're going to have to work that out on their own." The majority of Villegas' customers are "older guys, middle-aged guys, who are grown-up at least in terms of their sexuality."

Fans of the Utilikilt include 33-year-old Bryan Hildebrand, a big, burly fellow who's the current champion of the Portland Scottish Highland Games and the 14th-strongest man in the world. Gino Srdjan Yevdjevich, lead singer of the band Kultur Shock, says he gets compliments all the time when he wears his black-and-white urban camouflage model ($120) onstage. He complements the kilt with a Russian WWII belt, which Villegas sells for $20.

The company's bestseller is a standard model with two side-mount cargo pockets that comes in black brushed denim. "People like the formality [of black]," says Megan Haas, Villegas' girlfriend and Utilikilts' business consultant. Indeed, savvy men might want to consider the black kilt for such dress-up events as the opera, the theater, or the company holiday party.

But the Utilikilt isn't just a bold fashion statement; it's a practical alternative to pants. The heavy-duty workman's kilt, for example, has two exterior rear pockets, two side cargo pockets, a side hammer loop, and a front key loop—perfect for a grueling workday. "Any man who works with his hands recognizes this, and sees utility and freedom," says Villegas. Unlike the constriction of pants, the Utilikilt allows for full leg motion and natural ventilation, and is guaranteed to be chafe-free.

In a strange twist, Villegas is reclaiming masculinity in the form of a skirt. "[Guys] should have skirts, kilts, because we've got more to consider down there," he says. "It's anatomically correct for a woman to be wearing pants. But for a man wearing pants, it's just not a good idea."

"I sell freedom," Villegas continues. "I'm about liberation from the tyranny of trousers."

What to wear underneath your UK? Boxers? Briefs? True to the spirit of his product, Villegas answers, "I don't wear a damn thing."

Revolt against trouser tyranny! Villegas is looking for sewing help. Call 282-4226.

 
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