Kilt-wearing Missouri High School Boy Wins Apology

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Kilt-wearing Missouri High School Boy Wins Apology

News article

By: Anonymous

Date: January 12, 2006

Source: "Kilt-wearing Missouri High School Boy Wins Apology." Reuters (January 12, 2006).

About the Author: This article was published without a byline and was written by a contributor to Reuters, a global news reporting agency.


In November 2003, an exhibition opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York City. The exhibition was entitled "Brave-hearts: Men in Skirts" and documented the asymmetry in men's and women's fashion. The exhibition identifies that although women have, through the ages, borrowed men's fashions, the taboo is greater for a man to borrow from women's fashions. Therefore, the display examines the designers and individuals who have challenged these societal norms by injecting the skirt into men's fashions. The curator for the exhibition, Andrew Bolton, noted that "Since 'the great masculine renunciation' of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, men have tended to follow a more restricted code for appearance … From the 1960s, with the rise of countercultures and an increase in informality, men have enjoyed more sartorial freedom, but they still lack access to the full repertoire of clothing worn by women."

After centuries of flamboyant attire, men's fashions began to change at the turn of the nineteenth century, when a tailored black suit in the managerial style ended the colorful trends in men's fashions. However, throughout the centuries, subtle skirt wearing has been deemed acceptable in certain arenas of men's dress. A man's caftan is a long-sleeved, floor-length robe worn by men in the Middle East and Africa and has been adopted by Western clergy. Tailcoats and aprons can be viewed as partial skirts and are acceptable attire for men. Popular culture also provides examples of men borrowing women's fashions. For example, hip-hop jeans, worn extremely loose and below the hips, are viewed in Bolton's exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum as a variation on a skirt. The curator also identifies the black floor-length soutane worn by Keanu Reeves in The Matrix Reloaded as another example of borrowing women's fashion.

The kilt, however, is the most well-known men's fashion borrowed from women's attire. The original kilts consisted of a piece of tartan (or patterned) cloth—two yards wide and four yards long—intended to be drawn around the waist and adjusted with folds and a tightly buckled belt. Kilts reached the knees and the upper part attached to the left shoulder and intended to cover the shoulder and body in wet weather. The kilt was once viewed as a symbol of nationalist rebellion, and in 1745, following a Jacobite uprising, the dress was considered politically subversive and banned by the British government. The Dress Act, which banned the wearing of kilts by all Scots except those in the army, was repealed in 1783. The ban had successfully affected the popularity of the kilt, which after the ban shifted from a traditional Highland attire to a nationalist statement.


KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters)—A Missouri high school student who was barred from a school dance because he was wearing a Scottish kilt has received an apology from school officials after the action sparked outrage among Scottish heritage supporters.

In a letter dated January 9, Jackson School District Superintendent Ron Anderson apologized to Jackson High School senior Nathan Warmack and said the district would train staffers how to properly apply the school dress code.

The letter came after more than two months of debate and discussion about the actions of school officials when they asked Warmack, who is of Scottish descent, to change into trousers before entering the dance on November 5.

News of the event sparked an Internet petition, which was ultimately signed by more than 10,000 supporters and championed by the Clan Gunn Society of North America, which promotes Scottish heritage and traditions.

"Individual members felt like there had been an injustice to the young man," said society president Rich Gunn.


Nathan Warmack was not the first young man to wear a kilt to a school dance and receive a negative response from his school's administration. In 2001, Matt McCarl received in-school suspension for wearing a kilt to his junior prom at Lakeview high school in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania.

Nathan Warmack was considered an average student who became interested in his Scottish heritage after seeing the 1995 Mel Gibson movie Braveheart. Warmack, a defensive lineman on his Jackson, Missouri high school football team, bought a kilt online to wear to his schools "Silver Arrow" dance. He showed the kilt to his school's vice principal, who jokingly advised him to wear something underneath the skirt. Warmack did wear shorts underneath the skirt and to complete the ensemble wore a white dress shirt and tie.

After being ejected from his high school dance, the school's District Superintendent Ron Anderson issued a statement in support of principal Rick McClard's decision. Anderson asserted that McClard had the authority to judge "appropriate dress" under the district's dress code, which covers extracurricular activities such as dances. The authority stems from McClard's responsibility "to protect from the possibility of a disruption or something that could be viewed as a disruption." By January 6, 2006, however, a lawyer for the Jackson School District announced that kilt wearing is allowed unless it creates a disruption. As a result, Warmack received an apology during a school board meeting and the district superintendent promised to train school staff on the proper interpretation of the dress code.



Heinhold, Jenn. "Scot Student's Kilt is Crux of Controversy." The Herald (May 20, 2001).

Muschamp, Herbert. "Design Review: In the Land of the Free, Who Wears the Skirts?" The New York Times (November 7, 2003).

Taylor, Betsy. "Missouri Student Receives Apology over Kilt." Associated Press (January 10, 2006).

Web sites

Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Bravehearts: Men in Skirts." 〈{823731F9-6846-4D66-AFF5-AB57B724C97A}〉 (accessed April 1, 2006).