Jocks & Nerds

Jocks & Nerds

July 2013

When Grace Kelly’s son Prince Albert drops in to chair a meeting of the new Scotch whisky society in Monaco, he will be wearing a kilt from Howie R Nicholsby, the loudest, proudest exponent of Scotland’s national costume. Robbie Williams, Richard Branson and Scottish actor Kevin McKidd (Tommy in Trainspotting and Owen Hunt in Grey’s Anatomy) are among other celebrity clients of the man whose passionate quest is to produce – as his company name states – 21st Century Kilts.

From his cosily chaotic shop at 48 Thistle Street in Edinburgh, the hyperactive Nicholsby spreads the kilted gospel to anyone who will listen. Born into a family that deals with traditional Highland dress, Nicholsby began producing unconventional kilt designs in 1996, aged 18. Having married his wife Charlie and produced sons Noah, now 7 and Otto, 3, this Caledonian creative set up his own business in 2009, determined to evolve the kilt for modern men while remaining respectful of its heritage.

Despite its apparent simplicity, a kilt is a superb piece of skilled tailoring. At least 7 metres of cloth are required to create the precisely folded and stitched pleats at the back. It’s very important that the kilt moves with the wearer. With a good kilt, the swing is the thing.

You can buy 21st century Kilts and Nicholsby’s covetable Highland- style jackets and waistcoats ready-to-wear or bespoke. Known for developing the external, detachable pockets worn over his kilts, Nicholsby, who will be 35 in June, primarily works with traditional tartans and fine Scottish tweeds but his personal take on the Highland reel also includes denim, leather, PVC, pinstripe suitings, and even camouflage fabric embroidered with flowers.

Photograph Donald Milne 
Words Eric Musgrave