With the arrival of spring Thursday, on the calendar at least, the worst of the punishing cold is behind us. It’s safe to say this was one winter we’ll long remember — although maybe not as viscerally as Scott Taylor will remember it.
Taylor, of Edina, endured every day of the polar vortex wearing not polar fleece, but a kilt.
Looking for a special way to celebrate his 60th birthday and honor his Scottish heritage, Taylor vowed to wear a kilt part of every day of 2014. He hasn’t missed yet.
If he regrets not choosing instead to quaff whisky for 365 nights in front of a roaring fire, he’s not saying.
“Who would have known we’d be below zero for 50 days?” said the good-natured Taylor, who made the resolution last fall when he didn’t even need a sweater.
Taylor’s wife, Anne Hunter, finds his choice funny, too, in retrospect. “Everyone is concerned about his knees,” said Hunter, who also has Scottish roots.
“There were other things we were concerned about.”
Taylor grew up in Mankato, the oldest of three siblings. His father’s side were “Mayflower people.” His mother was part of the Scottish Innes clan, which emigrated to Minnesota in the 1850s. Taylor’s earliest memory is of being pushed by his father around a curling rink on a curling stone.
By 10, he was curling on a team, becoming skilled enough to compete in the Olympic trials in 1991.
But wear a kilt? Taylor didn’t know that part of his Scottish heritage at all as a boy.
About six years ago, friend and fellow Scot, Dr. Alan Cameron, suggested they wear kilts to a curling tournament. Thus began Taylor’s experience with “the look,” a uniquely Minnesotan, two-part stare offered by those who wonder why in the world anyone would want to call attention to himself in this way.
First, there’s eye-to-eye contact, Taylor said as he demonstrated and tried not to laugh. That’s followed by a quick shifting of the eyes to a scrutinizing stare at his waist.
An introvert by nature, Taylor decided that this was a good way to push himself out of his comfort zone. After a 10th wedding anniversary trip with Anne to Scotland last summer (where they also honeymooned), and his 60th birthday on Aug. 13, 2013, Taylor announced that he’d be living outside that zone for 365 days straight, beginning Jan. 1.
All day, every day, Hunter asked? No. Just part of the day, he told her.
“He didn’t need my permission, and he wasn’t seeking it,” said the supportive Hunter. But the decision has affected how she dresses when they go out.
“I don’t go with flash, because it would compete,” she said. “And he has better legs than I do.”
A small-business mentor at South Central College in Mankato and Faribault, Taylor has worn a kilt to meet with the college’s president, to the theater, to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, to a fitness class, to Costco and Liquor Boy.
Seldom are those outings uneventful. At the airport, a big, burly guy patted down Taylor and his buckle-laden kilt in front of many amused fellow travelers.
At the car repair shop, a guy dragged him into a small office, shut the door and told him a randy Scottish joke.
Standing in the lobby of a theater, a woman expressed an interest in feeling his tartan fabric. He later realized that she was trying to see if he was wearing underwear.
“A true Scotsman never answers that,” he said. Then he put on a Scottish accent and continued. “What do I wear under me kilt? Me socks and me shoes.”
Taylor also is often asked if he plays the bagpipes. His straightforward answer: No.
“It’s incredibly difficult to play,” he said.
Most people, though, are simply curious, approaching Taylor with questions about his heritage, or to share stories of their own.
The kilt, as eye-catching as it is, has utilitarian roots, said Taylor, seated in the den of his warmly appointed home. He serves delicious Scottish scones and is dressed in a blue-striped dress shirt under a yellow V-neck sweater and, of course, a red plaid skirt with black knee highs and yellow ribbons, called “flashes.”
Scotland was a very poor country for a long time, he said. The “whole nine yards” refers to nine yards of fabric that men would lay on the ground, gather by hand into pleats and wrap around their bodies, securing the fabric in place with a belt, then throwing the excess, called a plaid, over their shoulder for warmth when herding.
The bright flashes, while aesthetically pleasing, served the purpose of keeping one’s socks up.
Each clan had its own series of tartans, including the everyday kilt, the ancient, the hunting, the weathered and another for dancing.
Taylor owns four tartans, including one with pockets. The most formal cost upward of $800. He confesses to wanting to add to his collection. After all, he has three seasons to go.
“It’s kind of like women with shoes,” Hunter said. “You can never have enough kilts.”
Follow Gail on Twitter: @grosenblum