They’re beer-loving and share an appreciation for traditional Scottish garb, but they’re not always bearded.
More than four dozen lads and lasses from South Whidbey can call themselves part of the Rampant Kilt Society, a Facebook group that describes itself as “a pub social group with a kilt problem.”
Members of the group enjoy the same hobby — dressing up in kilts, whether they be the traditional plaid of clan families or the neutral tones of a utility kilt.
“There are no hard, fast rules, it’s really just have fun and have a common thread. The thread is the kilt,” said Bexar O’Riley, the group’s founder.
O’Riley, who has Irish heritage and “Viking blood,” started the group a few months ago as an excuse for people to “dust off” their kilts and “scare the neighbors,” he joked.
“Coming out of COVID, I was just thinking about the fact that we don’t have a renaissance fest, we lost our highland games, so therefore the only time people really wear a kilt is on St. Patrick’s Day or a wedding — unless they’re die-hard kilters,” he said.
Heritage and culture may be the foremost reasons why someone may don a kilt in the traditional pleated plaid — or khaki, in the case of a utility kilt — but O’Riley explained that there is no requirement for wearers to have Scottish ancestry in order to enjoy the garment.
The Rampant Kilt Society is open to people of all genders. As of press time, 15 of its 51 members are women.
“We have no problem with ladies wearing the men’s style kilts or the ladies’ cut of the modern kilt,” O’Riley said. “It’s all about getting people into kilts.”
Cindi Crowder Rausch, a recent transplant from Texas, was excited to join the group when she moved to Whidbey.
“I sent him a message and said, ‘Are girls allowed?’” she said with a laugh, referring to O’Riley.
At the most recent kilt meet-up, Crowder Rausch sported a black hiking kilt in a women’s cut.
“Typically, women’s kilts are shorter,” she explained. “This one, you get a breeze. But if you look, it’s got a lot of the same features as the men’s.”
She is a fan of the garb, although she admitted to detesting skirts.
Aimee Shand, another member present at the meet-up, agreed.
“I don’t wear skirts much,” Shand said.
Utility, or hiking, kilts are a popular choice among many members of the Rampant Kilt Society. This choice of kilt can be more practical because it has pockets and is made for daily use. Seattle retailer Utilikilts manufactures many different styles that members are fans of.
O’Riley said the group purposely avoids having “kilt lawyers” telling other members what to do or wear.
“We don’t want somebody telling you how you have to wear your kilt,” he said. “You can ask and we’ll be glad to share that information as far as traditional dos and don’ts.”
And there are definitely some dos and don’ts, including rules about going without underwear.
“Typically if you go regimental — that’s the Scottish word for it — the only thing you really wear under your kilt is your shoes and socks,” O’Riley said. “If you’re doing that, that’s not something you typically go to the kindergarten with or to grandma’s house.”
He added, “Probably the majority of people go regimental, but with utility kilts and sports kilts and all that, that’s not always the thing. It’s really a preference thing. If you’re hiking in the woods, there’s a lot of people that don’t want ticks and stuff in the wrong places.”
Crowder Rausch agreed.
“Whatever you’re comfortable with, I think is the thing,” she said.
The Rampant Kilt Society convenes twice a month at different breweries around South Whidbey. Currently members meet on the first Wednesday and the third Sunday of the month.
The social group spans generations, with members in their 20s and others in their 70s, and everything in between.
O’Riley said he has seen a huge kilt movement in the Pacific Northwest that’s spread across the country.
“I can see this actually going nationwide,” he said of the Rampant Kilt Society. “I don’t see why it couldn’t.”