Howie is a kiltmaker and an extraordinary one at that. Growing up, Howie travelled the world with his family, who both owned and ran the reputable ‘Geoffrey the Tailor’s Kiltmakers and Tartan Specialists’, going to shows, parades and assisting on kilt fittings from a young age. Howie set out to learn the trade for himself and split amicably from his father’s business to set up 21st Century Kilts at only 18. He aspired to make kilts become everyday wear again, the way things were before the ban in the mid 18th century.
“I think the kilt in Scottish culture is all about this freedom, and that it’s different and that people feel connected with it. Like it is part of me, it’s all I own! I don’t own jeans and I don’t own a suit.”
The wearing of tartan was banned after the 1746 Battle of Culloden, but subsequently, it has seen gradual waves of coming back into fashion over the centuries. It is now used by leading fashion designers and is an essential part of Scottish culture and traditional Highland dress worn at events and weddings.
“To wear a kilt is as Vivienne Westwood said, people who wear unusual clothing have a more interesting life.”
“You can take that passion for the kilt and the garment, and that freedom it gives to the rest of the world. Scotland has given television, whisky, the telephone…we should give (the world) the kilt.”
Kilts are typically worn at knee length by men and boys in Scotland, have a tartan pattern, are made out of wool and are pleated at the back. There are many variations upon this design, and also female kilts.
Admitting that he almost never wears anything but a kilt, Howie set out to make kilts that were primarily wearable, not just fashionable. Although they have become very trendy (with celebrities vying for his products), Howie’s kilts are set apart for multiple reasons. Custom made, they feature linings, pockets, lower down cuts for comfort and Howie also had the gumption to move away from standard tartan wool and experiment with other materials. 21st Century Kilts make use of different textiles, ranging from leather, coloured denim, camouflage, and pinstripe.
Howie has made kilts for the likes of Vin Diesel, Madonna, Sam Heugan, HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco and Robbie Williams, just to name a few pleat-sporting VIPs.
Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is a centre of history, culture and learning. This small city is home to six universities, the largest cultural festival in the world (the Edinburgh Fringe Festival) and its very own UNESCO World Heritage site which includes sections of the city’s charismatic old and new town. Howie Nicholsby has lived in Edinburgh all his life and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I obviously love Edinburgh’s historical buildings, the history of it. But living here, I find it a very vibrant, fun and ever-changing place to live. I’m a bit biased but I think it’s the greatest small city in the world and Scotland is the greatest small country in the world.”
Howie set up his business in Edinburgh’s city centre and it ran very successfully for many years, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic has relocated his business to just outside the city. 21st Century Kilts is now on the same premise as Howie’s family business at Duntarvie Castle.
A visit to Edinburgh undoubtedly makes for a highlight in many of our bespoke adventure holidays around Scotland. With an unrivalled network of local connections across the city, and indeed wider Scotland, we are confident of adding value at every step of the way for you.