Around 1986, I read an article in Maclean’s by Canadian columnist Allan Fotheringham in which he remarked that the normal order of things in the animal world is for the male of the species to wear the brighter colours, to be more flamboyant than the female. The female cardinal is brown and black, a lioness lacks a mane . . . you get the picture.
Fotheringham went on to observe that humans are different in that females are the ones to get all dolled-up and, on average, work hardest at attracting with makeup and nice clothes. An exception is the Scots. When it comes to traditional garb, the Scottish male outdoes the female in a major way. The male Northern Celt understands the power of the kilt when it comes to attracting attention.
A few years ago I happened to be sitting next to Fotheringham at a dinner in downtown Toronto. By this time he had been a bit disgraced when it was discovered that he had apparently plagiarized several articles. He wasn’t getting much writing work. But I told him that I was a piper and that I had really liked his observations about the Scots and the kilt.
Seemingly well into his cups he said that he didn’t really remember the article, but thought that the premise was quite good. We discussed the wearing of the kilt, but that to a competitive piper the kilt is a uniform requirement rather than a courting option – at least when one is well-entrenched in the competition system.
Anyway, I’m not sure what all this means, but it may explain in a basic way the dominance of the male in the Highland bagpipe world. Combine the plumage of the kilt with the mating call of the pipe, and it’s only natural that more males than females are initially attracted to the instrument.
To be sure, women are every bit as good at the Highland pipe as men, but it can’t be denied that more males are drawn to play the pipes than females. The spectacle of the kilt and the allure of the sound attract attention. It’s certain mating-magnetism.