The skirl of the bagpipes. The stirring smell of sweaty, kilted men engaged in strenuous activity. "I swear," says Dave Novinger, "it's just like Braveheart." With a few crucial differences. For one thing this isn't the Highlands of Scotland, it's the suburbs of Denver. The music comes from a boom box, not a piper. And the men aren't tartan-clad rebels led by Mel Gibson, they're tartan-clad construction workers led by Marc Ross. Employees of Karpenters in Kilts, they are renovating Novinger's 3,900-sq.-ft. redbrick house in Littleton, Colo.
A native of Alpharetta, Ga., Ross, 34, began wearing a kilt full-time nine years ago in memory of his late father, Jack, a Scottish-born career Navy pilot—mother Joy, a homemaker, was raised near Edinburgh—who exhorted him to "never forget where your blood comes from." At first, wife Rose, 50, a finance service rep, said, "I'm not going out with you!" But then she thought, "Marc is going to wear what he wants, so you get used to it."
The dress code caught on with Ross's 13-man crew when he launched the company in 1996. Though wearing them is purely voluntary, kilts, says Ross, "are easier to move in." And, he says, "some of the guys think they're studly because the girls like the kilts." In a bow to modesty—the Karpenters in Kilts, remember, work on ladders—bike shorts are worn underneath.
Ross, who lives with Rose in Elizabeth, Colo., and dreams of one day moving to Scotland, has yet to visit his ancestral home. "I haven't been to Scotland," he says, "because I'm not going to come back if I go."
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