Cultural expression: The kilt, the hammer and the hair

Photo by Levi Brown.

Jacob Ballard, an anthropology and language student at UAA, typically wears a kilt, a button-down shirt and a tie with mjlnir, more commonly known as Thor’s hammer, pinned to it. His long, dark, braided hair also stands out. Everything he wears speaks about his background, but it is the kilt that people notice first.

“I walk around a lot [outside] and I walk to campus so I feel like I’ve noticed more people driving by looking at me than back when I was wearing pants,” he said. “When I first started, a lot of people were ripping me about wearing a skirt… The next thing a lot of people think is, ‘Aren’t you cold?’ and well, my hands are a little cold… It is slightly colder than trousers, but it’s not as cold as it seems.”

Ballard has been wearing kilts for about a year.

“I wear the kilt because it’s fun, it’s different and it does represent a part of my familial history,” he said.

What prompted his decision to wear kilts rather than pants was when the clothing company 5. 11 Tactical made the ‘tactical kilt’ as an April Fools Day joke. Ballard thought it was funny and purchased his own. After trying it, he decided to get a real one.

“I was born here in America so I can’t say that I’m Scottish, or I’m Irish, or Celtic… but that’s pretty much where most of my ancestry comes from… probably about 90 percent of it,” Ballard said.

Aside from the kilt, his favorite parts of Scottish culture are “bagpipes and the accents.”

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The only other connections Ballard has to this culture are the stories that his mother told him about her childhood family friends whom she visited in Scotland. Ballard himself has never been there, but hopes to travel there someday.

In his free time, Ballard enjoys reading, video games and role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. He also started a club for people who share his religious views.

“I’m heathen. That is my religious-spiritual orientation and identification.  [My religion is] a form of paganism that focuses on Scandinavian mythology. You know- Oden, Thor, Loki… that whole ordeal of deities,” Ballard said.

For this reason, his mjlnir pin has a lot of cultural significance to him.

Ballard’s long, braided hairstyle came from trying the opposite of a former culture. After being in the army with a buzz-cut and a clean shave, he grew his hair out for about three years.

Ballard is just one of the unique UAA students. Like many others on this diverse campus, his culture and personality are tied to the way he dresses. Many people don’t know the meaning behind it and might simply ask, “Aren’t you cold?”