How to Be a Modern Scotsman on Burns Night

Duncan Quinn’s parties are almost as legendary as his suits – almost.
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Duncan Quinn’s parties are almost as legendary as his suits – almost.
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For the past decade, designer Duncan Quinn has celebrated Burns Night with a cadre of like-minded rogues, heaping helpings of haggis, blaring bagpipes, and a veritable ocean of single malt scotch. Quinn’s Glasgow-born father, for many years a detective at Scotland Yard, started the annual Burns Supper which the Yard still holds every year on Robert Burns’ birthday, Jan. 25. He was also President of the Burns Club of London and helped spread his good cheer throughout the land. Quinn has brought that enthusiasm stateside. 

“Being a modern Scotsman means packing your kilt, and not that midnight blue tux,” he notes. “You're not American after all. It means going commando. As a nod to your heritage. It means drinking the uisce beatha [Gaelic for whisky] in a fine crystal glass, and preferably with yer bosom cronies. With one huge fuck-off cube of ice.”

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Burns Night is a grand national and literary tradition, but it is also debauched as hell. There’s a reason for that: Robert Burns (1759–1796), whose name is pronounced like a he worker in Temple Beth El and whose work lent titles to Steinbeck's “Of Mice And Men” and Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” was a fire-in-the-blood Scot. He’s the guy who wrote “Auld Lang Syne”, one of the three most popular songs in the English language and when he wasn't penning poetry he was busy boozing and fathering children – with seven different women, including his mother’s maid. Burns died of pneumonia at the age of 37 after passing out in a ditch following a particularly drunken evening. In Scotland, that sort of run is considered a life well lived, an existence worthy of celebration.

And Quinn, best known for dressing the likes of LeBron James and Adrian Grenier likes to get dressed up before heading to the Chateau Marmont or the Soho House, his traditional venues. He doesn’t wear a kilt (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but he does like to make a statement. He says that’s at the core of the Scottish attitude, the in-your-face belligerence that got Connery all the girls back in the seventies. "It means knowing that the finely crafted tweed suit you wear can carry you far and wide with ne'er a tear,” Quinn says."And knowing that the world o'er there'll be another Scot ready to share a dram with you. And ponder all that it is to be a Scot.”