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People of Whitewater: Joe Millis

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Kilt-wearing Warhawk never sought attention, just wanted to ‘man up’

May 6, 2015

By Amber Levenhagen

Joe Millis never wanted any attention, but when you decide you want to wear a kilt every day, being shy isn’t an option.
“I have not worn pants outside of work or visiting my grandparents in at least five years. It’s kilts full-time,” Millis said.
The kilt has nothing to do with culture or his views. His love for kilts was sparked when he watched the movie “Braveheart” as a child. He and his brother would create makeshift kilts out of blankets.
Millis didn’t wear a kilt again until a Halloween party his first year in Whitewater. He remembered how “amazing” they were, and it’s been kilts ever since.
Millis typically purchases his kilts online, his favorite being his alpha kilt, but he has made them in the past. He made his first kilt out of denim with a borrowed Hello Kitty sewing machine.

“Being a giant, Viking of a man, he would appear to be hard to approach but he’s actually very social and the worst he will do to you is talk your ear off about pretty much anything,” long-term friend Thomas Sharpe said. “Lately he likes to wear toe shoes. Those shoes that form to your feet, according to him they are amazing, and he has a collection of zany hats.”

“Being a giant, Viking of a man, he would appear to be hard to approach but he’s actually very social and the worst he will do to you is talk your ear off about pretty much anything,” long-term friend Thomas Sharpe said. “Lately he likes to wear toe shoes. Those shoes that form to your feet, according to him they are amazing, and he has a collection of zany hats.”

Using online forums for help, he found a piece titled “instructions for making your own kilt written for men who have never sewn anything but know how to measure for carpentry” and used that to aid his construction.
Thomas Sharpe has been friends with Millis for several years.
“The man is a legend, and very hard to forget,” Sharpe said.

People on campus may have seen Millis walking to and from class. Sharpe compared him to a polar bear.
“He walks to and from class on the coldest days of winter in a kilt, a t-shirt and sandals, and then complains it’s too hot when he gets into a heated room,” Sharpe said.
Whitewater’s smaller population has had Millis experience a changing response over the years.
New freshmen typically react with excitement, but off campus some of the older adults haven’t responded with as much enthusiasm. At this point, most people are accepting and don’t acknowledge it as much.
Millis has been in Whitewater since 2005, although he hasn’t taken classes for his entire stay.  He will be graduating this May with a double major in political science and social work with a minor in philosophy.
He plans to wear a kilt forever but he recognizes that it’s hard to get away with wearing one in a professional setting. Have no fear! He says he will always wear the kilt in his free time outside of work.
After graduation, Millis hopes to start a career comparable to some of the work he has done on campus.
“I really don’t want to go into a job that I’m only doing just for the money,” Millis said. “I want to do something where I can get up every morning and want to go to work for the sake of the stuff I do.”
He works with the University Christian Fellowship to support the International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that has teams of lawyers, investigators and social workers that investigate human rights cases around the world.
The group works to uncover abuse and get local forces involved to free people from human trafficking and sex slavery. They fight corruption and also fight cases involving unprosecuted rape.
His work mostly consists of fundraising and awareness-raising activities that bring speakers to campus to talk about what’s going on in the world.
Besides nonprofit work, Millis is interested in philosophy. He also likes studying different types of religion.
He’s a self-proclaimed film critic who also enjoys writing. He hopes to have his work published someday.
Junior Kali Stelse knows Millis from feature writing, a class they share.
“Props to him for wearing it because I would feel too self-conscious to wear something like that, especially when he wears a kilt all day, every day.”
Typically shy, Millis was forced out of his comfort zone once he decided to wear the kilt. Strangers have taken pictures of, and with him. He says it’s hilarious.
“The response is 75 percent curious, 20 percent positive, 5 percent negative,” Millis said. “Every once in a while there’s an idiot who screams something from a car and then drives off, but I occasionally get that when I’m not wearing a kilt so whatever.”
The majority of his family has been supportive and accepting of his transition to a kilt lifestyle. His grandparent’s house, though, is the only place he goes where he wears pants in order to avoid conflict, as they’re more traditional.
“You probably have also seen him at Rocky Rococo’s, the only place he ever wears pants because otherwise they wouldn’t pay him,” Sharpe said.
Millis never considered himself a social butterfly. He says he believes some people think he wears the kilt for attention. It’s actually the exact opposite.
“Attention was the last thing in the world I wanted, but I decided to man up and do what I really wanted to do instead of letting other people stop me,” said Millis.
As a shy guy, stepping out of his comfort zone was an important step to make. He said it helped build up his confidence because the more people commented how courageous he was, the more he started to realize it was true.
Even though it takes a lot of confidence and isn’t inexpensive, he highly recommends the kilt because they’re comfortable and he thinks guys have gotten conned into wearing pants through the progress of history.
“If you give it a try, you’ll thank me,” said Millis. “I chose to be confident. When you face your fears often enough, they can’t stop you.”

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People of Whitewater: Joe Millis