While attending a party, festival, fair, sporting event, or performing arts event, you may have occasionally spotted a man wearing a knee-length garment with pleats at the rear. The bottom half of his attire may consist of a plaid or checkered pattern resembling a skirt while the top half may be a frilly shirt with lace and trim. You may snicker at the sight and label such a man as a cross dresser. However, do not be deceived. This man is not wearing female clothing, but merely a kilt, a traditional fashion of men in the Scottish highlands, originating in the 16th century. Since the 19th century, this piece of clothing spread to include Gaelic and Celtic culture as well.
Scottish man’s Kilt:
Unlike any other garment in history, the Scottish kilt stands alone in its design, construction, and concept. After all, what other tailored garment wraps around the wearer’s natural waist, starting from the side and wraps around the front and back and then across the front again to the opposite side? What other garment consists of straps and buckles on both ends, and sometimes inside the waistband, to be fastened together? And what other garment contains overlapping layers of fabric in the front, known as “aprons”, and a single layer of pleated fabric from the sides to the back, held together by a pin in the front? The answer to these questions should be obvious. No other garment but the Scottish kilt is built in such a way as described above. Another potentially appealing aspect of kilt wearing is the option of wearing underwear. As tradition says, a “true Scotsman” wears nothing under their kilt. However, in modern times, this could cause quite a controversy in public!
The standard kilt of modern times is made of twill woven worsted wool. The twill weave threaded through the fabric creates a lovely diagonal pattern, known as the “twill line”. Kilting fabrics can range in weight from very heavy worsted (18-22 ounces per yard) to light worsted (10-11 ounces per yard), with the most common kilt weights being 13 ounces per yard and 16 ounces per yard. Logically, the heavier the weight, the warmer the kilt. Also, different patterns are available in different weights, with some patterns only being accessible in a particular weight. The amount of fabric for an average adult kilt is usually between 6-8 yards of single width fabric and 3-4 yards of double width fabric. When constructing a kilt, they are made devoid of a hem, as this would not allow for the garment to properly hang and it would also make it bulky.
As with any apparel, there is fun to be had with accessorizing your look and as a kilt wearer, there are many ways to accent your appearance. The Scottish kilt is usually accompanied by woolen socks pulled up to the knee and a pouch which hangs from the waist via chain or leather strap. Other options to enhance the kilt wearing experience may include a belt, jacket, kilt pin, small sheathed knife, Ghillie brogues, and Ghillie shirt. These things are “add-ons” and their wearing depends on the formality of the occasion.
With many styles and many ways to wear these garments, kilts have stood the test of time and continue to be popular today. So, the next time you see that oddly dressed man roaming about, remember that he is not wearing women’s clothing. He is simply Scottish! For our Scottish selections, take a gander at: http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/