The Se­cret His­tory of: the Scot­tish kilt

With the ex­cep­tion of the Loch Ness monster, no other Scot­tish icon is as enig­matic and con­tentious as the kilt. Read on to dis­cover why

Lonely Planet (UK) - - Contents -

DE­SPITE SUG­GES­TIONS TO the con­trary in Brave­heart, the kilt is not the time­less, an­ces­tral dress of all Scots­men. Be­fore it was en­shrined as part of Scot­tish na­tional dress in the 19th cen­tury, it di­vided opin­ion across the coun­try. The ma­jor­ity Low­land pop­u­la­tion tended to think of it as bar­baric, call­ing its bare-legged wear­ers ‘red­shanks’, while High­landers in turn saw trousers as ‘un­manly’. The wear­ing of kilts in Scot­land was banned af­ter the Ja­co­bite re­bel­lion of 1745; un­til the ban was lifted later that cen­tury, the penalty was six months’ im­pris­on­ment if caught, while re­peat of­fend­ers would get seven years’ trans­porta­tion to the colonies. The kilt’s re­turn to of­fi­cial favour came in 1822, when King Ge­orge IV paid the first visit to Scot­land by a reign­ing Bri­tish monarch in al­most two cen­turies. The much-car­i­ca­tured king was en­cour­aged by the Ro­man­tic writer Sir Wal­ter Scott to wear a kilt – al­though the skin-coloured tights he paired it with were a de­par­ture from High­land cus­tom. Tar­tan pat­terns be­came for­malised in the early 19th cen­tury. Since then new de­signs have been added, and the of­fi­cial Scot­tish Regis­ter of Tar­tans (yes, there is one) now lists thou­sands of pat­terns, in­clud­ing ones for Heineken, Domino’s Pizza and the Canadian Den­tal Association. If you want a kilt of your own, but can’t claim Scot­tish roots – let alone High­land clan an­ces­try – tra­di­tion still al­lows you to wear ‘uni­ver­sal tar­tans’, such as the Black Watch or Flower of Scot­land. The one shown here, the Ste­wart Hunt­ing tar­tan, as­so­ci­ated with the royal house of Ste­wart, is an off-duty style and ap­pro­pri­ate for any­one to wear.

Spor­rans have been around longer than kilts have – these me­dieval-style pouches turned out to be a handy al­ter­na­tive to the pock­ets that tra­di­tional kilts lack. They also act as a strate­gi­cally placed weight in windy weather. The av­er­age man’s kilt uses eight yards (7.3 me­tres) of fab­ric at 28 inches wide. For a good-qual­ity one, ex­pect to pay at least £300 – and that’s be­fore you in­clude ac­ces­sories, like spor­rans. and High­land games events. laws reg­u­lat­ing of­fen­sive weapons.

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