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.
BEFORE THE KILT 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 viewed trousers as “unmanly.”
The wearing of kilts in Scotland was banned the year aer the Jacobite rebellion of 1745; until the ban was lied in 1782, the penalty was six months’ imprisonment if caught, while repeat o enders would get seven years’ transportation to the colonies. The kilt’s return to ocial favor came in 1822, when King George IV paid the first visit to Scotland by a reigning British monarch in almost two centuries. The muchcaricatured king was encouraged by the Romantic writer Sir Walter Scott to wear a kilt – although the flesh-toned tights he paired it with were a departure from Highland custom.
Celtic peoples have been making tartanlike designs since Roman times or earlier, but tartan patterns only became formalized in the early 19th century.
Since then, new designs have been added and the ocial Scottish Register of Tartans ( tartanregister.gov.uk) 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 any Scottish roots, let alone Highland clan ancestry, tradition still allows you to wear a number of
“universal tartans,” such as the Black Watch or Flower of Scotland.