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.

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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 a“er the Ja­co­bite re­bel­lion of 1745; un­til the ban was li“ed 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 o™cial 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 o™cial 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.

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