Myths and Facts of Scotland’s Male Skirt: the Kilt

Myths and facts about the Kilt
Myths and facts about the Kilt

Have you watched Mel Gibson’s Braveheart? How about any Simpsons episode that focuses on Groundskeeper Willie?

If you have then you are probably wondering why Scottish males wear what seems to be a skirt with tartan patterns. The answer to that question is that such garment of clothing is NOT a skirt (say that word to a Scottish male wearing one and you’ll get punched in the face, trust me) but rather a Kilt, a product of the amazing Gaelic heritage that the modern-day Scots are very proud of.

While the media always distorts the truth, there are some times where they (surprisingly) get their facts right. Here is a brief lists of myths and facts about the Kilt.

Myths and facts about the Kilt
Myths and facts about the Kilt

Myth: Kilts have been a part of Scottish Culture since Forever!

No, they haven’t. Kilts are a fairly recent invention dating back to the 16th Century. For reference, Braveheart takes place in the 13th Century. That’s right, the movie’s costume department got it completely wrong by more than 300 years! It is basically the equivalent of having Confederate Soldiers wearing green-camo uniforms and night-vision goggles in a film about the American Civil War! Shocking, isn’t it?

Nevertheless, it soon became a symbol of Scotland and it is proudly worn by some of its most important celebrities such as Sir Sean Connery. Who knew that skirts kilts would look so manly?

Myth: Scottish males are not wearing anything underneath their Kilt!

Remember Sharon Stones’ leg-crossing interrogation scene in Basic Instinct? Imagine that with Groundskeeper Willie wearing a Kilt and you’ll get nightmares that will last a lifetime!

While the phrase “True Scotsman” refers to those men who wear nothing underneath their Kilts, this practice is not the norm and it is extremely impractical to do so during the cold winter months!!!

Nevertheless, this has become an inside joke among Scottish and tourists alike so don’t be surprised to hear giggles from groups of ladies as they wonder if that tall handsome Scottish gentleman is a “True Scotsman” or not!

Bagpipe players at Edinburgh
Bagpipe players at Edinburgh

Fact: Anyone can wear a Kilt. Yes, anyone!

While some people believe that the Kilts are only to be used by the Royal Guards and the Bagpipe players, the truth is that anyone can buy a Kilt and wear it openly without any hassle at all! It is actually becoming a very fashionable item for formal occasions such as graduations and weddings.

And while I did not see any clueless tourists wearing a Kilt in the streets of Scotland, I would like to assume that Scottish people would be understanding of the tourists’ interest in their culture and won’t be seeing it as a sort of cultural appropriation.

In fact, I got many compliments for my bravery when I wore a kilt in the cold Scottish winter. And speaking about winter, have you heard of the Viking Festival in Shetland? I wonder what Thor would think about wearing a kilt!

Myth: In Scotland it is impossible to distinguish male toilets from female ones.

Oh boy, I still remember that Simpsons episode where Homer was confused trying to find the males toilet! Truth is, Scotland follows every other single country by branding the doors in a non-confusing way.

After many visits to Glasgow and Edinburgh, the only time I found a toilet sign with a man wearing a kilt was at the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe at Glasgow.

And yes, it was meant to be an inside joke. I hope.

Party kilts being sold at Edinburgh
Party kilts being sold at Edinburgh

Fact: Good-quality Kilts are expensive. Very expensive!

When I told my Scottish friends that I would be buying a Kilt they laughed and told me “No, you’re not!”. Not only because wearing it in public with her would probably bring a lot of attention to us (after all, my red-brown Latin skin immediately gives away the fact that I’m not Scottish at all!) but also because the prices are over the roof!!!

A good quality wool kilt can set you back 400 pounds, which is like 600 USD! And you have to add the fact that you have to buy all the accessories as well, from the high-knee socks to the sporran (those funny bags made of horsehair and leather).

In total, you can expect to pay about 600 pounds for the complete ensemble, which is as expensive as a premium quality tailor-made suit.

So, feeling depressed I did the next best thing I could…yes, you guessed it! I have to confess that I ended up buying a 30 pounds sports-kilt. Yes, it is tacky and yes, I’m still very proud of it to this day. It’s not about the money, it’s about the fun :D

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Have you ever worn a Kilt? Would you like to find a True Scotsman? Share your thoughts and let us know!!!

Disclaimer: #blogmanay is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by ETAG, EventScotland, VisitScotland, Homecoming Scotland and co-creators Haggis Adventures. Created and produced by Unique Events. As always, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Mexican Man wearing a Kilt
“Ladies… ;)”

31 Comments

  • I got a kilt in Edinburgh for about £20, and have only worn it once, haha. Did you know that each Scottish family has its own tartan pattern? And there’s only certain ones that an Englishman (like me) is allowed to wear?

    …I think that’s true, anyway!

    • Any one can wear a kilt of any tartan they like. There are NO kilt police. I’m English born but with Welsh and Irish ancestors on my mothers side, so I wear Welsh tartans or utility kilts. I wear them daily, have done for 14 months now. All the Celtic countries adopted the kilt and there are tartans for Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Mann and of course Ireland. I don’t have any Scottish tartans but why not?

      • I am a true Cornishman and proud of it, in fact I wear the Cornish National tartan kilt and will be wearing it to my Grandson’s wedding. It really feels great to wear the kilt and show I am of the Celtic race
        Preston Thomas

    • Another myth there . The traditional highland dress is completely from the 18th century “kilt”which was more for tourism . Tartan was originally relating to a district not family . And if you did not have a weaver then you did not have tartan . Early tartans were of natural dyes ie . Plants .mosses and berries and 100% wool.
      Today its modern dyes and thread bared .
      Hope this helps folks .
      I wear one for work and its probably the most comfortable thing ive worn and must be worn with both pride and confidence !!!

    • Haha. Agree . So far off the mark its not funny . Why go to all that expense to make a film whilst not researching basics . And to film most of it in ireland ……….

  • A Scottish friend of mine wears kilt during the holidays. I think it’s really sentimental!

  • Interesting facts! My husband has an Irish and Scottish blood but he has never worn a kilt. I haven’t seen a man wearing a kilt in person. They have an annual Scottish Festival here in the city but we never got the chance to check it out yet. Maybe next year.

  • I haven’t worn one. I saw a gentleman at the bar in an airport in Scotland wearing one. He was drinking a beer for breakfast, lol. :)

  • I have been part of a Scottish group for several years, and the only ones who didn’t go, “Regimental,” were the older gentlemen, and some of them may have been, but no one would question them…

  • As a genealogist & historian, your first myth/fact is a bit gray, only parsing out what is thought to be true. The filibeag or small kilt is what the modern versions are today. The Great Kilt was more in line with what the ancient Highlanders (not all Scots) would have worn. First, the material would not have been necessarily a “plaid” pattern, specific to a clan. In fact, “plaide” is Scot Gaelic for blanket. Because of the moisture, bogs, and moors of the Highlands, it was more practical to wear a leine (tunic like under garment) with a cloak like material wrapped around you and belted, so that it would not be weighted with mud, water, nor torn during travel. Wikipedia is a bit short on the information, going back as far as the 16th century, but there is more historical and anthropological evidence that supports the Great Kilt, and how it evolved into the modern kilt.

  • Loved your article. I am a kilt maker and answer those types of questions alot. Nice to see you got a traditional kilt in that picture. they are worth it!

  • As an American of Scottish decent (McDonald) I have a kilt, not expensive but I wear it at Scottish events with pride . I love the feel of walking around free (not commando, exposure laws).

  • I first saw it in Samuel L Jackson`s 51st state. I think its comfortable and sexy…….men should wear it more often.

  • Kilts are skirts and it’s appalling that so many insist on denying it. There are two (2) qualifications to make something a skirt 1) it places the legs together inside a single tube or circle of fabric and 2) It hangs from the waist. No other criteria impinge on the definition, i.e., whether it wraps around, whether it’s flat in front, whether it buckles/pins/fastens on the right side. Even Kinloch Anderson had an encyclopedia article admitting that kilts are skirts. This is 100% irrational that Scots fear the term “skirt,” as men have worn all manner of skirts for 1,000s of years. A skirt is a gender neutral garment that almost everyone “thinks” is female because they are using childish associative reasoning. If someone arrives in a Ford Mustang and someone says “nice car,” the Mustang owner does not get red faced with hysteria and holler, “It’s NOT a car, it’s a MUSTANG!” The presence or absence of pleats across the front has no connection to gender. The Greeks wear a skirt pleated across the front and they don’t consider this makes it female. Different terms for skirts worn ethnically by men—tennure (Dervishes)—foustanella (Greeks) et al, do not diminish the applicability of the word “skirt.” To be a gender difference, a garment must by its configuration interface only with the anatomy of men only or women only. Skirts do not fit that criteria, and tradition is no criteria at all, especially when reason is left out.

    • In fact the word kilt is Scandinavian in origin and means to make or pull into a skirt. When idiots try to belittle my heritage because they think it’s an affront to call the kilt a skirt I love informing them of the terms origin and that I wear it with pride.

    • Absolutely right. I’m English living in Russia and I have worn a kilt everyday for over ten years even in -20degrees C. I have over 14 kilts and no jeans or trousers. My students call it a юбка (skirt) and it is, but it’s a skirt for a man. Different body, The nomenclature is of very little importance, just enjoy the freedom!!!

  • My mother’s family and her mother’s lineage is all north east England. We have our own kilt, the Northumbrian kilt, and I own one.
    The kilt isn’t Scottish; it’s British. Tartan has been worn by the British since before the Roman invasion. But let us not try to undo a well-accepted fallacy.

  • As a Scotsman I enjoyed your article although I’d have disagree that the majority of Scots do in fact go “true Scotsman” as it’s generally frowned upon to wear anything under a kilt.

  • You won’t find a kilt prior to the 15th century and possibly only from the 16th.
    Trews were more likely to be worn than kilts anyway.
    “Celtic” is a nonsense term. It refers to a people that lived in what is now called Europe.
    The term is mainly political as various groups wanted to distance themselves from the English.
    Actually the genetics from the northern coast of Great Britain to the south are very similar- primarily from the pre-Roman “original” inhabitants. Roman and Anglo-Saxons did mix to a small degree, but the genetics is still primarily from those that lived here before.
    Interestingly there’s more genetic diversity in Wales than between the north of Scotland and the south of England.
    A proud Briton

  • I didn’t know much about kilts. You have shared a really wonderful information. I love this dress and now I will surely buy it ;)

  • Our new school superintendant imposed a dress code taking away the ability to wear dress shorts, even though we regularly have school in temperatures over 100 degrees F. While looking over the new dress code, I happened to see that kilts were allowed. That night I ordered my first. I am amazed at the comfort, and I like the way I look wearing one. Three months later, I now own six, and wear them to school daily and wore a formal kilt to our son’s wedding last week.
    At first, it was sort of a protest that was frowned upon by the district office. They shouldn’t have put it in the dress code if they were going to be upset if somebody followed through. But the interesting thing is that it got me looking into my family history and found that my mother’s family moved to this continent years ago from Scotland.

  • Scotland is such an amazing country to visit! All those myths around it just make me feel more excited to my trip @ this place in couple of weeks!

  • I’m a Yank, with Scottish roots, living in western England. We’re going to Edinburgh tomorrow and the Kilt is packed (Stewart Black).
    I hope to be able to wear it out celebrating New Years Eve.
    I also hope not to embarrass myself by doing so….

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