Scotland is a country rich in tradition, with many a story handed down through the generations. The people who came to this area long ago and made their homes here were rich and hearty of spirit and possessed of great determination. Their descendants have survived not only wars with other countries, but also many in-country conflicts as well. This has served to engender a fierce national pride in the country and its heritage among the native Scots.
A highly important aspect of Scottish history surrounds a ubiquitous garment called the kilt. The kilt has become known to people virtually all over the world as traditional Scottish attire. This perception formed over time, as the kilt evolved from a cloak-like garment into the modern garment we know today.
Beginnings of the Kilt
Kilts are part and parcel in many countries today; as school uniforms worn by children, by people in costume and by performers either doing re-enactments, traditional dances or even bagpipers. The type of kilt most often seen today is a far from the original. It is thought by many to be based upon the Irish leine, which was a large piece of fabric, wrapped and draped about the body and fastened in place. It was a unisex garment, belted about the waist and worn with a brooch at the shoulder or neck. Loose and perhaps unflattering, it was nonetheless emblematic of the culture.
From the leine came the great kilt. It had more than little in common with its predecessor – being of similar length, and being donned and fastened in a similar fashion. While it was also unisex, it was more fitted to the body, and designed only to drape over a single shoulder.
The Modern Kilt
Over the course of the last century or so, the kilt has evolved into what we typically envision when we picture that most uniquely Scottish of garments. Seldom or not at all does it feature the over the shoulder drapery. Instead, it hangs from the waist, wrapped about the mid-section, dropping to the knees. Unlike shorts, which outwardly look similar to those who don’t know better, the kilt is one piece of fabric wrapped about the waist several times, and fastened on the side. A shirt is typically worn with it since it lacks the upper body covering found in its predecessors.
Having become immensely popular all over the world, the kilt is worn by both genders and by people of all ages. While not as prevalent in traditional Scottish wardrobe as it once was, it can still be found at its place of honor among rituals, ceremonies and celebrations. Many men of Scottish descent , regardless where they may live, wear their kilts during weddings and other special occasions, as the kilt holds a special significance even today.
With its rich and storied history, the centuries old Scottish kilt can be found in modern books, movies and artwork from years gone by. While it may have evolved to suit changing customs and social norms of dress, it’s still very much an important part of what it means to be and live uniquely Scottish.