And now, for those of you who can handle it, here’s the original, subtly different version of my kilt article which the editor watered down for his delicate readership:
“What’s Worn Under Your Kilt?” The answer of course is, “Och! Nothing; that wee haggis is as good as new!” But seriously, what’s up with the kilt? Here’s an explanation of how the kilt – the traditional attire of Scotland, and catching on around the world – is more than a plaid skirt for men.
Wearing the kilt
Most kilts you see these days are worn by girls doing Highland dancing, but once upon a time kilts were worn by men going into battle, after chasing down a few sheep (just to collect their wool, of course, to make the kilts).
To save money, Scots didn’t bother with underwear or tailors or even buttons. They just took a big piece of cloth and wrapped it around themselves.
The original “Great Kilt” was simply a huge piece – five square meters – of cloth. You would pleat half of it, roll up in it, and wrap the other half around like a plaid toga. At night, it served as a blanket (meaning half as much laundry to wash, for those who bothered).
In 1746, King George II outlawed the kilt, because any man crazy enough to dress like that was bound to cause trouble. King George III made it legal again, but let’s remember that he was crazy. Queen Victoria had a Scottish fetish, and kilts have been in ever since.
The “traditional modern” kilt (pictured) is short (let’s see some knee, gentlemen) and tidy with shiny buckles here and there.
The “contemporary kilt” has traded in the tartan for pockets, more like cargo pants than Highland dress.
When and Where:
Specific tartan patterns are designated for different clans (Mackay, MacAndrews, etc.) and, these days, the kilt is most often worn for celebrations and formal occasions, but thanks to the madness of George III, the kilt can be worn anywhere, anytime, by anyone.
Accessories and Pronunciation guide:
The sporran (sounds like “He’s pourin’ whiskey!”), is the man-purse to go with the man-skirt. Traditionally to carry oats for lunch, it now conveniently holds cell phone, keys, and superfluous undergarments (which are good to have on hand in case a cold wind blows away your pride).
The sgian dubh (pronounce “ski an’ do”) is the “black knife”, hidden from the authorities but worn visible in the sock when amongst friends.
The kilt pin (pronounced “kilt pin”) weighs down the corner of the kilt to protect Gus from gusts and avoid those Marilyn Monroe moments.
Flashes (it’s not what you think) are the fabric wrapped around the knee to hold up the socks and the sgian dubh.
What’s up my kilt?
Ask your sister.