Saturday, 7 August 2010


I was reading, yesterday, about Sir Walter Scott; a man who perhaps did more than anyone to create the Victorian and late Georgian obsession with an idealised version of Scotland. It was this obsession that led to the  building of Balmoral in 1853, a sort of fairy-tale Scottish castle decorated with tartan and moose heads in an odd highland pastiche that would be incredibly naff if it were done by anyone other than the Royal Family. Perhaps it still is, but a century and a half of use has softened the effect and made its artificiality less jarring.

All of this is by way of an introduction to my real topic, which is the wearing of kilts. Like building fairytale castles, kilt-wearing south of the border was popularised by the Victorian gentry who developed a sudden interest in noisily declaring a Scottish heritage. Unlike building fairytale castles, of course, almost anyone can wear a kilt and many people do with little or no meaningful Scottish connection. Kilts can be worn, with slight variations in the outfit, to white tie or black tie events, and to formal day events, and they tend to look extremely smart. Most highland outfits involve a waistcoat which, as you know, I think is almost always an improvement. In any case, the wearers usually take more care over their appearance than the average man in a tux, and they add considerably to the general variety of formal-wear at an event.

Image From Kinloch Anderson

Kilt styles, and their accompanying jackets and accessories, vary enormously and there are plenty of different options, perhaps even more than with black or white tie. I don't know nearly enough about them to attempt to explain them all; if you are unsure then taking the advice of a good Scottish tailor will be key. So long as you wear the appropriate version of highland evening wear, you should be able to be correctly dressed at any event. However, you may still wonder; should you wear one? Are you entitled to?

There aren't really any hard and fast rules. I have heard it said that a real Scotsman never wears a kilt south of the border, but this strikes me as a rule rarely observed and is, in any case, without any particular justification that I can see. Ultimately, it is up to you whether you feel you could justify yourself if, at a party, someone were to ask you why you were wearing traditional highland wear. Especially if the person who asked you happened to be a genuine Scottish Laird. If you are comfortable with your own reasons for wearing a kilt then go for it, but do bear in mind that if the only thing people can remember about you at the end of an evening is that you were in a kilt, then you are definitely doing something wrong.


  1. Here in the U.S. we have 2 Kilt makers...Ameri-Kilt and Utilikilt...that make great versions for casual wear. These Kilts are made of heavy cotton material and generally come in Khaki or Fatigue green. They have the classic pleats and styling and are quite comfortable. Some of my buddies got me one sort of as a joke gift...but I have worn it several times to certain outdoor Filed-events and received many compliments. A few of those same buddies now sport their own...I have always wanted to trot out a kilt rig for a black tie event...never had the garb or the sack to do it...
    Interesting post.

  2. Casual kilts look cool actually, especially worn with a Jacobite shirt. Not sure it's something I could pull off, to be honest, but I'm sure they have their place.

    I think highland evening wear looks fantastic, and I'm often tempted to give it a go, but I think you either need to be very confident that you are genuinely scottish, or very confident that it doesn't matter, and I am neither.


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