The first mention of kilts was in 1538 but these were not the same kilts we know of today. Back then, they were full-length garments called the féileadh mor or the great kilt. It was a five meter untailored piece of fabric that was wrapped round the waist and the excess material would be draped over the shoulder. It wasn’t until the early 18th century that the knee length kilt we recognise today came about.
Kilts over the centuries have had a lot of cultural significance to the Scots, especially highlanders. Kilts would be made in clan tartans and were worn to signify a clansman's allegiance to his laird. They would also serve as a way to identify friends from enemies in highland battles.
It's said that kilts are more popular today than they ever have been. Kilts are now worn with pride across Scotland and the world, but who can wear a kilt? Are there rules?
Cultural appropriation is a phrase we hear from time to time and is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. So if someone without Scottish heritage wore a kilt, would that be cultural appropriation? In the true sense of the meaning yes, but as long as it isn’t worn as a joke or to make fun of Scottish culture, it’s more cultural appreciation than cultural appropriation.
Anyone can wear a kilt if they choose to, there are no rules. In fact we encourage our international friends to wear a kilt, it’s a bonnie garment after all, is it not? This goes for clan tartans too, anyone can wear a clan tartan even if they are not affiliated to that particular lineage.
The only thing you should be aware of is that there is a correct way to wear a kilt. For example, the pleats go at the back, the kilt should be worn around the naval and should hang to about mid-way over the kneecap. Belts should only be worn when not wearing a sporran and the kilt pin isn’t designed to keep the kilt closed, attach it only to the top layer of the kilt. Have a look at our How to Wear a Kilt guide for a more detailed explanation.
So next time you are wondering what to wear to an event, why not choose a kilt, even if you’re not Scottish. We have 14 different hire tartans to choose from in our hire range and last minute hires are always available if you do decide to wear a kilt.