History of the Kilt

History of the Kilt

Every year, the kilt is becoming more and more popular. Men and women across the country are renting and buying kilts for every event imaginable including

  • Parties
  • Weddings
  • Birthdays
  • And all kinds of formal or semiformal events

Why Have Kilts become so popular?

The reason that kilts have become so popular in the US is due to our history as the great American Melting pot. Hundreds of years ago the Scottish and Irish both came to the US seeking greater wealth and financial opportunities for themselves and their families.

The US has deep roots in Scottish and Irish culture, with many people from these respective nations immigrating to the US in the 1700s and 1800s. During this time period, over a quarter of a million Scots-Irish immigrated to the US. Unlike the British separatist groups that were fleeing England for religious reasons to seek religious freedoms in the US, the Scottish and Irish came to the US seeking economic opportunity and greater wealth in America.

With that, they brought the unique aspects of their culture including food and cooking, regional traditions, culture, and fashion. What most people realize is that the creation and use of kilts began far before they were brought with the Irish and Scottish people to the United States.

Scottish Kilt History

What is the origin of the Scottish kilt?

If we look back to the 16th, we can see that the Scottish created the first known model of their own kilt – known as the Felieadh Mor. Throughout history, we later discovered that the Felieadh Mor was actually the first created in world history.

What was the reason that the Scottish people created and started wearing the kilt?

As many of you know, the weather in Scotland can be all but warm and comfortable. Because of their location on the globe and distance from the equator, weather in many regions of Scotland is often cold, dark, gray, and rainy. This is especially true in the late fall, winter, and early spring where the day is short and the nights are long.

The Scottish people created the first versions of the kilt out of necessity and survival. They wanted to make something that was comfortable enough that they could wear daily, but a garb that was made of wool – heavy, thick, and durable enough to keep them warm in the harsh, cold, and wet weather that they were accustomed to. From then on, the kilt became a staple in Scottish culture.

Though the kilt was born out of necessity, survival, and functionality, it later became respect and independence. Certain companies of Scottish Highlanders wore kilts as an informal form of military dress. This later became a standardized uniform that was comprised of a dark tartan.

The English and the English monarchy actually feared the kilt back in the middle-1700s, and as a result, passed The Dress Act in 1746 to ban the wearing of the kilt. Jacobite rebels started wearing kilts to show their nationalism and unity. The English began to see the kilt as a symbol of rebellion, and partially responsible for the Jacobite Risings. These were a series of Scottish rebellions against Great Britain that took place from 1688 to 1746.

The kilt as we know and recognize it today was not actually manufactured until the 1900s. The Scottish military even worse kilt during combat during World War I, until they realized that the design of the kilt was completely impractical for combat. During the war, the kilt was officially banned by the country for the purposes of combat dress.

This is the style that commonly comes to mind when we think about what people wear for weddings and other special occasions.

Irish Kilt History

What about the history of the Irish Kilt?

Historians believe that the first iteration of the Irish Kilt was the famous Lein-Croich which was worn back in the middle ages in Ireland. Though this eventually became the Irish kilt that we know and love today, the first Irish kilt actually looked more like a tunic than the modern design that later took shape over the course of the next several hundred years.

The kilt that we most commonly associated with Ireland is the Irish Tartan – worn by the Irish people during the rise of nationalism across the country. At one time, the Irish were conquered by the Anglo-Saxons and the English. The Tartan was created to be a unifying symbol and garb that the Irish wore to show pride for their Gaelic heritage and roots. They started wearing kilts as a symbol of national unity to give them a sense of nationalism during one of the most trying and oppressive eras in Irish history.

The Kilt Today

Modern or contemporary kilts as we know them today are largely different from those that were worn back in the 1600s through the 1900s. Today, kilts are commonly produced and worn Scottish, Canadian, and US citizens for both casual and formal events, as well as sports.

Wool is no longer the exclusive material of the modern kilt. Today, you can find them made in a variety of fabrics, including cotton, corduroy, leather, and even denim. There is a virtually unlimited number of ways that you can design your modern kilt today in terms of materials, designs, accessories, fits, and functions for your kilt.

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