Scottish kilts – most recognizable symbol of Scotland

(VOVworld) – Have you ever seen a Scottish man wearing what appears to be a “skirt”? If yes, don’t say that word to him. You may get punched in the face. This article of clothing is called a “kilt”. The kilt is one of the most recognizable symbols of Scotland and something modern-day Scots are very proud of. Today on VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous, we’re talking to Peter Yarrow of Scotland about what makes a “true Scotsman”.

Q: Hello, Peter Yarrow! Welcome back to VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous. Last week when we talked about the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo, you said that the marching band always wears the kilts when performing. Is this Scottish traditional clothing?

A: The kilt as we know now is really a modern invention. It’s not an ancient tradition. In the past, when Scottish people had a very simple culture and life style, the women would stay at home and they would weave what we called “tweed”. This was a very rough cloth, but was quite thick. It was the material that was used in strips just to tie around a man or a woman to keep them warm. After 1745, there was a rebellion in Scotland against the English king trying to throw the English out of Scotland, but they failed. After that, the English based king introduced certain regulations about what curtains could not be worn because he was trying very much to reduce the Scottish nationalism. And over time that led to a standardization of what people wore.

Q: Then when was the kilt first introduced?

A: The kilts really were probably introduced in the 19th century when Queen Victoria and her family introduced certain views on how the formal kilts should be worn. And this’s around that time that the kilts involved of a short, what look like a skirt, and then it comes down to the knees of the wearer. A male wearer would always wear it with long socks, so the socks will come up to the knees and the kilts come down to the knees. It becomes traditional now. But the styles have only really been adopted in the last maybe 150 years. So it’s not an ancient tradition, but it is a tradition.

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The Royal family wearing kilts in a formal event (Photo: Reuters)

Q: How many kinds of kilts are there?

A: What makes the kilts special is the fact that there are a number of different circle tartans. The tartans are the different patterns that are used when the kilt is made. And there are dozens of different tartans in Scotland which are now typically linked to individual families or clans. Different prominent families have their own different tartans. Some are greenish color, and some are reddish color, and some are bluish color.

Q: Do you mean that each family has their own tartan?

A: The tartans vary according to the clan from which you actually come. My mother, for example, came from a clan called the Murray clan, and that enables me if I wish to wear the Murray tartans. My father comes from the Grand family. If I want, it enables me to wear the Grand tartans. So if you go to a wedding, for example, where a member of a prominent family is getting married, you might find many of the people wearing the same tartan because they’re all from the same family. My Murray tartan looks quite green with a little bit of blue and a little bit of red. The Grand tartan looks more orange, but it’s a checkered sort of appearance.

Q: Wow. I can imagine how smart you are in the Murray or Grand tartans. When do you wear kilts except for wedding?

A: The kilt is normally worn for special occasions, typically at a Scottish wedding, many of the men would wear a kilt. It’s evolved into a very formal form of clothing and at very big occasions where using a British or English expression. If it’s a Black Tie occasion where people dress the most formal, they can wear the kilts with long socks, smart black shoes, a very formal jacket white tie, and a tie that matches the kilt. The tie and the kilt would normally match. Around the way the men would wear something called a “sporran”. The sporran is like a pouch to store things.

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A recent research analysed more than 400,000 garment hires during the last 12 months, focusing on kilts rented for Christmas parties, New Year’s celebrations, winter weddings and other formal occasions (Photo: Reuters)

Q: Can someone who is not Scottish wear the kilt? Is there something for women?

A: The equivalent form of dress for Scottish ladies will be a long kilt. And a long kilt is just like a very long skirt also made from tartan. It also has pleats, very elegant form of dress, very nice for dancing. Men and women dancing wearing tartans and all are always different mixed of tartans on a dance floor, it’s a very attractive sight. If you visit Scotland, there are people who will make the kilt for you. You can have tailored kilts just like you have tailored other clothing. There is a very formal method of making the kilts with many pleats round the kilts, so it’s not just a wrap of cloth around the waist, it’s pleated so that there is a particular appearance of the kilts.

Q: Thank you, Peter Yarrow, for talking about the kilts of the Scots. Tune in to VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous on 104 FM every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday for cultural news from around the world. Or visit our website at I’m Thu Ly, saying goodbye to you until next time!