As the new televised version of Highlander shows us, there’s something about a man in a kilt that fires the imagination of women all over the world. Is it the ability to see strong, sexy legs? The curiosity about what he’s wearing underneath? There’s a lot of speculation about why, but my personal belief is that wearing a kilt signifies a man with the courage and cockiness to risk being called “girly” by his peers. That kind of confidence can’t help but be sexy. (FYI, all photos are of me, my spouse, and our younger son, because they aren't going to sue me or RB4U over the use of them. The top photo is by Russ Turner Photography all others are by me or random passers-by with my camera.) This leather kilt is a fantasy piece by Shoptroll, but it's still got the right feel and makes my heart go pitter-pat.
The wearing of the kilt as we know it has undergone a lot of changes through history. First of all, it was originally a Highland-only garment, considered primitive, even barbarous by Lowland Scots. However, Connor MacKay, in Cards and Caravans, one of the Scottish-set books in my Gaslight chronicles series is certainly a Lowlander. Yet he does wear a kilt. That’s because Queen Victoria, who adored all things Scottish, popularized the garment so much that during her reign, even many English nobles got in on the act. This is when the idea of specific clan-only tartans was truly solidified. Our Scottish Knights of the Round Table certainly wouldn’t have let those pesky Englishmen steal a march on such a symbol of Scotland. So in the world of the Gaslight Chronicles, the MacKay men are proudly kilted. Here's a swatch of the MacKay Ancient plaid. (In my spouse's family, it's spelled McKie.)
The modern kilt was first seen about 1725, and consists of just the bottom part of the great kilt, but with the pleats sewn into the waistband, which usually fastens with straps and buckles. The flat front pieces overlap, so there are two layers in front, and the pleats in back. Sometimes a scarf-like fly plaid is worn from the shoulder to hearken back to the look of the great kilt. The loden-green argyle jacket shown here is from the late Victorian era, but any tweed coat can be worn by day, and a black Prince Charlie coat turns the modern kilt into evening wear. The grey plaid shown here is Night Watch, a festival plaid that may be worn by everyone. The green is Irish Heritage.
Finally, the newest evolution in the kilt is the utility kilt, or commando kilt. These are made of heavy cotton fabrics or even leather and often have pockets. Worn by everyone from punk rockers to construction workers, these continue to gain in popularity. Here it's worn as part of a steampunk outfit, but it's typically worn with combat or work boots, or even sneakers, and modern casual shirts--like the casual plaids shown below. (Everyman plaids Pride of Scotland--the purple and Hunting Stewart, the green. Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys are both Celtic punk rock bands.)
Incidentally, the idea that one shouldn’t wear anything under a kilt has been firmly denied by the Scottish Tartan Authority. Tartans Authority director Brian Wilton said kilt wearers should have the "common sense" to realise they should wear underwear beneath their country's national dress. While some modern kilt wearers like the idea of swinging free in the breeze, others, including the “models” in each of these pictures, comment that sitting on rough benches and hay bales at festivals is something you don’t want to do while “regimental.” Neither is walking in a strong breeze.