The month of May brings warmer weather, Mother’s Day and a flurry of Scottish festivals and Highland games across the Southeast U.S. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be traveling to Savannah, Georgia; Maryville, Tennessee; Blairsville, Georgia and many other rural stops in search of whiskey, haggis, and, of course, kilts. If you’ve never worn a kilt, there’s no better time to try it! Check out my calendar and swing by one these amazing Scottish events for a taste of all things Caledonia.
Excerpted from an introduction our friends at County Argyle wrote to the Men In Kilts Calendar a few years back.
Long associated with Scottish culture, the kilt has its beginnings on the 16th century Scottish Highlands. Earliest kilts were actually full-length garments – long layers of plaid wool that could be belted, then either draped over the shoulder or worn over the head as a cloak. In fact, the word “kilt” may derive from the Old Norse word “kjalta” from nearby Norse settlers who wore similar garments.
The belted plaid (“Breacan an Fhéilidh”) and great plaid (“Féileadh Mòr”) likely evolved from woolen cloaks worn over a tunic, a throwback to gear worn by Celtic warriors in the Roman era. A great kilt could be as wide as 5 feet and as long as 7 yards. More than just a garment, the kilt would provide protection against the elements, even serving as a blanket for camping.
What most people think of today as a kilt didn’t arrive until the 17th or 18th century when a single width of cloth worn below the waist became popular. Early correspondence attributes this modern (or “walking”) kilt to Thomas Rawlinson, a Lancashire Quaker, in the early 1700s.
Soon after, the kilt became a symbol of the fiercely loyal Highland clan system. Following the Jacobite Risings, King George II went as far as to impose the Dress Act of 1746, prohibiting kilts and all other items of Highland dress. The ban, which lasted for 35 years, included penalties of imprisonment and even banishment. When the ban lifted in 1782, Scottish landowners organized Highland Societies intended to promote the general use of the kilt and other ancient Highland dress.
At the same time, the kilt took another step closer to what we know today. While earlier kilts were simply folded, a new breed of pleated or tailored kilt came in 1792, a change intended to speed putting on the kilt by Scottish regiments now serving in the British army.
If you’d like to shop with Vince in person, check out our online calendar to find out when we’ll be in your area. You can also visit Vince’s shop at the Lovely Boutique in Orlando’s trendy Audubon Park neighborhood and our men’s section at Winter Park’s Orange Tree Antiques.