- by Lillian Stewart Carl
You can not only tell by Lillian Stewart Carl’s red hair and newt-like complexion that she’s a descendent of Scots, you can tell by her ears, which appreciate bagpipes, her tongue, which appreciates haggis, and her eyes, which appreciate men in kilts. Since she also inherited the Celtic gift of gab, she writes about kilts, too.
No, a man wearing a kilt is not wearing a skirt. Some men will loudly say so, because, after all, to accuse another man of being feminine is a horrible insult. But these jokers are both culturally dyslexic and jealous. Women flock to the male of the Scottish species in his colorful plumage.
Of all the jokes about kilts, my favorite is: What’s worn beneath the kilt? Nothing. It’s all in fine working order!
Yes, traditionally the kilted Scot wore no undergarments. “Going commando” is what it’s called today. No, it’s not required.
The original Highlander started out with a knee-length shirt, then wound yard after yard of wool cloth around his body and draped the end over his shoulder. Since he spent days clambering up and down icy rock- and heather-strewn slopes, it was helpful having clothing, blanket, and pup-tent in one package.
The bulkiness of the “great kilt” was why Scots warriors would wear only their shirts when charging down on an enemy. They didn’t paint themselves blue, although all those newt-like complexions no doubt turned blue from the cold.
The so called “small kilt” probably dates to the eighteenth century. One myth claims it was invented by an English factory owner. He didn’t want his wage-slaves’ all-in-one garments caught up in the machinery and so had them cut off the upper part and wear only the fabric wrapping the hips.
As I say, that’s myth.
Another myth, that specific tartan setts or patterns were assigned to specific clans, dates only to the early nineteenth century, when two amiable charlatans claiming to be descended from Bonnie Prince Charlie more or less invented the concept from (sorry) whole cloth.
In reality, early tartans were colored by local plant dyes and woven to patterns popular in a particular area—and certain names also occurred in particular areas.
During the same time period, Sir Walter Scott helped popularize the tartanalia that fills any Scottish souvenir shop. Even King George IV appeared in Edinburgh draped in flesh-colored tights, kilt, and plaid—the plaid being the fabric worn over the shoulder, not a synonym for “tartan”. Whether this made up for his immediate ancestors doing their best to commit genocide on the Scots is open to debate.
George’s niece Victoria fell hard for the romantic illusions of Scotland, and made Balmoral Castle a favorite retreat of the royal family. Today the men appear wearing kilts with, supposedly, weights sewn into the hems. Those Scottish winds, you know….
That Victoria had hardly any Scottish corpuscles in her body just proves that home is not only where the heart is, it’s where the kilt is.
A modern-day kilt is meticulously constructed, the tartan sett matched across the pleats, the length gauged to mid-knee. It’s not just for pipe bands and formal events. Many a man wears a T-shirt above and boots below his kilt, to good effect. It’s the one garment that suits any male body.
Nowadays there’s even the utilikilt, in canvas or camo, with its pockets and rivets the equivalent of jeans.
The swing and sway of a kilt, pleats dancing, is the lilt of Scottish music and the Scottish accent. The only time I will walk several paces behind my husband is when he’s wearing his kilt, all the better to enjoy the view.
Michael Campbell in the romantic suspense novel Dust to Dust, Alasdair Cameron in the mystery series that begins with The Secret Portrait, James Grant and Malcolm Grant in the paranormal romance Shadows in Scarlet—they all know that the kilt is an accessory to die for.
Sometimes, in my stories, literally.