What is a kilt?

A kilt is a knee-length unbifurcated garment that is closely associated with Scotland and Scottish culture, although similar garments are worn in other parts of the United Kingdom and the world in general. A classic kilt is easy to identify with its tartan, also known as plaid, pattern, and deep pleats. In Scotland, the garment is treated as formal wear for men, although men may wear them on more casual occasions as well. In the 1990s, various modern adaptations, such as the Utilikilt, began to arise, popularizing this garment for a wider audience.

The history of the garment is rather complex. It may help to start with the plaid, a garment that was traditionally wrapped around the waist and thrown over the shoulder by the Celts. Over time, Celtic communities developed their own styles and fashions for wearing these garments. Pleated versions were also worn by other Northern European cultures, presumably because they helped the wearers stay warm in inclement weather.

The Origin Of The Scottish Kilt

The kilt that you’re seeing in your mind’s eye is very different from the original garments worn by Scots all those centuries ago.

Although associated with Celtic culture now, originally the word ‘kilt’ may have come from the Nordic word ‘kjalta’, first recorded back in the 9th century. 

Early in its history, Scotland was invaded by several countries (including Romans, Vikings, and Scandinavians). ‘Old Norse’ was the original language of the Scandinavians.

These invaders all dressed differently, in a variety of tunics, robes, shirts, and cloaks. It’s not clear exactly how the kilt evolved but it’s believed that it’s a combination of all of these, adjusted to suit the climate and lifestyle of the hardy, warlike inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands.

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