Figure 1.--The kilt today is most associated with Scotland. This Scottish boy wears full Highlands regalia. Many Scottish boys wore more casual kilt outfits.

National Kilt Styles

The kilt as we know it today has ancient origins. It is generally associated today with Scotland or the Gaelic peoples of the British Isles and Normandy. The kilts use as a style of boys' clothing is much more recent in origin. The kilt has been worn in different socities anf through different periods of history. It is the Gaelic, especially Scottish kilt that is best known to us, but it is not the only kilt worn in modern times. The kilt was traditional wear in several countries and regions. After it was opularized as boys' wear by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the 1840s, the kilt spread to many other countries, especially the United States, but it was also worn by boys in affluent European families--including France and Germany.

Australia

Australian boys do not appear to have widely worn kilts. The kilt was, however, a dressup outfit for younger boys in the 19th century. There was, however, a substantial Irish and Scottish migration to New Zealand and many Kiwis trace their ancestry back to both countries. Thus many schools have pipe bands and there are both Highland gatherings in which kilts are worn. There are also Irish Feises in which kilted dancers perform.

Canada

There is a substantial cottish influence in Canada. The Mritime Provinces, especially Nov Scotia have the most obvious Scottish influence, but even French Montreal has significnt Scottish influence. One report indivates that at least some boys in Nova Scotia wore kilts during the 19th century. This appears to have been the case for sone boys whose fathers were soldiers in St. Johns. HBC does not know, however, how common this was, either for soldiers' families or for the population in general. We note stores at the turn of the 20th century were offering essentially the same styles as Ametican stores, including kilt suits, fancy blouses, and Fauntleroy suits.

England

The kilt is generally associated today with Scotland or the Gaelic peoples of the British Isles and Normandy. The kilts use as a style of boys' clothing is much more recent in origin. In the British Isles, the kilt is mostly associated with Scotland and to a lesser extent Ireland. Boys in England itself, however, also occasuinally wore kilts, especially after Queen Victorian began dressing the princes in Highland kilts during the 1840s. The full extent to which boys wore kilts is somewhat difficult to determine. Available photographs often do not indicate who the boy is or where he is from. Thus it is difficilt to determine if it is an English or Scottish boy involved.

Egypt

The ancient Egyptians wore a kilt-like garment. Of course it was not a wool plaid garment, but rather a white linnen garment.

France

After Queen Victoria popularized the kilt as appropriate boys' wear in the 1840s, fashionable French mothers sometimes dressed their boys in kilts. It was not a widely popular style, but some French boys did wear kilts. French boys wore both Scottish (tartan) styled dresses and complete Highland kilt outfits. This was primarily in the mid-19th century. French boys in the in the late 19th century rarely wore kilts and almost never in the 20th century.

Germany

We have not noted German boys wearing Highland kilts. We have noted boys in the late 19th centuiry wearing skirts looking rather like kilts. We have also noted boys wearing kilt suits, especially sailor kilts. These were worn by younger boys instead of dresses. We are not sure yet how common this was.

Greece

Kilts of various styles have been worn in modern Greece. The styles varied widely in different regions of Greece. The most famous is a white which has become the ceremonial uniform of Greek soldiers. The Greek kilt, however, never was adopted as a style for boys' clothing.

Ireland

The Gaelic people of Ireland, like those of Scotland, wore kilts. There were many similarities, although the Irish never adopted the tartan styles popular in Scotland. The Irish kilt was not popularized as a style for boys' clothing. It is still worn in Ireland, primarily for pipe bands and step dancing, but much less commonly than in Scotland.

New Zealand

New Zealand boys do not appear to have widely worn kilts. The kilt was, however, a dressup outfit for younger boys in the 19th century. There was, however, a substantial Irish and Scottish migration to New Zealand and many Kiwis trace their ancestry back to both countries. Thus many schools have pipe bands and there are both Highland gatherings in which kilts are worn. There are also Irish Feises in which kilted dancers perform.

Normandy

We have no information here yet, but am looking for some.

Scotland

It is the Scottish kilt that is best known worldwide. No where is the kilt still worn so extensivly by pipers, dancers, school children, boy scouts, weddings, at a variety of public occasions, church attendance, Highland gatherings, and on many other occasions. And it was the Scottish kilt that was adopted by Queen Victoria as a style for boys clothing that eventually influenced boys clothing in America. I am not sure, however, just how extenively the kilt was worn by Scottish boys in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The kilt oday is not commonly worn, except as part od private school uniforms, Scout uniforms, and dress clothes for church or other formal events.

Spain

The north-western part of Spain, Galicia, has a tradtion of kilts as well. This is because it was originally settled by the Celts.

United States

Actual Scottish kilts were not extensively worn in America. Some wealthy American families like the Rossevelts did dress their boys in kilts complete with sporrans. This was most common in the late 19th Century, but Malcolmn Forbes was dressing his boys in kilts even in the 1950s. His son and presidential candidate, Steve Forbes disn't like it one little bit. Kilts are seen in American at Highland gatherings and other ethic events. While few American boys in the 19th Century wore proper Scottish kilts with Highland regalia, many more boys wore the kilt suits that were popular in the late 19th Century. American mothers used the kilt suit as an intermediate step between dresses and outfits with kneepants, such as Fauntleroy suits and sailor suits. These mothers were not yet ready to fully breech their sons, but felt that they were becoming to old to still wear dresses.

Wales

Wales unlike other parts of the United Kingdom has not national dress. The destinctive red cloaks and tall hats for women were 19th century creations based on styles worn by village women at the time. There is no compaable outfit for men. We have no historical information about Welsh kilts. Many believe a Welsh kilt has never existed. We do not know if the Welsh/Kelts wore kilts in ancient or medieval times. Wales is part of the Celtic fronge of Europe. It was the area to which the invading Anglo-Saxon tribes drove the Roman-Celts after the departure of the Roman Legions. But until this Scotland was not unhabited by the Celts, but rarher ikd tribes of Picts and others. As far as we can tell, kilts were not commonly worn in Wales. As far as we know, kilts were not commonly worn by the Welsh in modern times. We note unidentified children wearing kilts. We thought it was Scottish, but it could be Welsh. The bonnets the girls are wearing look a little Welsh to us, but our British readers will know more about this. We're not sure to what extent Welsh boys wore kilts. We do note a Welsh boy working in a weaving facility during the 1950s. The kilt is often seen as a kind of Celtic garment rather than just Scottish. And for that reason as the Welsh in recent vyears have become more interested in reconnecting with their Celtic roots nationalism is becoming more pronounced. And some see the kilt as a way of expressing their Celtic heritage. We note Welsh sources someyoes using the term 'cilt'. There seems to be little or no difference with Scottih and Lirish kilts. One Welsh source tells us, "Well apart from the tartan, the only other difference is that the fabric can sometimes be woven in such a way as to not have a selvage (the uncut edge of the fabric as it comes out of the loom) and in such a case the kilt then has to be hemmed. I am reliably informed that hemming the kilt does not in any way spoil how the garment hangs, or how it looks so this need not be a deterrent if you are contemplating buying one. Also these tartans tend to be woven a litter looser, and therefor can have a softer feel than the Scottish or Irish tartans."








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Created: February 25, 1999
Last updated: 7:57 AM 5/4/2012