Tour Scotland
Home Page

Samuel Jackson.

Even Madonna has taken to wearing the kilt !

The most famous kilted Scotsman ?

What's worn under the kilt ?

The Great Tartan Revival

There are currently some 500 tartans registered with the Lord Lyon King of Arms. Every family of Scottish extraction has its tartans, often proudly displayed in prominent places in homes far removed from the Scottish shores. How authentic are they? Are the tartans handed down from centuries ago or an ingenious marketing ploy? As early as the Roman occupation of Britain, the Celts were known for their love of color. Unlike the Romans' drab clothing, the Celts' clothes were bright and varied, created in a process in which vegetable dye was used.

Historians speculate that women, vying to see who could make the most unique colors and weaves, created these unusual designs in which to clothe their families. There did not seem to be any significance to the colors and patterns. Clans did not rise to prominence until the 13th century. The kilt as we know it, with its pleats and short length, did not evolve until much later. Around 1600, the kilt was a large piece of material with a long strip attached. To wear it, the man would lie on his back on top of the material and bring the two ends together over his stomach. He would secure it with a belt, drape the long strip of leftover material over his shoulder and pin it to the skirt. The outfit did double duty as a "sleeping bag" at night. The kilt pin of today did not exist until a "revealing" incident involving Queen Victoria, at least according to tradition.

The haphazard patterns and colors the inhabitants of Scotland were known for had little significance until after the disastrous battle of Culloden in 1745. The Jacobites, fighting to put Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne, were badly beaten by the English. As a result of the rebellion, anything viewed as nationalistic was severely prohibited from 1746 to 1782. Jacobite songs, Bagpipes ("instruments of war"), the wearing of kilts, and the display of any tartans was forbidden. The tartans as a system of popular heraldry only developed fully during this time, and like the Jacobite songs provided an outlet for national sentiment. The number of tartans distinguishing main Scottish clans grew steadily, and some of the earlier types which had represented districts eventually became associated with families.

In the "Great Tartan Revival" in 1822, things really heated up. King George IV was going to visit Edinburgh and requested that the clan chiefs wear their clans' tartans. Many of the men had no clan tartan, and so had to buy them from tailors only too eager to cash in on the craze. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be entitled to wear a tartan, with two results: largely bogus genealogy-using "septs", or lists of names with each clan and tartan; and, lowland and borderland families suddenly becoming clans with tartans. This is especially ironic considering that prior to 1746 the Highlanders were held in great contempt by these same people.

Scots Kith & Kin, C. J. Cousland & Sons Ltd., Printers, Edinburgh, Scotland
Scottish Highlanders, Charles MacKinnon, c. 1984 Marboro Books Corp., Division of Barnes & Noble.

Return To Clans and Tartan

Tour Scotland
Tour Edinburgh
Tour Island Of Skye

Rent A Self Catering Hoilday Cottage In Scotland

Share This Tour Scotland Web Page

Top Destinations
Tour Europe