The kilt is a knee length skirt worn by Scottish men primarily when attending cultural or formal occasions. Most commonly kilts are constructed out of wool tartan or plaid patterned cloth and are formed with pleats at the rear of the garment.
Unlike a traditional skirt the kilt is actually a wrap that goes one and a half times around the body and is held together by a series of straps. While the modern day kilt can be traced back to 16th century Scotland, it was not nearly as popular then as it is today. In modern times the kilt is seen as a symbol of national pride and since the 19th century the kilt has enjoyed widespread adoption by Scottish men.
The first implementation of the kilt was a much larger garment then those worn today. The “great kilt” (as they were known) consisted of a much longer run of fabric that could be draped over the shoulder, similar to a cloak, as well as be wrapped around the waist. Today’s kilt is known as a walking kilt or a small kilt; and is simply the lower half of a great kilt.
A widely held misconception about the kilt is that the varied tartan fabrics used in kilt construction were originally used as clan identifiers. This is a modern notion and has little to do with the history of the kilt. Prior to the 19th century there was no official recognition of tartan patterns, and at best the varied patterns could be used as a regional identifier. Today however families, institutions, corporations, societies, agencies, districts and just about anything else have registered tartan patterns.
There is plenty of innuendo and comedy surrounding the practice of wearing a kilt without undergarments. Military tradition in Scotland demands that undergarments not be worn under a kilt and in some situations enlisted men would have to submit to a kilt check to ensure that they were abiding by regulations. Due to this military regulation phrases like “true Scotsman”, “going regimental”, and “military practice” are all used to describe the wearing of a kilt without undergarments. Wearing a kilt without undergarments is not a tradition followed by all Scotsmen. In some situations such as athletic competitions there are actually rules dictating the use of undergarments; some of which go so far as to identify acceptable undergarment colors.