Whether you live in the country or abroad, chances are when you think of Scotland, your first thoughts are drawn to the Scottish kilt. The kilt is so iconic that it is known around the world and instantly inspires thoughts of the nation upon sight. But kilts did not just one day appear out of nowhere; they are steeped in a deep, rich history that has made them so important to start with. If you are new to kilt wearing, including what sort of kilt shirt or sporran you are supposed to wear with a kilt, it’s important that you understand that very history. Today, kilts are known as perhaps the most important symbol of honor and patriotism to the country itself. But, where did the kilt come from?

 

Dating back to the 16th century, Scottish kilts were worn as full-length garments by men who came from the highlands of Northern Scotland. At first, they were called a léine, which is the word “shirt” in Gaelic. Originally, they were pulled up over one’s head to use them as a cloak or were draped over the shoulder. These kilts were often worn during the 1720s, as the British military often opted to use them as their formal uniforms. For others in the military, they were also able to double as blankets to keep them warm on long treks and between battles.

 

The knee-length style kilts as we know them today did not come to be until around the late 17th and early 18th centuries. In the beginning, kilts were simple in color and style, using neutral earthy colors. It wasn’t until different dying processes became popular in the late 1800s that Scottish tartan kilts became more vibrant and colorful. During the 19th century, Scottish kilts became more of a formal dress, often used for ceremonies and other important occasions. Now, they are used not only for such events but also worn during traditional Scottish Highlands games.

Kilt Shirts

Just like there are a variety of different kilts out there, there are many different shirts. Among each kilt shirt with their textures and styles, there are certain shirts that are appropriate for different kinds of kilt dress. Depending on the look you’re hoping to achieve when you go out, there are a few top styles that you can choose from to suit any kilt. A Ghillie shirt is most commonly worn by those who want something more traditional. The shirt is somewhat formal as to not make you look inappropriately casual while still being dressy enough to make you look your best. The Ghillie shirt is characterized by lacing around the neck, and for being very lightweight and comfortable, helping to keep you feeling your best during warmer summer days. The shirts are also known as Jacobite shirts and are well loved among kilt wearers. 

When you want something more casual, you can wear sweaters or shirts that are plain without graphics that match up with the color of the kilt. If you aren’t going somewhere formal, it is still important to respect the kilt and to look stylish and put together, and so these neutral tops and colors are recommended. Avoiding busy patterns is a must as well. Simple, plain t-shirts are also accessible when you want to wear something out on the street and keep it as casual and informal as possible.

Sporrans and Belts

One of the most iconic parts of a kilt outfit is the sporran. The sporran is typically the last thing that is put on after the rest of the kilt dress has been applied, because it just links around the waist. It is usually connected by a chain or a sporran belt, and it loops through the hooks on the kilt. Sporrans are available in a huge variety of styles to choose from, meaning that it’s easy for you to find the right sporran to work with any kilt.

The sporrans also vary in formality, ranging from formal ones with fur fronts and silver cantles that are best with a Prince Charlie jacket but would look inappropriately dressy when worn with a simple t-shirt. If you want something that is better suited for wear with your daily attire, you can’t go wrong with a simple bag style leather sporran. A brown leather one is good for daily wear, and if you get a black one, it can be worn both with casual and formal attire. With the sporran, it is also important to consider the belt, because the belt must match the sporran. The kilt belt also needs to be at least two inches in width, if not for style then for your comfort.

Footwear and Accessories

Often times, casual kilt dress will be worn with simple boots. It’s a great way to blend both Scottish tradition with a lighter, more recreational mood. For those wanting to look more sophisticated and formal, wearing brogues is your best bet. Kilt hose must also be considered, as they come in a variety of styles that will need to be worn a certain way depending on the shoes you choose. With the kilt hose, you can also accessorize even further by adding on kilt flags to the hose to finish off the look. 

Other accessories such as kilt pins and hats can also be factored into your ensemble. At Scottish Kilt Shop, we offer a variety of different kilt shirt styles, including the Jacobite and Ghillie shirts you love. Shop our collection to find the right shirt for you on our site.