Just what do Scots wear under their kilts?
According to popular belief, a “true” Scotsman wears absolutely nothing under his kilt. Bit breezy? Yes. But is this actually true – or simply the stuff of folklore?
The answer is yes – and no.
Historically, the Celts were the earliest kilt wearers, or wore versions of the kilt. They certainly did not wear undergarments per se, but tucked very long shirts or tunics under their kilts for comfort. There was a later undergarment worn in Scotland, referred to as “trews”: and all-in-one garment of knitted hose and loose breeches. It was sometimes trimmed in leather or buckskin on the inner thigh, to provide comfort and prevent wearing down or the garment when horseback riding.
It has historically been a British military requirement that men be naked under their kilt. This is a custom that endures to this day. Being “commando” under one’s kilt is referred to as wearing “Traditional” Scottish dress, or “going Regimental”.
The only occasions when a Scottish Soldier in uniform can (and should) wear underwear is when dancing or performing gymnastics.
Outside the military, the question of what to wear under the kilt is up to personal preference. Some men will, purely for reasons of Scottish pride, be “traditional”. Others will wear boxer shorts or briefs. Underwear with a kilt these days is always required when participating in highland games or highland dancing – high kicks and swinging kilts are not conducive to bare nether regions!
Some pipe bands associated with military regiments do require or at least recommend use of undergarments, as pipers can use a high-stepping march.
Kilts are also very breezy and very scratchy, being made of wool – and not soft wool at that! Underwear will undoubtedly provide much-needed comfort and a sense of protection.
It is not considered polite to inquire of a kilted man as to whether anything is being worn underneath it all. Some have suggested that the following be the response to the unending questioning as to whether anything is worn under there: “no wear, everything is in perfect condition, thank you for asking.”
Postscript: The writer of this article can confirm from personal experience that Scots the world over do wear nothing under their kilts:
A cousin of hers piped the cortege as it left the funeral service of a great aunt, in full Scottish dress and regalia. Later in the day, as a much needed cup of tea was being enjoyed, another person posed the question of just what was under the kilt. No real answer was given, however later in the day a cheeky “flash” from across the room (and for your writer’s eyes only) answered the question once and for all. Let’s hope no kilt wearers are allergic to wool!
Stay Tuned for more exciting underwear history next week!