How to Wear a Kilt

The important consideration when wearing a kilt is the proud heritage that is inherent within the garment itself. Although it can be worn in a variety of styles, one needs to ensure that we respect this heritage. One of the key elements when wearing a kilt is to ensure that the kilt is no lower than the top of the knee, under no circumstances should the bottom of your kilt be below knee level.

Kilts can now be worn with many combinations of highland dress accessories. You may want to go for an Argyll or a Prince Charlie Jacket or you may be dressing casually with a Ghillie shirt. There are a huge number of combinations available to choose from, so you can really make your outfit your own.

Kilt Shirt

This is the first item to put on when dressing in your kilt outfit. A plain white shirt with collar attached or a wing collar shirt can be worn with a black bow tie, ideally with cufflinks. In "proper" casual outfits a Ghillie shirt can be worn. Ruche ties are also now worn and becoming more popular.

Kilt Hose (or socks)

The turnover of the hose should be just above the calf, however lower than the lowest part of the knee, in essence roughly one fingers width below the knee. As far as colour, traditionally, cream or contemporary black should be worn. White hose should be avoided at all costs, unless as part of a military parade such as pipe bands. If utilising garter flashes, these are usually clipped on and unfolded to display approximately two inches of the pattern on the outside of the stock.

The Sgian Dubh (a gaelic term for black knife)

Kilt pin and sgian dubhThis is in fact a small dagger usually worn tucked into the right stocking. If you are left-handed when it can be worn in the left stocking. The Sgian Dubh should be worn with any crest or decoration facing outwards and in a position on the outside of the thigh but slightly towards the back of the leg. Only about half of the hilt should be protruding above the hose.

Kilt Outfit Shoes

Ghillie brogues should be worn. These have long laces that tie around the ankles. The method of tying the laces is fully described on this website.

The Kilt

The kilt is wrapped around the waist and secured by the straps and buckles, with the kilt pleats at the back. The kilt should be pulled around from right to left and the strap passed through the hole and buckle. Then around the top apron left to right over the right hip and strapped to the buckle. Ensure that the top edge of both sections fall together and that the kilt is worn high with the top of it over your belly button. Kilts are not like pants. They sit higher around your middle.

Next place the broad belt through the belt loops at the back and fasten tightly with the top edge of the kilt. When worn, the bottom of the kilt should rest just above the knee, leaving the knee on display. Finally you can reach down under your kilt to pull your shirt into place. (Try doing that with regular pants!)

The Kilt Pin

Kilt pins are mainly decorative and worn to add a bit of weight to the front of the apron helping the kilt to hang properly and prevent it from flapping. People often mistakenly pin the kilt through both the front and back aprons. This is wrong and it will result in the kilt bunching and not hanging properly. At worst it can cause the kilt to tear when you sit down.

The kilt pin should be pinned to the apron in position about three or four inches from the bottom edge of the flap and a couple of inches in from the side.

The Sporran

kilt sporranThe final accessory in your kilt outfit is the sporran. This is held in place with its chain and buckle, which is worn around the waist.

It can be passed through the belt loops on the kilt if preferred and buckled at the back. It should be adjusted so that the sporran sits centrally and worn high, not as occasionally seen, halfway down the front apron of the kilt.

Men with larger bellies may find that when the sporran is worn too low it slips below the level of the belly creating an unsightly pull on the front of the kilt. Sporran slings, where the sporran is slung directly from the belt have recently been introduced.

What is worn under the kilt?

The following text is reproduced and credited to the Scottish Tartan Authority's website page on how to wear a kilt. More detailed information is available there.

Under the Kilt. "You're not a real Scot unless you're bare under your kilt" should be thrown into the same wastepaper basket as 'You're not a real Scot unless you put salt on your porridge' but it's a humorous subject that's always guaranteed to raise a giggle or a shriek ... and even an argument!

Traditionally of course nothing was worn under the kilt and if history is correct and charging Scots threw aside their feleidh mhors, no wonder they had such success on the battle fields. That tradition was passed on to the Scottish regiments and nothing was worn under the kilt in military circles unless dancing was involved or public-access parades were taking place in high winds. On parades, the drill sergeant frequently attached a small mirror to the bottom of his pace stick so that he could, at a glance, check that soldiers on parade were correctly undressed.

We mere civilians have a choice to wear or not to wear boxer shorts or briefs. Common sense and a regard for others should rule the day. It's one thing to go 'bare' when hill walking but to do the same when attending an evening function that involved vigorous dancing, could lead to the charge of exhibitionism and scant consideration for the social comfort of others.