Kilts: Going “Commando”

A much often asked question is “What do Scotsmen wear under their kilts?” If you have seen the previews for the upcoming movie Brave, there is a scene with one of the fathers flashing his bare backside to the crowd. The crowd is well…less than impressed. But from what I have found out many modern day Scottish Highlanders don’t wear anything under kilts. Apparently the men like the comfort and sense of freedom in comparison to the restraints when wearing trousers/pants.

The tradition started in the Scottish Highland Regiments and this is when the terms “going regimental” or “going commando” originated. It is documented that Highland clansmen removed their kilts before going into battle. The long tunic/shirt they wore was enough covering. And some even went into battle completely naked.

In my medieval romances (The Great Scottish Devil and Maggie Mine), I used some writer’s choice and Brodie Durward and his clan wore kilts. I went this way rather than following with the more commonly accepted fact that Scottish kilts didn’t actually come about until three centuries later, mainly because readers and movie goers are familiar with this style of dress.


Brief History of the Kilt

  1. Pharaohs and warriors in Ancient Egypt wore a piece of pleated linen wrapped around the body at the waist called the shendyt but is often now referred to as a kilt.
  2. The Scottish kilt was first worn as the breacan or belted plaid in the 16th century. Prior to then men went bare-legged, wore short, long-sleeved tunics, and woolen cloaks (brats).
  3. The original feileadh mhor was a utility, plaid garment worn only by Highlanders, made up of 6-8 yards of wool material 2 yards wide.
  4. The large kilt was spread on the ground, then the wearer lay on top of it, and then he folded it round the waist and over the shoulders. A broad leather belt held the kilt in place.
  5. The top part of the material could be used as a wrap to keep out the cold or to carry things like food. Military units used the belted plaid as something like sleeping bags. One plaid would be spread on the ground, four men would lie on top of it, then a fifth man would lie in the center and cover them all with a second plaid. Body heat plus the plaids gave them protection against the cold Highland winds.
  6. Early Scottish kilts were made of white, dull brown, green, or black fabric. Tartan patterns of multicolored plaids came about in the late 1800s.
  7. The smaller kilt, feileadh-beag or philabeg, became popular in the late 17th century. It was basically the bottom half of the great kilt and was loosely gathered into folds and belted at the waist and went to just above the knee.
  8. The tailored kilt, with pleats sewn down, began being worn in the 1790s. This is the style still worn today.
  9. Wearing of the kilt was banned from August 1747 (defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745) to 1783 by the British government to suppress Highland identity. During the ban, pipers in the military were legally allowed to wear their regimental tartan kilt.





MacGregor MacDuff

Authentic Ireland Travel

Dress: Tartans & Kilts

2 thoughts on “Kilts: Going “Commando”

  1. Laci Paige

    I found out first hand whats under a kilt after a night out on the town. Some nice man showed me when I asked. I’m sorry I did. It wasn’t that pretty LOL. (Then his girlfriend hit on me after I left the bathroom where a couple was having sex in the handicapped stall. For a fun night follow me around, I attract them all).

    This was a fun post, and very educational! I think I will refer to it as – “going regimental” from now on! 🙂 Thanks

    1. Starla Kaye

      Yes, I’ll be sure to hang out with you for a good time! I went to Scotland a few years ago and happened across a man wearing a kilt. The wind came up just enough to…show me more than I really expected to see. How come it never happens with a nice hunk of a guy?


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