Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>neo-traditional Scottish
Subject: gentleman
Culture: Scottish
Setting: Tartanmania / Celtic Revival
Evolution1544 Highland Scot duine-uasal > 1745 Scottish Highlander ceann-cinnidh > neo-traditional Scottish

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Hobsbawn/Ranger eds. 1983 p15-16 (Hugh Trevor-Roper, "The invention of tradition: The Highland tradition of Scotland" p15-41)
"Today, whenever Scotchmen gather together to celebrate their national identity, they assert it openly by certain distinctive national apparatus.  They wear the kilt, woven in a tartan whose colour and pattern indicates their 'clan'; and if they indulge in music, their instrument is the bagpipe.  This apparatus, to which they ascribe great antiquity, is in fact largely modern.  It was developed after, sometimes long after, the Union with England against which it is, in a sense, a protest.  Before the Union, it did indeed exist in vestigial form; but that form was regarded by the large majority of Scotchmen as a sign of barbarism: the badge of roguish, idle, predatory, blackmailing Highlanders who were more of a nuisance than a threat to civilized, historic Scotland.  And even in the Highlands, even in that vestigial form, it was relatively new: it was not the original, or the distinguishing badge of Highland society.
    ​"Indeed, the whole concept of a distinct Highland culture and tradition is a retrospective invention.  Before the later years of the seventeenth century, the Highlanders of Scotland did not form a distinct people.  They were simply the overflow of Ireland.  On that broken and inhospitable coast, in that archipelago of islands large and small, the sea unites rather than divides and from the late fifth century, when the Scots of Ulster landed in Argyll, until the mid-eighteenth century, when it was 'opened up' after the Jacobite revolts, the West of Scotland, cut by off mountains from the East, was always linked rather to Ireland than to the Saxon Lowlands.  Racially and culturally, it was a colony of Ireland.
"[...] The creation of an independent Highland tradition, and the imposition of that new tradition, with its outward badges, on the whole Scottish nation, was the work of the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  It occurred in three stages.  First, there was the cultural revolt against Ireland: the usurpation of Irish culture and the re-writing of early Scottish history, culminating in the insolent claim that Scotland -- Celtic Scotland -- was the 'mother-nation' and Ireland the cultural dependency.  Secondly, there was the artificial creation of new Highland tradition, presented as ancient, original and distinctive.  Thirdly, there was the process by which these new traditions were offered to, and adopted by, historic Lowland Scotland: the Eastern Scotland of the Picts, the Saxons and the Normans."

* Young/Martin 2017 p30
"James Macpherson's poem 'Ossian' (1762) was largely responsible for casting the early Highland Scots as romantic heroes and preceded a lengthy literary heritage from Sir Walter Scott. 'It was MacPherson, rather than Sir Walter Scott, who first turned Highland clansmen into romantic warriors,' said historian Stuart Reid. 'In the process he also provided a culturally insecure Scotland with a highly distinctive creation myth and a romantic literary heritage firmly rooted not in the douce, respectable Lowlands of John Knox, David Hume and Adam Smith, or even in Scott's beloved wild borderland, but in the infinitely wilder Highlands.'
    "More recently film-makers have championed the Highland hero with blockbusters HighlanderRob Roy and Braveheart highlighting the ruggedly seductive appeal of the kilt and positioning the boisterous Scottish hero who defies authority and the elements at the forefront of public consciousness."

Bonnets (Balmoral, Glengarry)

* Thompson 1989 p3
"There are two types, the Balmoral, which comes in several styles, is more like a military overseas cap.  The latter is a military style, and to many people it looks out of place except with a uniform or on a boy who is young enough not to look silly 'playing soldier.'  One of the books says that certain of the clans prefer the Glengarry, but some of my Scottish advisors ridicule this and have no use for a Glengarry for anyone of age who is not forced to wear it by military regulations.  On the other hand many Americans do wear the Glengarry bonnet -- enough so that it would take a bold and dedicated purist to call them wrong.  the Glengarry comes in Navy blue with a red toorie (the little pompom on top) and may be 'diced' with a checkered band of red, black, and white around it.
    ​"They also make Glengarries in tartan, but no tartan bonnet is correct with Scottish attire.  The same is true of the tam-o'-shanter, a large bonnet in soft wool in tartan colors.  Since it is crocheted or knit rather than woven, a tartan design cannot be reproduced.  These colored bonnets may be all right to wear with Saxon clothes to indicate your Scottish predelictions, but do not wear either of them with the kilt!"


* Thompson 1989


* Young/Martin 2017 p30
"When we think of the kilt we think of Scotland, so entwined is this national dress within its country's heritage. Known around the world, the distinctive vertical and horizontal tartan check has become synonymous with bagpipes and brave gents. The kilt wearer is met with pride, intrigue and historical anecdotes of country and kin. Few other national costumes have such emotive meaning and, despite its conflicting history, the kilt stands strong as a stimulating symbol of Scotland's identity."

* Cumming/Cunnington/Cunnington 2010 p115
"Kilt  (M)  Period: Late 18th century onwards.  One item within Highland dress for men is a kilt, a length of woolen cloth, usually of a checkered or tartan pattern, fitting around the waist and descending to the knee, with closely overlapping pleats and a plain wrap-over panel at the front held by straps and buckles and a decorative pin."

* Henderson 2000 p83
"The fact that today's tartans are not authentic in pattern, colour, fabric, or method of production has been conveniently swept under a national tartan rug."

* Young/Martin 2017 p12
"Tartan is the fabric of a nation, an icon of Scottish history and identity, with countless meanings attached -- regimental, rebellious and with a sense of belonging. It's also one of the most versatile of fabrics. It is warm and waterproof, and the infinite variety of patterns, or setts, lend themselves to creating a unique uniform or brand. But it is generally accepted that, while there is evidence of wearing tartan in Scotland in ancient times, and that plaid was the universal costume of Highlanders from the sixteenth century to the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the concept of clans having their own traditional tartan is a fairly recent one."

* Signos y símbolos 2020 p249
"Kilt  En Escocia, el kilt o falda escocesa, parte del traje típico, es un símbolo de masculinidad y de parentesco: los miembros de los clanes se identifican por el color y el diseño del tartán de su kilt, que visten con orgullo en bodas, fiestas y eventos deportivos nacionales."

* Calasibetta/Tortora 2003 p368
"tartan  Each clan in Scotland has adopted a specific plaid fabric in individual colors used for the kilt, or short pleated skirt worn by men, and the plaid, a drapery worn hanging from the shoulders, across back, and tucked into belt. Although Scots are reported to have used stripes as early as the 5th c. and were fond of 'mottled' fabrics, the real origin of the tartan is controversial. Various historians mention plaids as early as 1594 and 1645, but it was not until early 18th c. (1703) that they began to emerge as a clan symbol that designated a place of residence. After the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charles in 1747 [sic], plaids were banned by British law. Revived in 1822 when George IV visited Scotland -- from that time on there were specific tartans for each clan. The better known tartans are described in this category. Der. Believed to have come from Flemish word tiretaine."

* Henderson 2000 p76-77
"The Highlands were feared and despised by southern Scotland for hundreds of years but, by the 1850s, all that had changed. The highlanders were tamed and the land had become a trendy holiday destination.  Highland dress, in a flamboyant style that real highlanders wouldn't even recognise, was well and truly in vogue.  Ever since the fateful visit by George IV in 1822, Britain had gone into a northern frenzy.  Tartan, especially, was all the rage -- to the extent that Queen Victoria designed her own, covering every wall, chair and servant in Balmoral Castle with the stuff.
​    "The tartan bandwagon was suddenly full to overflowing.  Two brothers, the Sobrieski-Stuarts, turned up from Poland claiming to be grandsons of Bonnie Prince Charlie.  Naturally enough, they also just happened to be experts on the history of the tartan.  In 1842 they produced a nattily titled book: Vestiarrium Scoticum: from the manuscript formerly in the Library of the Scots College at Douay; with an Introduction and Notes.  The book listed and illustrated 75 original clan tartans and was happily accepted by all and sundry as being authentic.
​    "The Sobrieski-Stewarts were, in reality, John and Charles Allen.  They were not related to Prince Charlie in any way, shape or form and knew no more about authentic tartans than the next con man.  By the time this was realised, however, their bogus designs were firmly established in the cloth manufacturing industry and remain so to this day.
​    "Nowadays, there seem to be more tartans in existence than there are Scots to wear them.  Visitors to Edinburgh's tartan shops are pleasantly surprised to find that their surname, no matter how exotic it might be, is connected in some way to a Scottish clan.  That this connection may be so far removed as to be preposterous is submerged by the desire to be entitled to some tartan or other.  Sadly, even if a visitor really is related to a MacDuff or Sinclair, he will probably end up wearing a 'clan' tartan that no MacDuff or Sinclair ever designed or wore."


* Wilkinson-Latham 1973 p47-48
"In 1782, the Disarming Act and the Abolition and Proscription Act were repealed and the dirk came back into use.  The civilian version now assumed a different style with a slightly exaggerated carved hilt and the mounts of both knife and scabbard more elaborate, with thistle or Celtic interlaced engraving. [SIC]  The companion knife and fork now became a more common feature of the dirk, matching the larger knife."

* Weapon 2006 p131
"Toward the end of the 18th century, the dirk became increasingly ceremonial in form.  It was often decorated with silver pommel caps and ferrules."

* Tarassuk/Blair 1979 p167
"From the end of the 18th century, following the revival of the Highlander's traditional costume, the dirk was often richly mounted in silver (and sometimes even gold) with semiprecious quartz (cairngorm). The dirk blade was often made from a large fragment of a sword blade; it was usually single-edged with a back edge near the point, grooved, and with a decorative notch at the base of the back. There are, however, examples with double-edged blades. The dirk had a distinctive scabbard made of hide or leather with two small holders on the front, one below the other, for containing a small knife and fork; these were furnished in the same way as the dirk itself."

* Wilkinson 1971 p131
"In the mid-nineteenth century there was a romantic revival of all things Scottish, and numbers of dirks were made, usually with a large cairngorm set in the pommel and with a sheath fitted with pockets to hold cutlery."

* Neumann 1973 p230
"Reduction to Symbolism, Circa 1750-1850  After mid-century, the base lobes were gradually absorbed by the hilt, the pommel was reduced, and the handles became shorter and thicker.  By the 19th century they often mounted colored 'cairngorm' stones in the pommel."

* Wilkinson 1978 p92
"Following the Jacobite rebellion of 1745-46, Scottish culture was very much frowned on and laws were passed forbidding the use and wearing of all things Scottish.  Tempers and memories cooled, however, and in 1782 these laws were repealed and many Scottish traditions were exaggerated in reaction.  The dirk, which by then had largely ceased to be a weapon, became even more decorative with large pieces of mineral fitted on the pommel."

* Fryer 1969 p64
"Dirk  A term given to ... a Scottish dagger derived from the kidney dagger....  The Scottish dirk has retained the same form for over two hundred years.  The more recent type used for Highland dress, or military dress wear, has a sheath with sockets for companion knife and fork.  The mounts are often of silver or gilt, and the pommels inset with cut cairngorm stones."

* Thompson 1989 p88
"... [T]he dirk is an item of evening wear.  It should be black handled and the sheath should be black morocco or patent leather.  Silver mounting is desireable, and jewels may be added.  In fact, the whole thing except the blade may be of jewelled silver.  It usually has a miniature knife and fork in smaller sheaths on the side of the big sheath.  These are frequently attached by little chains, to be sure that they will be absolutely useless."


* Thompson 1989 p96
"It is always correct to wear medals and decorations with Scottish evening wear, though it is not necessary unless the invitation specifies them.  Since the kilt is not a uniform, medals are worn on the left side of the jacket, not on the lapel.  If there is a breast pocket, the medals should be just above it.  If there is no pocket, the medals go just above where a pocket would be.  For evening wear the medals should be miniatures, and miniatures should never be worn with anything but evening dress.
    "Medals are also properly worn with civilian clothing in a parade.  This does not arise on many occasions except in Scottish attire.  But overseas Scots are great on parades, including a peculiarly American church parade, universally known as the 'Kirkin' o' the Tartan.'  In a parade you will not be wearing evening dress, so the medals should not be miniatures. It may feel a bit odd wearing the large 'gongs' when you are not in uniform, but for parades it is the proper thing."


* Calasibetta 1975 p483
"sporran ...  Scottish leather or fur pouch worn suspended from belt in front of kilt, part of Highlander's traditional dress ..."

* Kennett 1995 p55
"The elaborate evening sporran, hung in front, is often of seal skin or goatskin fur with fine silver tassels." 

* Young/Martin 2017 p196-197
"Once a large, impractical accessory, modern sporrans are highly refined and widely available in leather or fur. Sporrans are typically classified in three categories -- day, semi-dress and dress -- although the lines of distinction are rather blurred and etiquette surrounding the different types of sporran is not so closely followed by modern gentlemen. The sporran should be large enough to hold a money clip for bills, space for a credit card and a coin purse and room for house or car keys. The sporran strap should be put through the loops at the back of the kilt, and the chains brought forward to attach them to the rings at the rear of the sporran. The hang of the sporran is adjusted by means of the rear strap and buckle to ensure that it's worn high and not midway down the front apron. To conform with traditional etiquette: 'The top of a small sporran should not be lower than about a hand's breadth below your navel.'"


*Farey 2003 p108
"It is customary for the dirk to be accompanied by a matching skean dhu or sgian dubh (pronounced skeen doo), a small knife worn in teh top of a stocking as part of the highlander's traditional dress.  The name means black knife (from Gaelic skean -- dagger, and dhu -- black).  Although the knife usually has a black handle, it is generally reckoned that black in this context is meant as dark, hidden or secret.  This could refer to a hidden dagger carried under a jacket in the armpit by Scots in the 18th century, supposedly because the English would not let them carry arms."

* Pacella 2008 p127
"After the Battle of Culloden, it was forbidden to carry weapons of any kind.  But it was too much to expect this proud people with their strong traditions to respect this decree.  So the Scots got round this prohibition by hiding a miniature replica of the dirk, the skean dhu, initially in their sleeve, then in their sock.  Skean dhu, or sgian dhu in Gaelic, means 'black knife.'  The first skean dhu were made from the blades of dirks and claymores *traditional Scottish double-edged sword) that the Highlanders had preferred to break rather than turn them over to the oppressor.
    "Over time, tempers cooled on both sides and the carrying of the skean dhu became tolerated, then widespread, becoming an integral part of Scottish national dress for civilians and soldiers alike."

* Neumann 1973 p231
"By the end of the 1700s it [the companion knife] had acquired the name 'sgian dubh' ('black knife'), and was inserted into the top of the stocking.  Most have a straight knife blade and a dark carved wooden grip (often heather root).  The great majority of surviving sgain dughs date after 1800."

* Wilkinson 1971 p131
"Small daggers worn in the sock and called skean dhu also seem to have originated with the revival although, no doubt, some earlier knives had been carried like this."

* Young/Martin 2017 p197
"The sgian dubh (Gaelic for 'black knife') was once used by Highlanders as a mean sof self-defence and is the finishing touch to the kilt outfit (albeit an optional rather than mandatory addition). Purely ornamental, the modern sgian dubh has a stainless-steel blade and is tucked into the right sock with the handle within easy reach."

* Wilkinson-Latham 1973 p50
"Another small but not very old item of Highland dress was the skean dhu, worn in the right stocking.  These skean dhu's [SIC], the name deriving from the Gaelic word sgian meaning knife and dubh meaning black, have a short single edged blade with carved wooden handle decorated in the same manner as the dirk.  The military weapons for pipers are plain with metal mounts, while those for officers have a cairngorm in the pommel and have the grip decorated with either a badge or Celtic lacing and nails to match the dirk; usually the blade is etched with the regimental badge and honours."

* Fryer 1969 p67
"Skean Du  A small Scottish knife, carried in the stocking for dress use.  Often silver-mounted, the grip carved with strapwork and having a cairngorm stone pommel."

* Kennett 1995 p55
"Tucked into the top of the hose is the sgian-dubh, or black-knife, so called because it used to be hidden away in their clothing when the clans were at war!"




* Kennett 1995 p55
"Legs are clad in white or tartan knee hose with solid colored garter flashes (the short tabs either side of the knee that are attached to garters).  Shoes are buckled and laced."

​* Young/Martin 2017 p196
"Traditionally hose (socks) should be worn above the calf but 5-7 centimentres [SIC]/ 2-3 inches below the lower knee. Hose are typically worn in muted colours of grey, navy, dark green and black but are also available in white. Underneath the fold of the hose, garter flashes are worn with the elastic tucked beneath the fold and the coloured fabric seen on the outside of the leg. On the feet, evening brogues or ghillie brogues are worn with long laces that tie around the ankles. Originally, the addition of laces meant that the wearer wouldn't lose his shoes on uneven muddy ground, and still provide security when twisted four times around the ankle and tied at the front."