Is It True That Men Don't Wear Undergarments with Kilts?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 December 2019
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The topic of undergarments and kilts has been the subject of many heated discussions around the worlds. According to popular mythology, true Scotsmen do not wear undergarments with kilts. However, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, suggesting that the issue may be more of a personal choice than a dress standard.

There are certain situations in which wearing underwear with a kilt is required. At the Highland Games, for example, participants are asked to wear briefs or boxers for modesty reasons; the color of these undergarments is expected to coordinate with the kilt. Highland dancers also wear undergarments with kilts, since they engage in high kicks and other moves which could result in exposure of the area in question.

Supposedly, some military regiments require “traditional Scottish” dress, which is a polite euphemism for “nothing under the kilt.” However, pipe bands associated with regiments require the use of undergarments, since pipers use a high-stepping march, and many members of the military probably also prefer to wear undergarments under kilts for comfort reasons. Kilts are often very scratchy, because they are traditionally made from wool, and it can also get quite breezy under an unbifurcated garment, which could result in discomfort.


The military history of undergarments and kilts supposedly includes a period in which the uniform of Highland regiments did not include underwear. More probably, the roots of the idea that undergarments are not worn with kilts come from older Celtic cultures, which wore variations on the kilt, but certainly did not always wear undergarments. The Celts usually tucked long shirts or tunics under their kilts for comfort; this practice is still used by modern kilt-wearers who choose to eschew undergarments.

For casual wearers, most people say that the choice of undergarments is an entirely personal one, and a polite person should not inquire about the state of affairs under a kilt. Undergarments with kilts are certainly practical from the point of view of comfort and modesty, with some kilt wearers suggesting the happy medium of wearing underwear when ladies are present, while undergarments need not be required for all-male gatherings.

Kilt wearers are certainly tired of being asked about whether or not they wear undergarments with kilts. Some authorities suggest when asked “anything worn under the kilt,” men should respond “no wear, everything is in perfect condition, thank you for asking.”


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Post 4

In Scotland, we would say 'wool tartan fabric' to specify exactly what we mean. So tartan is a pattern, and the fabric can be wool (usually, if for the traditional kilt), cotton, silk, mixed fabrics or anything else.

In Scotland, when you say 'plaid' people will usually think about 'fly plaid' or a kind o a blanket that women wear on their shoulders.

On the contrary, in the USA, 'plaid' is used to name the pattern and word 'tartan' is usually unknown to them.

Post 3

@ - I will try to explain Scottish “plaid” in the least complicated manner. The Gaelic word for plaid is blanket or large wrap. Which is sometimes called the belted plaid or the great kilt.

So Scottish plaid is actually a garment no matter what kind of fabric or color it is.

Tartan is the actual pattern you see on today’s Irish kilts. It is the pattern Americans call plaid. Once the top of the plaid is removed it is then called a kilt.

The kilt is wrapped around a man or boys waist starting from the left side all the way around from the front to the back then back around over the front again and closing on the right side.

Irish pipers usually wear solid green kilts as opposed to tartan. Kilts have a very distinctive and unique design that’s always worn with pride by a true Scotsman.

Post 2

Since I’ve read this article I’m now trying to figure out is tartan a pattern or a fabric. Does that mean plaid is actually a fabric and not a pattern?

I’ve gotten so confused over this whole kilt thing. Could someone please clarify?

Post 1

Nice article! I am really into Scottish culture, and I think it's awesome that you guys are addressing burning questions like this. I'd just like to add for those who don't know, Scottish kilts were originally called breacan feile (pronounced: breck un fail a) which means pleated tartan.

The term tartan, simply put is a pattern of criss-crossing multiple colors of wool horizontally and vertically.

Originally tartan kilts were long tops wrapped around the body and belted at the waist. At night and in colder temperatures it could be loosened up to cover the body for warmth.

Modern day kilts are still wrapped around the body but the top portion has been removed and the pleats are sewn in.

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