What are Kilt Pins?

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  • Last Modified Date: 19 January 2020
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Kilt pins are, quite simply, pins used on the lower front apron of kilts. Though popular now, kilt pins are a relatively recent addition to kilt attire. Folklore suggests usage began in the Victorian era, and provides one with a delightful anecdote on its origins.

During a visit to Balmoral Castle, Queen Victoria inspected the famed Douglas Highlanders, a regiment noted for its bravery. The wind blew fierce and one young soldier encountered great difficulty holding his position. Kilts are frequently worn without undergarments and the queen noticed the soldier's struggle to appear modest and yet stand still. Taking a brooch from her own clothing, she kindly pinned the soldier's kilt.

Though this tale suggests the kilt pin's function is to keep the kilt closed at the bottom, in actuality, kilt pins are more decorative in nature. In fact, these pieces are normally worn on only one half of the kilt and are not pinned through the two layers of the kilt to join them together. Placed properly, they do provide some weight at the bottom of the kilt, but modesty is more effectively achieved by securing the lowest strap of the garment.


Improper placement of the pin causes two problems. Pinning through both layers of a kilt creates a rumpled appearance. Additionally, securing both aprons can damage the material. Since the least expensive of kilts is generally at least 100 US dollars (USD) and the more expensive can run above 500 US dollars (USD), replacement can be costly.

Kilt pins vary in appearance. Its definition depends largely on function. That is, anything that pins a kilt is a kilt pin. The most basic in use would be a large safety pin, but again care must be taken with the type and sharpness of the pin so the kilt will not be damaged. Traditionally, though, most kilt pins look like daggers or swords with decorative hilts. The hilts may be representative of a particular clan, family crest, or organization. For example, each branch of the US military has a designated pin.

Other kilt pins have hilts with Celtic symbols or reference ancient Scottish clan designs. Pins are available in different metals, primarily pewter and silver, though some are gold or gold-plated. Hilts can be elaborate jeweled affairs, or quite spare in design.

The shortest kilt pins are approximately 2 inches (5.08 cm) long, while the longest measure about 4.5 inches (11.43 cm). Kilt-wearers without affiliation to a particular group have a host of choices available to them including pins that represent their different origins in the British Isles. The Irish, Welsh, Scottish and English can all find pins unique to their country and traditions.

Prices on kilt pins are quite reasonable, most range from 20 to 70 US dollars (USD). There are certainly kilt pins that will cost you more than these prices. But even the most cost conscious can find a beautiful and suitable pin for little outlay.

Though kilt pins do not have the lengthy historical tradition of some other aspects of kilt attire, they are now a necessary piece. Whether representing affiliation to a particular group, or a uniquely personal choice, the kilt pin creates yet another point of interest in the already fascinating attire of the kilt-wearer.


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Post 4

head up = taken

head down = single

no pin = pregnant

sideways = lesbian/bisexual

with beads on the pin (or a string) = will put out with guys or has an STD.

Post 3

at my school we have uniforms and the kilt pins have meaning based on your relationship status or sexual orientation. with the head down it means you're single, with the head up it means you're taken and with the pin sideways it means your bisexual.

Post 2

Yes. This is exactly my question as well. When using an oversize safety pin, should the head be up or down?

Post 1

When it comes to using safety pins on a kilt, should it be worn point up, or point down? We were wondering if there was any significance of luck (such as that of a horseshoe that should be hung with the curve down "so the luck doesn't spill out").

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