scottish-kilt

I met my favorite person this weekend.

I have these Native American reenactments in the summer, okay. We dress in authentic Native garb and go teach about our culture and whatnot at historical events. There’s this one on a weekend that housed all reenactors from Ancient Greece to World War II–you can walk through a timeline of living history. It’s cool.

So there are these guys in a tent on the far hill called the Scottish Highlanders. They bring about two to five people to their thing per year. They do all the good medieval Scottish jazz. Kilts, weapons, challenging you to fights.

But theres this one guy that is there every time. I always go visit to hear him give in depth talks about Scottish Reavers and their malitia and weaponry and stuff. He’s fun, so I go talk to him and he’s asking about what school I’m going to, what I want to do, etc.

So I tell him I want to be a history teacher and I like to write. He asks me if I have anything published, and I say no, thinking he means an actual book. But he waves me off and asks, “No, online. Have you ever heard of Fanfiction.net?”

Let me explain a thing. This guy. Is well over six feet. His biceps are bigger than my head, he’s about 45 years old, he has the thickest Scottish accent you’ve ever witnessed, he can wave two axes around like nobody’s business, he usually resolves friendly arguments with full on battle in armor with real weaponry with the scars to prove it, and he kind of has a biker gang.

And this guy starts telling me about the 700 page Doctor Who fanfiction that he’s been writing for six years and still running. 

Shamelessly continues to explain how he gets together with his badass biker buddies and they ride to his house with bottles of Jack Daniels and talk about the next fanfiction that they’re going to write together. (More Doctor Who, Xena Warrior Princess, Agents of Shield, Lord of the Rings…) They dare each other to write crossovers for interesting character interaction. This guy raves with excitement over character development and analysis. 

I cried. 

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Edinburgh, Scotland –

“I always feel that when I come to Edinburgh, in many ways I’m coming home.”
Alan Rickman

flickr

Fraser Hirsch: Scottish Backhold Wrestler by FotoFling Scotland
Via Flickr:
The 2016 Cowal Highland Gathering

Rare and fascinating image of a South African fighting regiment in World War 1. Here South Africans from the 4th Regiment ‘South African Scottish’ perform a traditional 'African Tribal War Dance’ with drawn bayonets and dancing in their distinctive 'Murray of Atholl’ tartan kilts.

The image was taken at the 'Bull Ring’ in Etaples, France prior to the troops final deployment to trench warfare 18 June 1918.

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Outlander is back, so it seems only fitting to do a Scottish themed FRIDAY FASHION FACT! Nothing is more instantly associated with Scotland than a tartan kilt. There are a lot of myths surrounding the history of this national fashion, so lets set the fact straight.

In about the 8th Century BCE, the pre-Celtic Hallstatt culture of central Europe created a simplistic check-patterned fabric. As the Celtic culture developed, so did their tartans, and when they spread to Scotland, their fabrics went with them. The earliest known tartan in Scotland was the 3rd century Falkirk Tartan, a simple gingham-like check pattern which is still very common today, particularly in menswear. The pattern took several more centuries to develop into what we now think of as tartan. It wasn’t until the late 16th Century that the pattern became popular across Scotland.

Many people believe that this is when clan tartans began. While this is incorrect, it is an understandable mistake. Towns and villages would have a very limited number of fabric makers, possibly just one, and these fabric makers would each create their own distinct tartans. Since families tended to stay in the same area for generation upon generation, they would wear the same few tartans. It was more a matter of limited access to different tartans, instead of “official” clan tartans. Additionally, tartans from the same region tended to have the same color scheme, due to the natural dyes available in those regions. Therefore, it was often possible to identify where a person came from based on the colors of their tartan.

The first big turning point in the history of tartan was when Scotland and England officially unified at the beginning of the 18th Century. There was some extremely bad blood between England and Scotland, to say the very least (which, evidenced by the recent election, still remains to this day), but the tension was amplified by the fact that Parliament had dethroned the Stuart House, and placed the Hanover House as monarchs. The Jacobites, who supported the Stuarts, rebelled repeatedly for decades in an attempt to restore the throne. The Jacobites and their supporters proudly sported tartan. In an attempt to squash their cause, the government instated the Dress Act of 1746, which banned tartan completely, with the exception of the British Highland Regiments’ uniforms. Eventually, for a variety of reasons, the Jacobite Rebellions ended, and with the persuasion of the Highland Society of London, the Dress Act was repealed in 1782.

The second big turning point for tartan was during the Romantic Era, beginning in the 1820s. It was dubbed Romantic for a reason, as the poets, novelists, and artists began romanticizing history. Sir Walter Scott wrote about the Jacobites, and King George IV visited Scotland, then had his portrait painted in full Highland Dress. Shortly before this time, in 1815, the Highland Society of London began to put together an official registration of clan tartans- the start of official clan tartans. Tartan officially became a craze when in 1848, Queen Victoria purchased Balmoral Castle. Scottish fashion swept the nation, and the pattern remains stylish to this day.

As for kilts, to put it very simply, they began in the 16th Century as a large piece of fabric draped over the shoulder. It was so long, that soon men began to wrap the long end around their waist. This was known as a “belted plaid.” It was often in tartan, but not always. Basically, the kilt was developed and perfected from there. The pleats were added to make the garment more polished, and less bulky. So sorry, Braveheart fans, but William Wallace never wore a kilt.

Want to learn more about the history of tartan and kilts? Check out these books:

Scottish National Dress and Tartan, by Stuart Reid

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Tartan, by Iain Zaczek

Have a question about fashion history that you want answered in the next FRIDAY FASHION FACT? Just click the ASK button at the top of the page!