Whenever you see a kilted man, what are your first thoughts? The majority of people that have never seen a kilt probably think that a man in a skirt is odd. It may seem especially strange if a man wears a kilt for everyday activities like grocery shopping. (To kilt enthusiasts who wear kilts frequently because they enjoy it or want to celebrate their heritage, we say keep on wearing kilts. But to that weird person who wears a kilt daily more because he wants attention than he enjoys wearing kilts we say: don’t be that guy.) Conversely, some people might think a kilt outfit is cool if a person wears it to a festival or party. Regardless of what a person thinks about a kilt, almost everybody has the same questions – how’s the breeze down there? Can any kilt-wearing man moon his enemies like William Wallace’s troops? In short, what is worn underneath a kilt?
The Traditional Scottish Approach
Most people have heard that it is a Scottish tradition to not wear undergarments under a kilt. As an American who regularly wears kilts, I am frequently asked to either confirm or deny this stereotype. I often answer the question “what are you wearing under your kilt” with a joke such as, “My socks and shoes”. The joke may not be original but it always solicits (nervous?) laughter. “But seriously…?” the nosy stranger then inquires. I admit that there have been several occasions when I was true to the Scottish tradition of wearing nothing under a kilt. At other times, I have had many experiences where I was fortunate to be wearing an some high quality tartan underpants.
Personal experiences aside, some historians believe that the tradition of wearing no undergarments under a kilt began in Scottish military regiments. It is rumored that the Scottish military code from the 18th century prescribed a kilt but did not mention underwear. Scottish soldiers took such instructions as a challenge rather than an oversight, and thus the underwear-less tradition began. Terms like “going regimental”, “military practice”, and “going commando” evolved to describe wearing no underwear. In fact, Scottish regiments continued to use kilts in combat until they were banned during World War Two for fear that the regimental tradition would expose the Scotsmen’s sensitive parts to chemical weapons.
The Modern Debate on What Is Worn Under a Kilt
There is still a debate as to whether or not the pantsless tradition should be perpetuated. One of the leading authorities for preserving Scottish heritage caused quite a stir when he trashed the notion that a true Scot wears nothing under a kilt. The Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing have also made underwear part of the dress code. I suppose helping sustain one Scottish tradition is enough for any organization. This stipulation is also understandable. Dancing is one of the more adventurous activities that can be done in a kilt worn regimental style.
Many Scots are also practical about hygiene when it comes to what is worn under a kilt. Almost all kilt rental companies ask their customers to wear underwear with the kilt. One Scottish kilt rental company even went so far as to invent a catchy Scottish rhyme to remind customers to wear underwear. Although I believe that this request is valid and should be honored, there are those in Scotland who take the less hygienic approach and wear nothing with a rented kilt.
People’s approach to what they wear under kilts are as varied as the kilt tartans. Some consider it inauthentic to wear underwear while others insist that the regimental style is outdated and unhygienic. As long as the debate exists, though, so too will the mystique surrounding kilt wearing. It is common for total strangers to stop kilt-wearing men to ask what they are wearing under their kilt. Pay attention gentlemen, because this is one of many reasons that a kilt is a must-have addition to any wardrobe.