History of Ireland

Why did Irish men start wearing kilts?

User Avatar
Wiki User
2014-03-26 13:42:41

Irish men wearing kilts is a recent phenomenon.

If you research Irish history, you will find that many Scots as

far back as the 16th century cast off their kilts when they came to

Ireland. There are woodcuts depicting Scottish Redshanks in

Northern Ireland dressed after the Irish fashion, that is, leine,

Ionar, and bare legs.

The Irish "kilt" was called a 'Mantle' ... simply a cloak of

wool with a fur lining. (not plaid worn about the waist) Kilts were

too cumbersome in Irish bogland and thus were often cast aside by

Galloglas once in service of Irish Gaelic Lords. (Good Source

Material ... Elizabeth's Irish Wars by Cyrill Falls, Tyrone's

Rebellion by Hiram Morgan, Irish Battles by G.A. Hayes-McCoy, The

Irish Wars by Ian Heath and David Sque, and The Twilight Lords by

Richard Berleth) Oftentimes they were made into Truibhas (Trews) or

the modernday "trousers'. (Dress in Ireland by Mairéad Dunlevy) The

mantle was the mainstay of Irish dress and was used like a blanket

at night and functionally cast side when the whether was warm.

During the end of Nine Years War between Hugh O'Neill 2nd Earl of

Tyrone and Queen Elizabeth I, the English were able to recognize

Irish and Old Irish "Galloglas" from the "New Scots" by the fact

that the "New Scots" arriving from Scotland, were still kilted.

This distinguished them from their counterparts who had been

assimilated into Irish society. It wasn't until recently that Irish

people actually began to adopt the wearing of kilts.

Various claims have been made that a number of Irish tartans

were shown in a book called Clans Originaux (1880) but when the

list was discovered it was more of a pattern book than a literary

one and not one Irish pattern was contained. Nor have any other

19th century books on tartan. Pictures purportedly showing the

Irish wearing tartan kilts have turned out to be mail quilts

(protection) or the bottom of the Irish leine. The only actual

Irish historical tartan dated to the 17th century was found in a

peat bog in the 1950s in Ulster, the tartan cloth is thought to

have been manufactured in Ireland but the actual trews they were

made into in Scotland. Given the movement over the sea between the

Gaelic cultures of Highlands of Scotland and Ireland historically

hardly proof positive that it was Irish tartan.

In addition:

I lived in Ireland all my life and the first I learned about

Irish and kilts was on American TV at a traditional Irish wedding.

I have only ever seen Scottish people on stag nights wearing kilts

in Ireland. I think some Irish-Americans may have simply gotten


The Irish tartans that exist today have nearly all been invented

by the Scottish tartan manufacturers in the twentieth century to

sell to tourists. They are mostly taken from the colours of the

arms of the counties and regions and the colours substituted into

Scottish tartans to produce them. The tourist boys produce a

database of Irish surnames and link it to the regions which are

linked to these spurious tartans, you put your name in and as very

few names have a tartan they just pop up one of the invented

counties tartan, utter nonsense.

The Irish pipe bands today (usually playing a scottish bagpipe)

wear a plain saffron kilt, the color just about proveable the

garment not.

Copyright © 2020 Multiply Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. The material on this site can not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Multiply.