Why did Irish men start wearing kilts?
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.
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