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Wearing of the Kilt


The kilt had its origin in an older garment called the belted plaid worn by highlanders. Made from multicolored material, with an arrangement of stripes and checks it came to identify the clan, family, or regiment of the wearer.


  • After the 1707 Act of Union, tartan became a symbol of nationalism, and was seen by the ruling classes to be the dress of extremism.

  • In 1740, the independent Scottish companies became a formal regiment and a new tartan was developed - known officially as the Black Watch Tartan. All regimental tartans and many  hunting designs were derived from this.

  • The 1747 Dress Act restricted wearing in public of any plaid or kilt. Even the Bagpipes were outlawed, being considered an instrument of war. Punishment for a 1st offence was 6-months imprisonment, a 2nd offence earned the wearer a 7-year exile overseas.  Only those in the army were permitted to wear the plaid and many Highlanders enlisted for this reason.

  • When the Dress Act was repealed in 1783, the fabric of Celtic life had been forever altered,   and many of the old traditions and customs were lost forever.


In spite of many efforts to revive the traditions, wearing the plaid became merely a nationalistic statement, and no longer a way of life for Highlanders. The new little kilt (designed by tailors in the south) became popular - with the traditional pleats permanently sewn in place and separating the lower from the upper half.  With the industrial revolution, mass production of the short kilt had also arrived.  During Victorian times, the English and Scottish land-owning class developed many of the features and traditions that we associate with ‘the wearing of the kilt’.  Many of the best-known tartans were also creations of their tailors.



It is unlikely that local people in Forfar wore the kilt. To the best of my knowledge, none of the Whyte family ever wore the kilt and they (and their Forfar Burgess class) probably looked-down on those who did.  The above brief history may explain some of the reasons why.  The tartans broadly associated today with the generic White/Whyte name are Lamont and (Red) Macgregor.  However, the tartan of the local Ogilvy family could also be appropriate.

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