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cl-Scot-male-art - 9/23/00


"Scottish Men's clothing" by Effric neyn Kenyeoch Vc Ralte (Sharon L. Krossa).


NOTE: See also the files: cl-Scotland-msg, cl-Scot-male-art, Scotland-msg, cloaks-msg, textiles-msg, fd-Scotland-msg, cl-Ireland-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set

of files, called StefanŐs Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at:



Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be

reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first

or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


                              Thank you,

                                   Mark S. Harris

                                   AKA:  Stefan li Rous

                                        stefan at florilegium.org



----- Scottish Men's Clothing ----- last changed 16 June 1996 ('net version)


       This is a standard response I have written to the question "What

clothing did medieval Scottish men wear?" The purpose is not to tell you

exactly what clothing to make, but rather to outline the issues concerned,

and to indicate the known references that discuss Scottish men's clothing.

If anyone has any suggestions for improving this standard response, please

e-mail me at skrossa at svpal.org.


Luckily for the men, all Scottish clothing and costuming books of which I

am aware are primarily concerned with what men wore. However, perhaps

unluckily for some, they are mostly, though not exclusively, concerned with

the development of the kilt and 'clan tartans' (most of which developments

are post-medieval, but I won't go into that just yet ;-). These are the

better Scottish (men's) clothing books. These books are particularly useful

because they do not simply give their opinions on what people wore, but

rather present the primary evidence (graphical as well as textual) as well

as their interpretations of that evidence, allowing you to judge for

yourself how convincing their opinions are. Here are the references to

these books:


Dunbar, John Telfer.   The Costume of Scotland.  London: B. T. Batsford

Ltd., 1981.  1 vols.


Dunbar, John Telfer.   History of Highland Dress.  Edinburgh: Oliver &

Boyd, 1962.  1 vols.


McClintock, H. F.   Old Irish and Highland Dress, and that of the Isle of

Man. Second and Enlarged ed.  Dundalk: Dundalgan Press (W. Tempest) Ltd,

1950. 1 vols.


McClintock, H. F.   Old Irish and Highland Dress, with Notes on that of the

Isle of Man.  Dundalk: W. Tempest, Dundalgan Press, 1943.  1 vols.


Although it does not address the question of clothing, for a good, single

volume history of Scotland, try:


Lynch, Michael.   Scotland: A New History.  London: Pimlico, 1992.  ISBN =



If anyone has any further references, primary or secondary, that are not

mentioned in the books listed above, please e-mail me at skrossa at svpal.org

and I will include them in the next draft.


"What clothing did medieval Scottish men wear?" is not actually a question

to which there is a single answer, because what men wore changed over the

1000 years of the middle ages in Scotland just as it did elsewhere in

Europe. And, just as elsewhere in Europe, what men wore depended on what

social class they belonged to. In addition, at no time in the medieval

period was there a single, unified culture covering the entire area of what

is now Scotland, and as a result, what men wore depended very much on which

culture the men in question belonged to.


This last point bears emphasizing and further discussion. Most people are

aware of a concept of Scotland being culturally divided into Highlands and

Lowlands, with the Highlands being populated with Gaelic speakers and the

Lowlands being populated with Scots speakers (Scots being a cousin language

of English). Although this picture is not wholly inaccurate, it is only

really applicable from about the 14th century at earliest. The further back

in Scottish history you go, the less relevant and useful a simple cultural

division into Gaelic speaking Highlands and Scots speaking Lowlands

becomes. When you get back to the very early middle ages, it is completely

irrelevant, as the area that became Scotland had at that time at least half

a dozen different kingdoms and cultures, none of which corresponded to the

Highland and Lowland division. It is therefore necessary to do some

research into basic Scottish history, particularly the history of the

specific time and area you want your persona to be from, in order to

determine what sort of cultural influences they had, and therefore what

sort of clothing your persona might have worn. Even in the very late middle

ages, you need to be aware that where the physical border between Highland

and Lowland cultures lay was not fixed and unmoving, but was constantly

shifting, and continued to shift for centuries after 1600. Especially, do

not assume that where that border lies today is anywhere near where it was

in the middle ages! To further complicate matters, not everyone who had

lands in the Gaelic speaking highlands was necessarily either a Gaelic

speaker or part of highland Gaelic culture.


So, before you can answer "What clothing should my Scottish persona wear?"

you must answer four questions:

1 - Exactly when does your persona live?

2 - Exactly where in Scotland does your persona live?

3 - To which Scottish culture does your persona belong?

4 - To what class does your persona belong?


Here are some *very* general observations about Scottish medieval men's

clothing, which most especially should not be taken as gospel truth, nor

should they be acted on without further investigations! These are only some

ideas to get you started, but you should read the books referenced above

and any other reliable sources you may come across before setting out to

clothe your persona! (And some general Scottish history books wouldn't

hurt, either! ;-)


Men living in the burghs (towns) were not part of Gaelic culture, and would

not have dressed as Gaels. In general, their clothing, it seems, was very

similar to that worn by men of similar class in England, France, or other

northern European kingdoms. English influence would have been at it's

lowest during wars with England in the 14th and parts of the 15th

centuries. This observation should be tempered by the fact that as a

general rule, Scots were poorer than their English or continental

counterparts, and by the fact that it would take time for the latest

fashions to reach Scotland. There were very probably a number of

differences between these Scottish and other European fashions, at any

given period of time, but at the moment, I don't think anyone knows exactly

what they were. A couple exceptions are that in the 16th century, Lowland

men were noted for wearing blue bonnets, and in addition in the late 16th

century, the burgesses of Aberdeen at least thought that it was necessary

to ban burgesses, though not the lower classes, from wearing plaids and

sometime later from wearing blue bonnets, as well. [Note that plaids as

worn by Lowland men were probably not the same as the belted plaids worn by

late period Highland men, discussed below. Not all plaids are belted



Noble men, in the later middle ages, with certain exceptions including some

noble men from Gaelic culture, would also, it seems, have dressed very

similarly to men of similar class in England, France, and other northern

European kingdoms, with the same provisos as for burgh men (i.e., poorer,

later, etc.). It is possible (but not known) that noble men's clothing

would have had fewer differences from their English and continental

counterparts than burgh men's would have, as they probably had more contact

with other kingdoms and certainly they often had more money.


Men living in Gaelic culture, sometimes even noblemen, it seems, for most

of the middle ages would have dressed very similarly to how Irish men

dressed. In the very late middle ages, however, it appears that Scottish

Gaelic men's clothing diverged from that of the Irish. Unfortunately there

isn't as much evidence about the specifics of Scottish Gaelic men's

clothing as we would like. There is evidence though that in the very late

16th century at least some Highland Gaelic men were wearing their plaids as

'belted plaids' or 'folded plaids' (modernly called 'great kilts'), which

is essentially a long blanket pleated and belted around the waist. The

books mentioned above will give you details about this and other late

period Scottish Highland clothing specifics. [Please note that the idea of

'clan tartans' is a 19th century concept, and that the modern small kilt is

an 18th century development. Also note that while Lowland men were noted

for wearing blue bonnets, Highland men apparently went bare-headed in



In the sixteenth century, noble men from the highest and richest Highland

families probably started dressing more like their Lowland brothers,

depending on if they belonged to one of the rich and powerful Highland

families that began to abandon Gaelic culture in favor of the Lowland

culture of court. With some research, it should be possible to discover

which families were likely to have done this.


There is some possibility that Highland nobles of the 15th or 16th century

would have worn Highland fashion while at home, but Lowland fashion if they

visited court. I suggest reading the known evidence and deciding this for



Be very cautious when investigating Highland men's clothing -- there are

more myths circulating than sound history, and you will hear many wild

tales from people who will swear it is the gospel truth. Get the books

referenced above, read them yourself, study the historical documents and

evidence presented in them, and apply common sense and logic. Above all,

base your conclusions on the historical evidence available, not on stories

invented by 19th century Romantics or told by their 20th century disciples.


Please note that I have not even begun to address several Scottish cultures

and classes whose men may have dressed quite differently from those

discussed above!


This should be enough to get you started :-)

Again, any suggestions for improvement, please e-mail me at skrossa at svpal.org

{In particular, I would like to know of WWW and other electronic sources

that give practical instructions for making period Scottish men's clothing,

so that they can be mentioned in this article}


Gook Luck!


Effric niin Ken3ocht Vc Harrald, attempting to avoid typing the same thing

over and over!



Copyright 1996 by Sharon L. Krossa, <skrossa at svpal.org>. Please get permission from me before redistributing!


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in

the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also

appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being

reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org