EDINBURGH, Scotland — A true Scotsman is said to never wear anything under his kilt. But now Scots are being warned that the sartorial tradition could be both indecent and unhygienic.
The organization charged with maintaining standards in Highland dress has backed kilt-rental firms who say the age-old custom of “going commando’’ has got to go.
“We are saying please use common sense and decency as it can be unhygienic and it can be offensive,’’ Brian Wilton of the Scottish Tartans Authority said yesterday. “If you are out and about in a kilt, then remember to show some decorum.
“If you are hiring a kilt, then wear underwear, because some of them are left in a horrible state.’’
The tradition comes from the warriors of the Highlands who wore little else but long kilts that wrapped around the shoulder. The Scottish military took up the idea, and regiments still parade sans underwear.
“My father was a sergeant major in the army and used to clip a car mirror on the end of his pace stick and held it under the kilts of his men to check they were suitably undressed for parades,’’ Wilton said.
Wilton also offered etiquette advice for anyone meeting a man in a kilt: Don’t ask too many questions. “Really you shouldn’t ask a Scotsman what he wears under his kilt,’’ he said. “Imagine the offense you would cause if you were to ask the same of a woman.’’
To bare or not to bare divides opinion.
Ian Chisholm of the Scottish Kilt Makers’ Association said, “it’s traditional to go without and there is nothing wrong with it.’’
Howie Nicholsby, of 21st Century Kilts in Edinburgh, has worn only kilts for the last 14 years. He agrees that underwear is often an asset.
“In my line of work . . . the capacity for wardrobe malfunction is endless,’’ he said.