Coffee Tartan??

The Kiltmakery

I’ve been enjoying keeping up with the work being done at The Kiltmakery. I follow them on Facebook and love seeing daily posts about new kilts being made, the process of making those kilts and even some brain learnin’ when they post facts about kilt and tartan history. I suggest you follow them too. I’ve got it on my list to have them make me a kilt very soon. It will be my first tailor-made kilt. I have dozens “off the rack” kilts and I’m looking forward to finally having one custom made for me. The only problem is, I can’t yet decide what tartan I want. My clan tartans are Wallace and MacDonald but I have a good many of those already from Heritage of Scotland, Kilt Society, Sport Kilt and some other shops which I can’t remember the names of. I’d like something different this time. Maybe even a tartan I don’t own yet. I’m seriously considering the MacDonald Ancient. I think it’s gorgeous and every time I see someone wearing it I want one.

One of the things I’ve been most impressed by The Kiltmakery is how much cheaper it is to have a kilt custom made than I thought it would be. I’m going to be paying a chunk of money for sure but it’s roughly the cost of three economy kilts. Not bad at all. If you’re like me and have spent a lot of money on cheaper, off the rack kilts, I feel like we owe it to pay a bit more to a real kilt maker at least once in order to help keep the art alive. It’s a way to support our culture and heritage and ensure artists will be custom-making kilts for generations to come. I’m a mural painter (among other things) and my own industry has recently been dominated by cheap, printed wallpaper murals. I understand that, and don’t really have a problem with it but thanks to the people who want to spend a little more to get original hand made art, I can still make a living. If you are a regular kilt-wearer, save up for at least one kilt made by a professional maker and made just for you. We’ll all be the better for it.

While I’m on the subject of custom kilts, I think most of us are aware that there are many tartans that aren’t clan tartans. There are regional tartans, territorial tartans, country tartans and state tartans. Some organizations have their own tartans. There are even tartans to honor certain individuals such as Elvis Presley and Princess Diana. I’m curious, though if you think there should be a limit to that type of thing. It’s obviously a commercial move to sell more tartan fabric and kilts but do you think it cheapens the meaning of clan tartans? Is it a good idea to have a Verizon Wireless tartan? A Kardashian tartan? A tartan just for beer or coffee drinkers? Should there be specific tartans for political parties or religions? How about a vegan tartan? Feel free to tell me your opinion. I’d love to hear what you think about the tartan issue.

17 Christmas 2017 Gift Ideas for Kilt Wearers


Kilt people can be a difficult lot to buy Christmas gifts for. You know they love their kilts but you don’t always know what the little trinkets and hanging things are on their kilts and you don’t know whether they even need new ones. Maybe you’re aware that the person you need to buy a gift for has Scottish ancestry but you don’t know how they would like to show that off in their every day life. Is there a way to purchase something Scottish much cheaper than, say, buying them their own Highland castle? Yes, of course there is and Life In A Kilt in cooperation with the Life In A Kilt Podcast is here to help end your search for the perfect gift with our list of 17 Christmas 2017 Gift Ideas for Kilt Wearers. You can read the list here then listen to us chat about the list on the podcast! No matter if your Christmas gift buying budget is high or low, there is something on this list for everyone so make a choice and you’ll be ready to start wrapping in no time. We recommend the plaid wrapping paper with tartan ribbon. Yeah, we’re kilty like that.


1. Sword of Robert The Bruce

Fortunately, today’s kilt wearers don’t have to weapon up for battle on a daily basis. The sharpest thing I carry with my kilt is a sgain dubh and that’s only occasionally. Nonetheless, most of us still imagine, at some point or another, strapping a broadsword to our backs in case we meet an aggressive rogue clan in the hallways at work. In reality, we may only get to swing the Claymore in the privacy of our own castle but it’s great to have one handy, even if it is hanging from the wall. The Sword of Robert The Bruce by Windlass is both an imposing conversation piece and intimidating blade of high carbon steel “as powerful as the man who would have wielded it.” The beautiful pommel emblazons the Cross of St. Andrew, while the hearty grip is wrapped in soft, black leather and held in place by a corded silver chain. This massive sword comes complete with a matching, thick black leather scabbard and sports a silver Lion of Scotland at its throat and a rounded silver metal shoe at its tip. This is a gift you’ll treasure for years but be careful kids. You’ll put your aye out.

From Museum Replicas Limited

2. Saltire Multifunctional Scarf

Transformers are always awesome, even as a scarf. Who couldn’t make use of a scarf that turns into a cap, sun protector, dust mask, sweat band, hair tie, and protect your identity while preparing to kick English arse on the front line at Stirling Bridge. If only it would also turn into a sleeping blanket it would be like a kilt for your face. Personally, I use these as quick, emergency respirators when I’m spraying or airbrushing non-toxic paint. None of mine have the Saltire on them unfortunately, so, dang it, I’m going to have to gift one or two of these to myself as soon as I finish writing this article. Unless somebody out there wants to give me one for Christmas. I wonder how I can get my wife to read this article.

From Ruffnek

3. Whisky Tasting Collection

Not every kilt wearer drinks whisky. A bottle of Scotch will last a year or more with me but I have friends who can go through a bottle a week. These are the people who always make me feel inadequate  when ordering at a pub. I mean, I only found out a couple years ago what ordering Scotch “neat” means. My friends, however, can have entire conversations about the effects “peat” or aging in specific barrel types or water temperature can have on good Scotch whisky. And, frankly, I don’t want to listen to them. That’s why I give them something they can put in their mouth to shut them up. Like some really good whisky! The smart people at Tasting Collection have put together two unique sets of 12 very special whiskies in a beautiful wooden gift box. Your whisky expert friends will have a blast sampling each 25ml tube of their favorite firewater while you’re still getting used to spelling whisky without an “e.” If your friends aren’t on an expert drinking level, this gift will help them discover their favorite whisky and learn to distinguish the differences while they do become an expert. Then you’ll have even more friends making you feel inadequate at the pub. Maybe you’d better order one for yourself while you’re at it.

From Tasting Collection

4. Contemporary Sporran

When wearing a kilt for the first time, one of the most difficult things to get used to is not having pockets to carry your billfold, keys, cell phone and spare change. You quickly learn the value of a well-made, roomy sporran. While many first purchase a standard, off-the-rack, run-of-the-mill, low-cost sporran, why not help dress up your kilt person’s investment with a hand made artisan sporran? Jennifer Cantwell of Scotland’s Sporran Nation makes limited edition, bespoke and commissioned sporrans, bags and accessories that no one else you know will have and that you’re kiltie is going to love. All sporrans from Sporran Nation feature contemporary designs using high quality materials, including a vegan line for those who abstain from leather products. New works have a particular focus on leather tattooing. Woah, how cool is that? Give your kilt friend a personalized gift that they won’t ever want to do without and they will thank you and think of you every time they reach for their wallet.

From Sporran Nation
£235.00 for “Cross Sporran” (shown above). Other design prices vary.

5. Tartan Necktie

Not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to wear our kilts in every social situation. Work dress codes may say “No” to our kilts but that’s no reason we can’t still sport our family tartan. The visionaries at Sport Kilt have designed neck ties in all of the kilt tartans they offer so whether your kilt lover is a Wallace working in an accounting firm or a police detective with Scottish ancestry, your giftee can still show everyone his or her clan colors as they do their work. Best thing is, no one will stop and ask what they are wearing under their tie.

From Sport Kilt

6. Nine Button Knee High Leather Boots

Any kilt wearer who has visited a Renaissance Festival or Highland Games has spent several minutes drooling in front of the boot vendor booth. We all want a fantastic pair of boots under our kilts that make us look like Rob Roy or Kromtor the super kilted warrior-demon. With kilts becoming more popular, a pair of knee-high button boots can now be purchased online at a discount. But, hold on, we’ve all bought discount shoes before, haven’t we? It only takes a few all-day visits to the Ren Fair before buttons fall off, the cheap leather (or vinyl) scars and tears or the sole comes unglued leaving you soleless and soulless. That tragedy can easily be averted by purchasing a pair of well-made leather boots which will actually get stronger and more comfortable with each wearing. The family of craftspeople at Sons of Sandlar have been hand-crafting leather boots and footwear for over six generations so they know what they heck they are doing. All you have to do is secretly acquire your kilt friend’s boot size, then sit back and hear their shouts of joy after they tear open their Christmas present. Be forewarned, they’re going to want to go for a really long walk.

From Sons of Sandlar

7. Deluxe Irish Sword and Shield Kilt Pin

For years I’ve been whining that kilt pins are made wrong. The flimsy pin clasps come unclasped far too often, resulting in the loss of a fine pin. This year I was discussing the flaw on the Life In A Kilt Podcast when I was contacted by someone at Stillwater Kilts informing me that they make their own kilt pins and they, coincidentally, make them exactly the way I have been saying for years that kilt pins should be made: with secure, locking “tie tack” pins. I decided to order one of their pins and put it to the test, expecting typical failure and disappointment. What I received in the mail was the best kilt pin I’ve ever owned! The locking clasps will never slip off accidentally and the two “tie tack-style” pins prevent thread-pull damage to my kilts that I always seem to get from the old style of kilt pins. I immediately ordered several more of these pins and I can assure you that your kilt person will love these as well. Even though the kilt pins come in a variety of jewel colors and metal tones, I’m looking forward to a wider variety of designs from Stillwater Kilts in the future. In the meantime, these are the only kilt pins I’ll ever wear.

From Stillwater Kilts

8. Scotty Wallace Clan Tartan T-Shirt

A quick disclaimer: I’m a whore. That’s right, I’m using my own kilt Christmas gift list to hawk one of Life In A Kilt‘s own products. But, hey, I’d still mention Scotty Wallace even if he wasn’t one of ours. He’s cute. He’s sassy. He’s a kilt wearer. And this year we released a Scotty Wallace t-shirt design in dozens of different clan tartans. So whether you’re buying for an Anderson or an Urquhart, you can guarantee Scotty will match their kilt design while at the same time delivering a snarky wise-ass comment. It’s what Scotty does best. What else could a smart and stylish kilt wearer possibly want?

From Life In A Kilt Shop
$19.19 and up.

9. Pipe Band Style Kilt Hose

No one wants to get socks for Christmas. Except kilt wearers! We love them! It seems we never have enough kilt hose around the house and, even when we do, they always seem to be the wrong color. If it was only possible to have a pair in several different colors stashed away, our kilt accessory arsenal would be complete. Well, now it is not only possible but affordable with these piper-style kilt hose from J. Higgins. The mostly acrylic hose are available in extra small to extra large and feature a handsome double fold cuff for a thicker calf look. If you don’t know what that means, take my word for it. It’s what all of us kilt guys look for in kilt hose. It looks great and makes a secure band for our favorite sgian dubh. With such a low price, consider buying three or four pair in various colors to make your kilt person three or four times happier.

From J. Higgins

10. Red Hot Chilli Pipers Music

Everyone thinks all kilt wearers play bagpipes. We don’t. In fact, we don’t all even like bagpipes. But it’s a documented fact that all kilt wearers like good music and we all like bagpipes if they are part of good music. It’s true. If you don’t believe me, stuff your kilt dude’s (or dudette’s) stocking with a CD from kilted bagpipe players of good music, Red Hot Chilli Pipers! No doubt you’ve heard of these guys or seen their unforgettable performances on television. They do bagpipes like no one else. They call their music “Bagpipes with attitude, drums with a Scottish accent and a show so hot it carries its own health warning.” In fact, if you develop medical issues while listening to them, I prescribe CPR. That’s “Chilli Piper Resuscitation.”

From Red Hot Chilli Pipers

11. Salty Dog Cruise With Flogging Molly

ATTENTION: Sailing the sea, kilted, with one of the greatest Irish/American rock bands ever to exist might possibly be the best Christmas gift in the history of Christmas gifts! Seriously! And if you’re willing to give a Christmas gift with a few months delay in the payoff, Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise is your opportunity to give your kiltie the best Christmas gift they will ever receive in their life! 20 bands, including Flogging Molly, will gather for a 3 day cruise in April aboard the luxurious Norwegian Sky. Your cruise cost includes food, beverages, a free open bar, all concerts and ship amenities. The cruise will depart from Miami and stop in key West and Great Stirrup Cay and will be leaving your kilted butt behind if you don’t hurry up and make reservations. Don’t forget sunscreen and your sunglasses to protect your eyes from going skinblind from all the glowing white Celt skin frolicking in the sun.

From Flogging Molly Cruise
$799 per person. Prices may change. Call 215-663-8800 for availability and restrictions.

12. Tartan County Cap

Help keep your kilt wearer’s noggin toasty and protected with a stylish tartan cap from the world-famous Scottish Tartan Museum. The “country cap” style of hat is very popular today, especially with kilt wearers but they’re also the perfect way to show off your clan tartan on non-kilt days. In fact, a cap like this might be the perfect starter garment for the curious non-kilt wearer. Once they get a taste of tartan-wearing on their heed, they’re bound to want to wrap the fèileadh around their lower regions. These are perfect gifts for kilt aficionados of all ages, sexes and nationalities. Sorry, not recommended for the headless.

From Scottish Tartans Museum

13. Tushy Classic

Let’s be honest, there are battalions of men out there wearing their kilts “regimental.” As the saying goes, “It’s a kilt. If I wore something under it then it would be a skirt.” Whether it’s proper kilt wearing etiquette or not, the reality is, few of us would be very comfortable taking a seat exactly where a “proper” kilted gentleman was just sitting. Am I right? Regarding cleanliness and hygiene, none of us want to take a chance that the previous occupant of our pub seat is unfortunately terrible with TP technique. So, to ensure your own kilted buddy is guaranteed “squeaky clean,” why not give him or her a classic bidet attachment by Tushy? But don’t just take my word for it, the Tushy website says it best: “The TUSHY White and Silver Classic fits your bathroom with a sleek timeless look for the classiest poops you’ve ever had. Our classic bidet attachment washes your bum with a refreshing stream of clean water after you poop.” Yep. That’s what it does all right. And confession time. I bought one of these and it may be one of my most favorite purchases ever. In fact, I love it so much I just bought another one for my second bathroom. It’s that good. It’s easy to hook up and easy to use and… all right, yes, damnit, it’s FUN to use as well! AND it has a price that won’t wipe you out. Yes, I said it. Sorry.

From Tushy

14. Women’s Poly Viscose Mini Kilt

Men seem to get all of the best kilt gifts but at Life In A Kilt we’re always looking out for the ladies too. Often it can be difficult to find the perfect kilt for your favorite women friends and family. Men’s kilts may be too long or too bulky for them and some women’s kilts are so short they could double as a beer can koozy. USA Kilts offers a modern, fashionable tartan kilt for women that still keeps some aspects of a traditional kilt. It’s made with machine washable 11 – 12oz weight poly viscose and available in a multiple selection of tartans. Whether your woman friend would like to celebrate her own Scottish heritage or simply show her support by matching your family tartan, receiving her own kilt would be a perfect Christmas gift.

From USA Kilts

15. Custom Sgian Dubh

Face it, most sgian dubh are crap. I have a half dozen of them right now that couldn’t stab pudding. If I was ever attacked by someone with the intent of doing me major bodily harm, the best I could possibly manage with one of my sgian dubh is open a letter from the local sheriff telling the offender to back off. Assuming the letter was wet. How the Scottish “black knife” devolved from a deadly weapon to an object that could be defeated by a fourth grader with a butter knife is a mystery but it doesn’t have to be that way. In ancient times, sgian dubh were custom forged by skilled blacksmiths or weapon specialists. One edge was lethally sharpened while the handle was hand-carved from wood, bone or stag horns. Rab Gordon of Rannea Studio still makes sgian dubh this way, each one a work of art in itself. Rab’s Sgian Dubhs have their own unique character and identity with their own individual serial number. Many are commissioned as heirlooms to be passed on to the next generation. It’s an heirloom that also instills pride, security, protection and style making one of Rannea Studio’s sgain dubh an exceptional holiday gift.

From Rainnea Studio
Contact for pricing.

16. Haggis

I’m vegetarian but this year at a Burns Supper I decided to try a little bit of haggis. It was the first meat I’d eaten in almost 25 years but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity when it presented itself to me. I’ve always been curious about what it tastes like. And honestly? It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I certainly didn’t think it deserves the bad reputation it gets from the non haggis eaters. I don’t have plans to eat more of it soon but I think if I did ever found myself eating meat again, I would have no problem piling haggis on to my plate. It’s especially tasty with “tatties” (“potatoes” for you non haggis eaters). If your own Scottish meat eater has never tried haggis, why not give a gift of haggis from McKean’s, haggis makers since 1850. Their carefully blended recipe uses only the finest Scottish oats, accompanied with their secret mix of herbs and spices. It’s a tasty gift your friends are guaranteed not to receive from anyone else and it may, just possibly, bump the Christmas turkey or ham right off this year’s holiday table.

From McKean’s
From £24.00

17. Scottish Beer Gift Set

Every year I run across more than one person on my gift list so difficult to buy presents for, I wish I could just buy them beer and call it done. Well, thanks to Spirited Gifts’ Scottish Beer 12 pack Gift Set I can now do that very thing while still looking classy and honoring my giftee’s cultural ancestry. According to Spirited Gifts, the Celtic tradition of beer has been produced in Scotland for approximately 5,000 years. The Scots like their beer strong and heavy and these beers were aptly nicknamed “Wee Heavies.” Scottish ales are generally dark, malty, full-bodied brews and many have a hint of smokiness derived from the use of peated malt. The Scottish Beer Gift Set includes a sampler of the best that Scotland has to offer so send your favorite Scot on a taste trip to the motherland even while they sit on their couch in their underwear.

From Spirited Gifts
From $120

What’s Your Kilt Number?

What's Your Kilt Number

We’ve all seen those television commercials for a certain mattress company where the couples discuss their “sleep number.” Unfortunately, I’m not rich enough to have one on those mattresses (which reminds me, visit the Life In A Kilt Store and buy stuff) so I have no idea what those numbers mean. I don’t know if 72 is hard or soft. I don’t know if 151 is up or down. And aside from the fact that, at middle age, my ability to control hard and soft and up and down ain’t what it used to be, I don’t really care about sleep numbers. My interest is in the Kilt Number. What’s your Kilt Number?

The Kilt Number is simply a number invented by an incredibly smart, handsome, studly kilt-wearer, who can’t tell up from down. Yeah, okay, I invented it. The sole purpose of the Kilt Number is just to evaluate how often you wear kilts compared to how often you wear pants in your life. Let’s face it, not everyone can wear a kilt 24/7 but if you are able to do so, your Kilt Number would read like this:


That little equation, for those slower than I, means Kilt Number [K#] Equals [=] 100 [100% of time in kilts] Compared To [/] 0 [0% of time in pants]. I should point out right here that I flunked algebra in high school so I consciously devised an equation that is both simple and nonsensical. But it still kind of works, you know?

The equation has no purpose other than just to make it somewhat easier for those of us who wish to communicate to others the amount of time we spend in a kilt. It’s not meant as a number of superiority nor fertility. It doesn’t mean, necessarily, that a K#=85/15 can toss the caber farther than, say, a K#=5/95. That’s what Highland Games are designed to settle. It’s really just a simple number designed  to inspire more Facebook arguments and insults personal growth and self confidence. It’s a number just for fun. Entertainment only. Please no betting or wagering.

In 2012, when I started “A Year In A Kilt,” my Kilt Number was K#=100/0. I wore a kilt every day. That was the purpose of the experiment. A month after I stopped “A Year In A Kilt,” my Kilt Number probably dropped to K#=25/75. After spending every second of a year in a kilt, I think I wanted to say “hello” to my neglected pants friends again. It wasn’t long before my Kilt Number started increasing again and I was back in high marks right about the time I decided to kick off “Life In A Kilt.”

As of today, my Kilt Number fluctuates depending upon weather, schedule, events and work. I often work from home and make very little effort to get out of sweat (or sleep) pants. Those days definitely bring my Kilt Number down. Sometimes it isn’t practical at work for me to wear my kilt. Again, my Kilt Number takes a hit on those days. And then, there are those sweltering Atlanta summer days when I need to make a quick run out to the grocery store and it’s much simpler to put on a pair of shorts than to buckle up my kilt, belt, sporran and boots. Those are the “shame hits” to my Kilt Number. I know it doesn’t really matter to anyone but me but those are the ways I know I can improve my Kilt Number score over time. Maybe it will make me feel more like a man, I don’t know.

The ancient Scots didn’t have a Kilt Number. They wore their kilts every damn day. And if they weren’t wearing it, it meant they were probably naked and doing things with your woman you don’t want to know. But this is the modern times and we thrive on competition. We need numbers and scores to tell us how we are doing and if we might, in fact, be #1 in our division, region or maybe even the world. We thrive by counting our steps, calculating our BMI and evaluating the individual stats of our Fantasy League players. Knowing our Kilt Number will give us a new daily goal and fill us with the necessary pride and superiority to live in this 21st Century. And we’ll never again have to worry about going soft.


15 Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Men who Wear Kilts

Now that Mother’s Day has come and gone, the fathers in our lives will soon have their turn. On June 18, dads and granddads all over will be hit with an onslaught of items emblazoned with some variation of the phrase “World’s Best Dad.”

But if the special daddy in your life wears a kilt, then the average Father’s Day gift just won’t do. Sure, you can fall back on the usual necktie or coffee mug. But why settle for the same-old, same-old when you can choose a gift that honors your favorite kilted men?

Men who wear kilts deserve a Father’s Day gift that speaks to them personally and shows you went the extra mile in thoughtfulness. So if you’re looking to get your kilt-wearing father or grandfather an exceptional gift on his special day, here’s a list of ideas to help you do just that.

Deluxe Antique Thistle Leather Sporran

No kilt is complete without an accompanying sporran. This beauty is crafted of fine leather and boasts a magnificent antique-finish thistle medallion. Three elegant chain tassels add a regal touch, making this sporran fit for a laird.

Clan Crest Kilt Belt Buckles

These pewter belt buckles are made in dozens of Irish and Scottish family names so your kilt-wearing dad can add a badge of clan honor to his outfit. Perfect for the next Highland Games or clan gathering, or any occasion that calls for Celtic pride.

Scottish-Irish Sash

Skip the plain old necktie and get your special dad a gorgeous sash in a range of Scottish and Irish tartan patterns. It also comes in tartans representing the Armed Forces and several US states.

Stag Horn Sgian Brew

This variation on the traditional sgian dubh is cleverly converted into a bottle opener for wearing in public places where weapons aren’t allowed. Not to mention convenience for the next trip to the pub.

Personalized Whiskey Barrel

This lovely barrel comes in three different size options and can be personalized to your specifications in a number of different font types. It’s a thoughtful gift, and it’ll make your dad the most popular guy on the block.

Piper Etched Pewter Tankard

Your kilt-wearing dad can enjoy his favorite beverage in this beautiful tankard that features an intricate engraving of a kilted bagpiper. However, Dad will have to provide his own bagpipe music.

Scottish Meat Pies

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so treat your father to a taste of Scotland with a savory meat pie. Beef, lamb, chicken, pork, and beans are among the flavor choices for these tasty treats, which Dad might share if you ask him really

Whisky Honey

Possibly the best culinary pairing since peanut butter and chocolate. Your dad can spread it on his morning toast, add to his favorite tea, or you could use it to make him a batch of baked goods with an extra kick-up-the-arse.

Walton’s Scottish Tin Whistle Value Pack

For the kilted music-loving dad. The instruction booklet features traditional Scottish favorites, so your dad can learn to play in no time. Just make sure he doesn’t play it too loud—don’t want the neighbors to be unhappy!

Celtic Cross Bodhran

A majestic Celtic cross graces the head of this classic Celtic drum. It comes with a cover, a beater, and an instructional DVD. Suggestion: Throw in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for yourself.

Scottish Spurtle

In case you don’t know, a spurtle is an iconic Scottish kitchen tool, mainly used for preparing that Scottish breakfast of champions—porridge. If your kilt-wearing dad likes puttering around in the kitchen, this will be a Father’s Day gift that keeps on giving.

Scottish Thistle Flask

A flask is a useful item for any kilt-wearer. Decorated with a Scottish thistle, this stainless-steel flask can hold whisky, water, or whatever your dad likes to quench his thirst.

Hopped Up Coffee Scottish Ale

Here’s another beverage idea for the flask mentioned above. Now your dad can enjoy his morning coffee with an extra kick. This specialty coffee combines delicious Scottish flavors for a brew he’s sure to love.

Acorn TV

Does your dad love UK television shows? Give him a gift he can use with a subscription to Acorn, the premier website for the best British TV shows so he can enjoy his favorite stories commercial-free. Great for when he has a weekend to himself or when he needs to zone out.


The Naughty Little Book of Gaelic

Nobody does “naughty” like the Scots. Celtic scholar Michael Newman has assembled all the dirtiest bits of Gaelic into an entertaining little book. Dad will have endless fun mastering all kinds of curses for different occasions from the barroom to the bedroom. Not for the easily offended, but if your father wears his sense of humor as well as a kilt, go for it.

All the ideas on this list are just suggestions, but they’ll give you plenty of inspiration. So if you know an awesome father or grandfather who wears a kilt, show him how much you care by getting them a Father’s Day gift that speaks to him in a language he can understand. By giving him a memorable gift, you’ll touch his heart and let him know how much he means to you. To all the dads out there, kilted or otherwise, Happy Father’s Day! Or, as they say in Scotland, Beannachd Latha na Athair Dhut!

—Heather McNamara

A Tartan for Everyone: A Guide to Non-Scottish Tartans

If you’re interested in wearing a kilt, chances are at some point you’ve wondered which tartan you should wear. There are literally thousands of tartans to choose from. You may decide to wear the tartan of your Scottish ancestors or a tartan associated with a particular district of Scotland.

But what if you don’t know which part of Scotland your ancestors came from?  And what if you’re not Scottish at all?

nonscottartansYou absolutely do NOT have to be Scottish to wear a tartan. While tartan patterns may be associated with the Highland Scots and wearing kilts, tartan patterns have been woven all over the world for centuries. You also don’t have to worry about not belonging to a particular clan to wear that clan’s tartan. Most Scots of a particular clan would actually be quite tickled; after all, out of thousands of possible tartans, you chose theirs!

No matter what your ancestry, there is a tartan out there for you. To help you decide which tartan you’d like to wear, here is a guide to the range of possible tartans to choose from.

Universal Tartans

There are certain tartans that are not specific to any Scottish clan and can be worn by anyone. The most popular of these is the Royal Stewart tartan. It is believed to have been worn by supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Other universal tartans include the Flower of Scotland, Heritage of Scotland, Highland Granite, and Caledonia Tartans. These are appropriate for anyone regardless of ethnicity or nationality. They would also be good if you think you may be Scottish but aren’t exactly sure where your ancestors came from.

National Tartans

Prolific tartan designer David McGill has created tartans for several nations of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Many of McGill’s designs were created in recognition of Scotland’s close ties with these countries. For instance, countless European nations such as France, Germany, Denmark, Iceland, and Poland have ancient links to Scotland, having shared cultures and ideas for centuries. If you have any European ancestry, there is almost certainly a tartan for you. The continent of Europe also has its own special tartan, which was created after World War II as a symbol of international peace.

African tribes have their own ancient traditions of weaving tartan patterns. The Masai of Kenya are particularly known for their contribution to this beautiful art. The aforementioned Mr. McGill also has a “Tartans for Africa” collection, featuring tartans for 24 African nations from Angola to Zimbabwe. He has also produced tartans for Asian countries such as China, Japan, and the hopeful nation of Kurdistan. All of McGill’s designs can be found at his International Tartans website.

Tartans exist for practically every nation and ethnic group. No matter what your ancestry, there’s a tartan out there that lets you fly your colors with pride.

Tartans of Ireland and Other Celtic Nations

The Celtic world comprises six nations: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, The Isle of Man, Cornwall, and Brittany. While tartans have been created for the other five nations, this is a subject with a fair amount of controversy.

There is evidence that the weaving of tartans was practiced by all Celtic peoples in ancient times. However, it must be stressed that no other Celtic nation besides Scotland has any tradition of family or district tartans. The Irish tartans that you see advertised in catalogs are recent inventions created to fill the demand for tartans of other Celtic nations.


Irish National Tartan

Some early Irish carvings and illustrations show Irish warriors wearing a leine, a knee-length tunic belted at the waist and often mistaken for a kilt. But there is no definitive evidence that the kilt was worn by any Celts outside Scotland.

In the early 20th century, Irish nationalists advocated wearing solid black or dark green kilts as a symbol of resistance against all things English. This practice never caught on in Ireland, but it took off in the Irish diaspora, where people wanted to show pride in their heritage. This led to an increasing demand for Irish tartans. The first Irish tartans appeared in Celtic catalogs in the mid-1990s. Tartans for other Celtic nations soon followed.

Today, the kilt has become a symbol of pride to all Celtic people. As far as we know, the kilt is the only piece of traditional Celtic dress to survive into modern times. That’s something any Celt can be proud of. If you like Irish or other Celtic tartans, by all means wear them and enjoy them. Just don’t believe it when people tell you they’re of ancient origin.

US State and Canadian Provincial Tartans

An estimated nine to twenty million Americans claim Scottish ancestry. There are millions more who have Scottish ancestry but don’t know it.

Scottish-Americans have played a major part in American history from the beginning. Half the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent. So were 11 American Presidents, half the Secretaries of the Treasury, and one-third of the Secretaries of State. With contributions to our nation like these, Americans of Scottish descent can hold their heads up high.

There are 34 American states that have their own tartan. There are an additional 630 tartans representing American companies, cities, police and fire departments, military organizations, schools and universities, sports teams, Highland games, and a wide range of organizations.

In 1998, the US Senate declared April 6 National Tartan Day to recognize the contributions of Scottish Americans to the United States. The first Tartan Day Parade was held in New York City in 1999. It is now an annual event boasting hundreds of pipers, thousands of marchers, and still thousands more cheering from the sidelines in celebration of Scottish pride. Grand Marshalls of the Tartan Day Parade have ranged from noted actors such as Sir Sean Connery to members of Scottish Parliament to prominent kilt designers. This single parade has exploded into a whole week of events including performances by Celtic musicians, exhibitions of kilt collections, presentations, and lectures on notable Scottish Americans.

With the exception of Nunavut, each province of Canada has its own tartan. The colors of these tartans tend to reflect the natural beauty of Canada, such as forests, maple leaves, wheat fields, snow, and the sea.

The map of Canada is sprinkled with Scottish place and family names. Scores of Canadian towns, rivers, and mountains have been named for famous Scots. Notable Canadians of Scottish heritage include John A. MacDonald, the country’s first prime minister; Alexander MacKenzie, the first man to find a route from the East Coast to the West Coast; entrepreneurs such as Donald Alexander Smith, founder of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and Robert Dunsmuir, who became Canada’s first millionaire thanks to building Vancouver Island’s first railway link; and James Douglas, the “Father of BC,” who transformed a small trading post on Vancouver Island into the province of British Columbia.

In the 1960s, Canadians of Scottish descent comprised the nation’s third-largest ethnic group after English and French Canadians. Canadians of Scottish descent have carved out a niche in Canadian history that endures to the present, giving all Canadians something to be proud of.

The Scottish have enriched the histories of the United States and Canada with their contributions to politics, the economy, and numerous other fields. That’s a wonderful reason for any American or Canadian to wear tartan, regardless of ancestry or ethnicity.

Corporate, Organizational, and Military Tartans

There are a number of businesses that have designed their own tartans to promote themselves and unite their employees. The earliest known corporate tartan is that of the Highland Spring mineral water company, established in 1987. Today, companies that have tartans include American Express, Holiday Inn, Compaq, Land’s End, and Tommy Hilfiger. These tartans may be worn by company employees, members, or affiliates. Several charitable organizations have tartans as well, such as the Salvation Army and Amnesty International, Even the Olympic Games has a tartan of its own.

Christian priests and ministers also have their own special tartan. The Clergy Tartan does not represent any particular sect or denomination, so any clergyman may wear it. There is also an Episcopal Tartan designed to mark the bicentennial of the death of the United States’ first Episcopal bishop, and which honors the clergy of the Episcopal Churches of Scotland and the US.

fire fighter tartan

The Firefighter Tartan

Many police forces have their own tartans. Police pipe and drum bands across the world wear tartans when they participate in marches and other special occasions. Police tartans include, but are not limited to, the International Police Association tartan and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police tartan. There is also the Firefighter tartan which honors American firefighters. Designer Linda Clifford makes a donation to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation with every purchase of this tartan.

The use of military tartans can be traced back to the 18th century. In 1725, General George Wade organized the Highland Watches, a militia intended to keep the peace among Highland clans, prevent cattle raiding, and enforce the new disarmament laws. Wade used a tartan pattern to boost the morale of his troops, who would eventually become the Black Watch regiment, and for a time would be the only troops allowed to wear tartan of any kind. Today, several military branches such as the Marines and the Coast Guard have a tartan that has become part of their identity, as do military academies such as West Point and the Citadel. If you’ve served in the military or your family has a history of military service, you might consider wearing a tartan of your military branch.

Celebrity Tartans

In recent times, several famous people have had tartans created in recognition of their talents and gifts to the world. The late Diana, Princess of Wales, for instance, has a tartan designed to honor her for her tireless humanitarian work during her lifetime. Earlier this year, legendary musician Prince was honored after his untimely death with the Purple Rain Tartan, inspired by the star’s signature hit song.

Living people have been honored with tartans as well. In 2014, Caitrionation, fans of Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, star of the hit TV series Outlander, created the Caitriot Tartan to celebrate the one-year anniversary of her casting. The tartan was designed with Ms. Balfe’s favorite colors and hand-woven by fan and master weaver Susan Targove. The finished tartan cloth was presented to Ms. Balfe by her fans along with a donation to World Child Cancer, a cancer research charity which she supports. The Caitriot Tartan is officially registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans.

Design Your Own Tartan

Still can’t find a tartan you like? Thanks to the power of the Internet, you can design your own tartan! Several websites allow users to design their own unique tartan. These sites allow you to experiment with color combinations and thread count, produce an image, use a screen capture to send in a document or Internet file, and order products featuring your own tartan design.

Before you start work on your masterpiece, though, it helps to know a few things about tartan aesthetics and history. Otherwise, your tartan could come out a real eyesore.

First, know the reason why you’re creating your own tartan design. Is it for your personal use? Is it for your company? Your church? A community organization? The story behind the tartan matters as much as the design, so it’s important to establish your reasons for designing the tartan before you start.

Next, read up on tartan history and study existing tartan patterns. As you familiarize yourself with different tartans, learn to analyze what makes a good pattern. Notice the combinations of colors and their position in the tartans and the narrowness of lines. Ask yourself why good tartans work the way they do and then apply what you learn to your own design. And don’t rush it. A good tartan takes time to develop. Play with various colors and line thicknesses until you find a design that appeals to you.

When you’ve got a design that you’re happy with, you may wish to have it woven into a piece of cloth. There are several different companies you can hire to weave your tartan for you. However, try to find a local weaver. This will make it easier for you to consult with the weaver about materials, thread count, and the size of the pattern. You’ll be doing your part to support local businesses, too.

Anyone can wear tartan, regardless of race, nationality, or religion. There is a tartan out there for everyone, no matter where you live or where your ancestors came from. Choose the tartan that appeals the most to you, and wear it with pride.

—Heather McNamara

Care for the Casual Kilt

Good day to everyone! Hope the new year has been kind thus far, and may we keep the good times rolling!

In my previous article, I discussed the “why” and “how” a kilt should be worn. Hopefully many of you now have your new wardrobe additions, so I shall take this time to address several things that must be taken into consideration with new-found kilt ownership, namely care and cleaning.

Our primary form of kilt care is prevention; after all, if we avoid the things that get our pleats in peril, then we haven’t got much to worry about now do we? Be mindful of sitting on pavement or chairs that could have dirt/spills on them. Be sure to spot-treat any dark liquid (beer, scotch, juices) by dabbing with a damp cloth or a Tide-To-Go pen to prevent any heavy staining. Do your best to avoid rough paper towels as they can cause the wool of your tartan to start pilling and can pull dye out of your fabric.

Traditionally, kilts of any and all kinds should only be dry cleaned. I generally suggest only this method, even if your particular kilt states machine washing is fine. This may take a little extra legwork in taking your kilts to a dry cleaner and picking them up later, but you will greatly preserve the color and life of your kilts by not roughing them up with harsh detergents and vigorous tumbling in the wash. It will also keep your pleats much nicer and prolong the life of your buckles and the shape/fit of your kilt. Luckily, though, given the nature of our garments, kilts rarely require more than one a month, or bi-monthly washing. I personally have my kilts cleaned once every other month, or once every 30-60 wears. Of course, if the liner and waistline get a little on the “ripe” side, you should have your kilt cleaned. After all, if we are going to dress sharply, we should only smell of fine scotch and finer aftershave, no?

cleaning supplies

I highly suggest having an in-depth conversation with your dry cleaner to ensure they are fully aware of how to care for the kilt. Most dry cleaners will say “sure no problem,” but they will treat it as a pleated women’s skirt and can seriously ruin your kilt. Dry cleaner chemicals can rough up and crack leather buckles, and the presses they use can flatten and square your kilt, ruining the fit. Kilts naturally taper into your waistline, so I strongly suggest asking the cleaner to never press your garment for you. Press them yourself when you get them home.

To avoid the risks involved in dealing with professional cleaners, there are safer alternatives. We can keep our tartans clean at home. Personally, I don’t have access to a dry cleaner I feel comfortable surrendering hundreds of dollars of my day-to-day clothing to, so I did some research and I’ve discovered the best system for keeping kilts as fresh as day one. After an initial investment, these methods are even cheaper than professional cleaners and with the same results.


  • Tide To Go Pen (or other bleach-free spot treat pen)
  • Woolite At-Home Dry Cleaner
  • Meltonian Mink oil (or your favorite all color leather conditioner)
  • Damp Cotton Cloth and Iron (For after cleaning pressing)


  • Steam cleaner (I personally use a Steamfast SF-510)
  • Dritz Sweater Stone

Start by preparing the kilt for our home cleaning process. Our primary goals here are spot treatments of any highly visible stains, and the protection of our buckles and straps to prevent drying and cracking/warping. Apply a generous coating of Mink-oil (or your favorite leather conditioner) to the straps of your kilt to protect them from the heat of the dryer. Next, use the Tide-To-Go pen to lightly treat and loosen stains, then blot them with a cloth to start pulling them out of the wool. Finally, take two or three of the treated kilts and, with the Woolite Dry-clean At Home kit’s moist towelette, put them in a dryer on medium heat for 20-30 minutes.

oiled straps

BE CAREFUL WHEN REMOVING YOUR KILTS FROM THE DRYER! Your buckles will be extremely hot and you could get burned while handling your freshened kilts. By now the mink oil should be well-soaked into your leather straps and they will be nice and supple. The Woolite dry cleaner cloth should have removed the stains and eliminated any odors previously present. But you are not yet ready to darn the pleats and resume your status as the “Noble Highlander of your domain” just yet! Those pleats must be redressed and we must inspect the kilt for any pilling of the wool, and decide if they are severe enough for removal.

For pleat restoration, lay the kilt flat on a table or ironing board. Place a damp cloth over the first pleat from apron and press. Do not drag the iron across or down your pleats. Repeat the process over the length of the pleat and each pleat until finished, then press the waistline and apron nice and neat. Finally, take the Dritz Sweater Stone and gently rub it across any severe pilling of the wool. I do not suggest using any other method such as electric shavers or a razor/tape method, as these will over time just create unsightly holes in your kilt. The steam cleaner mentioned above can be used to supplement the home dry-cleaning cleaning process and does wonders for a quick freshen up of the fabric if need be.

Voila! We have successfully revitalized our kilts to all of their freedom-inducing glory! Close your buckles and neatly hang your kilts using purpose-made kilt hangers (these feed through your belt loops on the back of the kilt) or just clip them into a pants hanger and hang until it’s time to wear them again. You can also place them lengthwise in a drawer designated specifically for your kilt. Each kilt washing will save you, on average, about $6 USD and save a ton of money from having to buy new kilts when they fall apart due to improper care!

May your pleats be crisp, and your scotch be neat!

— Pip

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