Traditional Irish Men's Clothing

Written by britt barclay
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Traditional Irish Men's Clothing
Ireland is the western island of Great Britain. (British Isles Map: Red image by Phil2048 from

The Celtic people of Ireland wore what is today considered traditional Irish clothing. When King Henry VIII gained power he outlawed the traditional clothing and forced the Irish people to conform to the dress standards of the English. Traditional Irish clothing is made from wool as there was an abundance of sheep in Ireland at the time. The men wore both kilts and trews, both of which often bore pleats. Saffron in particular was an extremely popular dye in traditional Irish clothing.


Though kilts were occasionally worn, they were a traditional form of dress of the Scottish adopted by the Irish. Trews were the most common form of garments worn by men to cover their legs; they reached anywhere from the ankles or knees to the lower part of a man’s abdomen. The origin of the word trousers can be traced back to the word trews. Trews were made of wool, and some pairs had leather on the inside of the legs to reduce wear when on horseback. Trews would have been either solid in colour, or they would have displayed the family tartan. The wool used for trews was cut into patterns on a cross grain to give some elasticity to the garments for enhanced comfort and fit.


The brat was a large rectangular cloak with fringes on its edges. Along with tartan-bearing trews, fringed cloaks were one of the main garments abolished by King Henry VIII’s Dress Act of 1746. The wealthier men wore larger brats, as there was a correlation between wealth and brat size. They were fastened over the shoulders by a brooch and could be fastened in many different ways depending on the weather. For example, if it was hot, the brat was worn with more folds. In wet weather, the brat was worn in such a manner that it would cover the shoulders. Brats usually had patterns around the edges and bore the tartan of the wearer.


The leine was a linen undergarment made of wool that was most often dyed with saffron. It can be likened to the modern day shirt. The leine was worn to cover the upper body and to serve as a layer beneath the brat. As was the case with the brat, the wealthier Irish men would wear a longer leine. The leine would be draped over the shoulders and could reach anywhere from slightly below the waist to below the knee. The length, partially dependent on wealth, was also determined by the type of trews being worn.


The inar was a jacket for colder weather. It was worn instead of the leine, and extended below the waist. A belt was worn at the waist, and the portion of the garment that fell below the belt would have been pleated. Soldiers also commonly wore inars.


Royalty in Ireland traditionally wore red. This colour was expensive and reserved for the highest of upper classmen. The middle class constituted most of the population, and they were most often found wearing a combination of grey, black and yellow. These colours came from the natural colouring of the wool and from the saffron dye. The lowest class were allowed to wear whatever they could afford, though this was generally earth coloured garments that were old and used.

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