Traditional Irish Kilts for Boys

Written by stephanie mitchell
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Traditional Irish Kilts for Boys
The Irish kilt is modelled on the Scottish kilt. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

There has been much historical debate regarding the Irish kilt and whether or not it is genuinely traditional. Scholars have concluded that the kilt did not arrive in Ireland until long after it was known in Scotland, but it was worn by men and boys in Ireland to represent nationalism and under occasional other circumstances as early as the mid-19th century.


The Irish tradition of wearing kilts is relatively young, dating from the mid-to-late 19th century. Kilts were introduced into Ireland by British soldiers who had discovered them in Scotland, and Irish nationalists began to wear kilts around the beginning of the 20th century. The traditional Irish kilt is worn by boys and is usually a solid colour. Irish kilts are available in the tartan patterns associated with Scottish kilts, but most of those designs were invented in 1996 by a Scottish company called the House of Edgar (


There is a misconception that the Irish kilt actually predates the Scottish kilt. While there are ancient stone carvings in Ireland that seem to show men wearing kilts, the figures in these carvings are in fact wearing long linen tunics called the lein-croich. Lein-croich are full-length garments, while kilts do not cover anything above the waist. The legends that have developed about Irish kilts being as ancient as these stone carvings stem from this misunderstanding. Although Irish-Americans enjoy wearing kilts, Irish in Ireland consider it mainly to be a Scottish garment.

Traditional Irish Kilts for Boys
Ancient carvings appear all over Ireland, and some seem to depict men in kilts. (Jupiterimages/ Images)


Kilts are generally only worn on particular occasions in Ireland. They are often worn by men at Irish weddings, both in Ireland and around the world, and are becoming more traditional for such celebrations. They are also worn by bagpipe ensembles. Military pipe ensembles wear solid-coloured kilts in saffron, and non-military pipe ensembles wear tartan kilts modelled after the Scottish tartan designs. In the early 1900s, kilts were the uniform for boys at St. Edna's School for Boys, but they are not worn as a uniform anymore outside of military pipe bands.

Traditional Irish Kilts for Boys
Kilts were briefly worn as the uniform at a boys' school in Ireland to demonstrate nationalism. ( Images)


While the Scottish kilt is traditionally made in a plaid material called tartan, with different colours representing different clans, the Irish kilt was originally solid in colour. The tartan patterns in which Irish kilts are sold were designed in the 1990s to represent counties in Ireland, rather than clans, and are mostly woven in Scotland and sold in America. There is one tartan pattern, representing Ulster, that is truly traditional and dates back to the 1600s; however, it was not used in Irish dress until 1970, and even then it was not used specifically for kilts but also for girls' skirts and dresses.

Traditional Irish Kilts for Boys
The iconic look of a man in a tartan kilt is not traditionally Irish. (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

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