The History of Kilt Accessorises

Scotland's most famous outfit - The Kilt, has many key accessories. Here are some origin stories and theories for each accessory! 

Sgian Dubh (Ski-en-doo):

Gaellic definition - Black Dagger. Sgian meaning blade or dagger and Dubh meaning Black.

Many believe that the Sgian Dubh originated from the Sgian Achlais, commonly known as the armpit dagger. This was a knife that was hidden in the upper pocket of the man’s jacket just under their left arm. Upon entering a friend or acquaintances house it was common courtesy to have no hidden or concealed weapons on them. The men would remove their Sgian Achlais and tuck it into one of their socks, held in place comfortably by the sock garter or flashes. Though the men had to declare any weapons it was common for women to have separate rules. Most women carried a weapon upon them, their skirts had many fold and a lot of material creating a secret pocket in the folds of their skirts. By removing their weapon it would show where it was concealed thus giving the enemies ideas about where to search them. Many people think women hid these weapons in their kilts under their aprons. However, women did not wear kilts, it was never traditional for women to dress in kilts and has become more of a tourist notion.

This is one of the theories of the origin of the Sgian Dubh as many think the Dubh "Black"; is a connotation of hidden or concealed.

The other common theory is that it was part of a set of skinning knives. The small knife is tucked into the top of the kilted man's socks. The 3 to 4 inch blade has become more decorative and ornamental over the years but to start with they would have been a simple blade with a wooden handle or perhaps antler.

The Kilt and the sporran: The traditional kilt was a non-tailored piece of fabric 2 yards wide and 4 to 6 yards in length. It was usually wrapped and then pinned on the left shoulder by a brooch or pin and tightly gathered around the waist by a belt. They had many names but "Feileadh Mor" is one of the most common ones or to the English - “Big Kilt”. The kilt was more practical for the terrain of the highlands as it allowed freedom of movement, provided warmth, was quicker at drying than trousers and was more comfortable to dry whilst wearing. When unwound it could be used as a cloak to protect in bad weather or as a blanket whilst sleeping rough. The only downside of the kilt was the lack of pockets which lead to the invention of the sporran. Early versions of the sporran were made from leather or skin or sometimes even both!  Deer and calfskin were particularly common. The Sporran had incredibly simple designs and were gathered together by a drawstring at the top. They have evolved over the years to have brass and silver catches and some even had traps set so that any thief would get punished for breaking in. Originally Sporrans were used to carry ammunition and rations but now are used to hold all sorts of items.

The Kilt Pin: The origin of the kilt pin is unknown as there are so many stories about it. It came into style during Queen Victoria's reign, rumour has it that it was used to stop the Queen from seeing more of the male anatomy than she wished to see. It is said that Victoria gave a Scottish Man her own brooch to help with his struggles against the wind whilst wearing his kilt. She then introduced that all Military Kilts must be fastened. This led to all those wearing the traditional outfits to show off their wealth and outdo one another.

The Kilt pin is worn on the lower corner of the apron to weigh it down and stop it from falling open. It is not however used to attach the top apron to the inner fabric as this would cause the kilt to hang in an unusual fashion.

Interested in these accessories? You can find all of them and more on our online shop - or feel free to pop into our shop on the South Bridge in Edinburgh (more details on our website).