The Question - What Do You Wear Under A Kilt?

This famous question is one which every boy and man who wears a kilt has to face. Many non kilt wearers also often ask this question to those of us who wear kilts.
In another posting kiltpants asked for information regarding types of underwear worn with the kilt and the following provides some details for the period from the 1940’s through to the current day. I grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s and first wore a kilt when I was about 9. I have worn kilts on a fairly regular basis since then and still do. I wore green or navy blue girls knickers on all occasions until I was around 17 and then started to wear nothing under my kilt for normal day to day wear, only wearing green or navy blue men’s bikini briefs when I am at functions where I will be dancing and there is a high probability that my kilt will swing high enough to reveal what I am wearing under my kilt. Although I found the knickers comfortable to wear I find wearing nothing is even more comfortable. My notes include personal experiences and also those of family, friends and other acquaintances.
I have split my notes into two periods – firstly from the 1940’s to the 1970’s and secondly from the 1980’s to the present time. I have also included some notes regarding dancers and the practice in the highland regiments later in these notes.
During the 1940’s to the 1970’s the vast majority of boys wore girls school knickers under their kilts. The most common colours worn were bottle green and navy blue but other colours including maroon, brown and grey were also worn. A small number of boys wore tartan undertrews (usually referred to as “trews”) in a tartan which matched their kilt. By common consent these were not very comfortable. I knew two boys who were around the same age as myself who had been wearing green knickers for a few years and when they were around 12 or 13 started to wear trews instead of knickers. Both found the trews quite uncomfortable and after only a few months reverted to wearing green knickers again. There is fairly general agreement that white underwear is inappropriate for a kilt and only very rarely did any boys wear such underwear. When some boys reached the age of 13 to 15 some boys started to wear gym pants usually black, navy or green instead of knickers. A small number of boys wore nothing under their kilts. This was usually due to either family traditions or traditions within some Scottish private schools.
Men’s coloured underwear only started to become readily available in the early to mid 1960’s. As a result until this time as boys reached adult hood many continued to wear their knickers and indeed some still do to this day. After the mid 1960’s some men started to wear normal men’s briefs under their kilt, usually black, navy blue or green. On reaching adult hood some boys started to wear nothing under their kilts but they were in the minority.
During the period from the 1940’s to the 1970’s a very significant majority of men wore underwear with their kilts. In the early part of this period this was quite often trews as these were frequently worn in the 1930’s and usually lasted for many years. Trews largely went out of fashion in the 1940’s and were replaced by girls school knickers as the knickers were considerable cheaper, readily available in appropriate colours and most found them far more comfortable. As a result although it was quite common for men to be wearing trews into the 1950’s when these wore out they were normally replaced with either bottle green or navy blue girls knickers. As noted above by the mid 1960’s coloured men’s underwear started to become readily available and many men progressively started to wear men’s briefs (usually black, navy blue or green) instead of knickers. By the end of the 1970’s a majority of men were still wearing underwear mainly men’s briefs but also knickers. Trews appeared to have virtually disappeared by this time.
By the 1980’s bikini style briefs had become available for boys which were similar in style to the girls knickers and also widely available in dark colours. These became the garment of choice for most boys instead of girls knickers. Also from this time the practice of girls wearing school knickers was on the wane and were opting for more fashionable garments. Boys no longer appeared to change to wearing gym pants as they grew up but continued wearing briefs until they reached adulthood.
Although a majority of men were still wearing underwear in 1980, since then it has become progressively more common practice for men to wear nothing under their kilts. Currently it would appear that a very significant majority choose to wear nothing under kilts. This appears to be particularly the practice of younger men with those under about 40 rarely wearing underwear with those primarily wearing underwear being those men who grew up in the 1940’s to 1970’s and continued to wear knickers or briefs as they entered adulthood. Boxer shorts are occasionally worn but many men consider these inappropriate for a kilt as the legs of the boxers could be visible with the swing of the kilt whereas with knickers or briefs the kilt has to swing quite highly before any underwear becomes visible.
Dancers wear coloured underwear, preferably toning with the colour of the kilt as this is part of the dress code laid down by the Scottish dance governing bodies. This has been the case of many years and before the early 1960’s these would have been either green or navy blue girls knickers as before that time no coloured men’s underwear was available. Since that time coloured men’s underwear became more readily available and most dancers now wear black, navy blue or green men’s briefs under their kilts. Some may still wear girls green or navy blue knickers.
My understanding regarding regimental regulations in the highland regiments is that these changed during the course of the 20th century. I have a friend who served in a highland regiment during the 1950s and the 1960s. During that time the regulations were very strict and required that no underwear be worn at all times other than when taking part in organised sports or highland dancing. Frequent inspections took place with solders having to walk over a mirror in the guard room or by a sergeant walking down the ranks with a small mirror attached on a cane to ensure that the regulations were being complied with and that they were correctly dressed (undressed). Any one found incorrectly dressed had to immediately remove the offending garment and was also put on a charge. I understand that officers also had to comply with the same regulations but it is not clear as to whether they were subject to inspections or not. In the early 1900’s it appears that officers may have worn trews under their kilts but this practice appears to have stopped by the 1950’s.
The current policy in the highland regiments regarding underwear with the kilt appears to be as follows:-
“Underwear will be worn when:
1. Taking part in organised sport
2. Highland dancing
3. At any time ladies are in the Mess (which would include mixed dancing)
At all other times it is discretionary.”
It is not clear whose discretion – the wearer or by order. As a result of the change in regulations it appears that inspections have either been eliminated or only take place very occasionally.
I am not sure of the exact timing of the change but it appeared to be probably sometime during the 1970s. Despite the change in official regulations I understand that currently virtually all soldiers in the highland regiments continue the long standing practice of not wearing underwear with the kilt unless they are taking part in the activities noted above. This does not surprise me in the slightest as traditions in the highland regiments are maintained wherever possible and also, there is a fairly general consensus that a very significant majority of Scots currently choose to wear nothing under their kilts for normal day to day wear and only wear underwear when taking part in potential revealing occasions such as dancing and taking part in sports such as Highland Games.
I understand that it was normal practice in some Scottish private schools with Combined Cadet Forces to adopt the military practice of the time with regard to underwear with the kilt when in uniform. I have heard it that Queen Victoria School follows the official regulations for under-kilt wear (or not). As this is a boarding school for the children of Service personnel I would not be surprised if this was the practice. I note from another article that Captaindog went to this school and perhaps he can confirm if indeed this is the practice.
highlander22 highlander22
56-60, M
52 Responses Nov 23, 2009

My answer for the question: "what are you wearing under your kilt" is , "Socks and shoes lassie".

mahsud<br />
Sorry but obviously I failed to make myself clear in this particular topic - it was the history/origins of the kilt which interested me (and presumably trewscot too) - what was (or wasn't) worn underneath was merely an incidental minor sideline or by-product of this research, as some old documents/reports when describing Highlanders' garb also commented on what was - or wasn't - underneath, and the current amicable "disagreement" between trewscot and myself is more to do with our personal views on the reliability/verifiabilty and interpretation of our respective sources of information rather than anything else.<br />

Trewscot / Tartanpleats / macdi / kiltie

I saw the recording of the 2012 Tattoo on the BBC earlier this week and it looked to me that the vast majority of the QVS dancers were wearing dark shorts under their kilts, I guess either black or navy blue. I did not notice any dancer wearing turquoise/light blue with yellow trim shorts of the type shown in the photograph.
Tartanpleats may be right in guessing that the wearer of such underwear was from the Scots College Melbourne rather than QVS.

I would be surprised if the QVS dancers did not all wear underwear in accordance with the SOBHD rules. I note that it was rumoured that the boys were issued with navy undertrews as part of their uniform some 30/40 years ago. From the evidence of the recording of the 2012 Tattoo it would seem that navy undertrews may still be the uniform for the dancers.

I recently came across an article in a relatively recent Royal Caledonia Society South Australia newsletter (2006) which included an article on “Queen Victoria School Under – kilt Regulations”.

I quote this article from the newsletter:-

“A Scottish gentleman was talking to the Highland Dance teacher at the Queen Victoria School in Dunblane (the successor to Gillin Anderson). This school is a boarding school for the children (originally only boys) of Service personnel including those in straitened circumstances. The school is run very much on Army lines. She told the Scottish gentleman that the school follows the official British Army regulations for under-kilt wear (or not) which are:-

Underclothes will be worn when:

1. Taking part in organised sports
2. Highland Dancing
3. At any times ladies are in the Mess (which would cover mixed dancing)

At all other times it is discretionary.”

My current understanding is that “discretionary” means at these times that the wearer may wear underwear or go regimental accordingly to their personal preference and if wearing underwear may choose the type and colour of such underwear.

When underwear is worn I also consider that briefs/knickers/short trunks etc are the most appropriate and that boxer shorts and other “leggy” garments are not suitable. I have to say, and this may relate back to my younger days, that I still consider dark colours such as black, navy blue and green are more appropriate for kilt underwear rather than brighter and lighter colours.

I suspect that today the QVS boys and girls may well choose a wide variety of types and colours of underwear to wear under their kilts with possibly some of the older boys choosing to go regimental on occasion.

As you note it does appear that a number of the QVS boys appear to be bare under their kilts when dancing the Sword Dance at the 2008 Tattoo. I would have thought that as this was against the school “rules” it was not in accordance with the expectation of their dance teacher. I suspect that the boys dancing bare under their kilts were either doing this as part of a “dare” or always ignored the rules and wore nothing under their kilts on all occasions.

I suspect that the QVS dancers had not a care in the world on the esplanade. I guess that they had not considered modern hand held high definition low light cameras offering low level closeup shots until the 2008 tattoo tape was analysed by freeze frame techniques. Previously long dark shots from the stands above. I suspect the 2012 observations are nothing to do with school rules, RSCDS etiquette or military tradition. I suspect the order came from the BBC!

Since the dancing display at the Tattoo was a joint one between QVS and the Scots College, Melbourne, perhaps we should give the kids from QVS the benefit of any doubt and say that must have been one of the Aussie dancers!

I have to say I'm with macdi on this one. I think the style - yes to briefs/knickers/short trunks etc and no to boxer shorts or any other "leggy" garment - is far more important than the colour.

I just said I had a tendency to write like that - I didn't say this was written in that style!

Firstly let me apologise - I realise I have an unfortunate tendency to write in a slightly lecturing/hectoring manner on this topic, and rather than have the desired effect of stimulating discussion regrettably it can unintentionally offend or upset others, and if it has had this effect on you then I do apologise - that was not my intention.
As for "still more to find" - no, I don't think so - I gave up researching this subject some years ago after becoming a complete bore on the topic and I have no wish to start again! Notwithstanding this, it is rather difficult to recognise the sources of your "evidence" since you haven't actually supplied any indication as to what the "evidence" is, let alone where it came from.
The other problem I found when researching this topic is that information and opinions change over time as new discoveries are made and/or old documents etc are re-interpreted or re-translated - for example there are modern scholars who now disagree with some of the opinions/conclusions in H. F. McClintock’s Old Highland Dress and Tartans, yet this was once widely regarded as being almost the "bible" on the subject.
With regard to public kilt removal, without any substantive evidence I have to say I remain unconvinced that this is anything other than individual idiosyncracies.
However, I am sure that this somewhat esoteric discussion is a complete bore to just about everyone else, and as you say perhaps it is best that we go forward in friendly disagreement and simply enjoy each other's (and everyone else's) contributions, whether serious or frivolous!


As you say, “facts are chiels that winna ding” – but in order to become a fact there needs to be substantive supporting evidence preferably cross-referenced to more than one source otherwise it remains simply as a personal view/opinion. As I said previously elsewhere, I spent several years researching/reading everything I could find on the origins/history of the kilt as a hobby (sad, isn’t it!), and one of the conclusions I drew was that actually there is almost a complete lack of information on the origins of the kilt and no-one really knows how it came about, and your suggestion of bedding becoming a combination of bedding and clothing is but one possibility – but why pick on circa 1580 for this development?

As for the name femoralia simplicissima, while my Latin isn’t all that good femoralia does indeed mean a form of breeches (a literal translation is “between the femurs”), but it was used by the early Romans purely as the name for a form of underpants – to be worn under the short tunic worn by actors, dancers and gladiators and so on as a modesty covering for their private parts liable to be seen during dancing, exercises etc – does that sound familiar? Simplicissima I have only ever seen used in botanical terms, and I suspect someone has put the two Latin words together in an attempt to give the perception of authenticity!

As for the concept of the acceptability of removing the kilt, I can recollect only ever reading one account of this from I think sometime in the 1600’s, where the writer was in an inn/tavern and was shocked when several Highlanders took off their kilts, but this was apparently due purely to the heat in the room and nothing to do with “accepted” or normal practice. As for modern times ie up to the 1950’s, you will doubtless recollect that we (and others) discussed this at some length in another forum and I don’t propose going over all that again apart from simply re-stating that absolutely no-one else had heard of this practice – including those who were around in the 1940’s and 50’s.

As ever, I stand to be corrected if there is indeed evidence of the early development of the kilt and of such a practice!

Sorry, but as far as the views expressed in your first paragraph are concerned I think you may be in a minority of one!

I agree with Macdi and Kiltie that the important thing here is to encourage the wearing of the kilt on a more regular basis. I still wear navy blue or green school gym knickers with mine but also over the years have worn black or dark blue mens slip briefs and also white ones. It was just the fact that some of us, as has been frequently said here, were brought up as boys in kilts wearing navy blue or bottle green knickers as the were discreet and available so I think that stuck for me. However its a fact that mens underwear and boys has changed and its a case of what they want to wear nowadays. My wife used to tut tut when I wore white pants and sat down in the house in my kilt and she saw my pants. Nowadays even she accepts that its only a pair of pants after all and kilts are kilts. By the nature of the garment there will always be a situation where someone will see whats under it.
Lets just encourage the wearing of the kilt and lets face it we dont go around intentionally flashing our underwear.

I didnt buy them and they wernt 'panties'. They were mens slip briefs and were handy when I put the kilt on. Not my first choice but as has been said here if they are under the kilt then what does it matter. I wear them to keep me decent and also for comfort. Thanks for the 'staunch kiltie' tag though, its nice to hear that and its true, I am.

Thanks for the information. However, there is one question unanswered: how about girls and ladies, I wonder whether they also have to wear nothing underneath their kilts in Scotland?

Tbest of my knowledge Jennifer, girls here who wear kilts will mostly wear black briefs or indeed briefs to match the main kilt colour under their kilts. Highland dancers normally wear black briefs or gym knickers which usually stretch and allow for movement while remaining comfortable and girls in pipe bands wear mainly the same. I suppose the choice is the same for girls and women as it is for men. Wear some sort of pants if you want or nothing if you prefer though I think the girls go for the'safe' option ie briefs.

This weekend I will be wearing a Kilt for the first time, at a wedding of 2 Scottish friends. The groom is also wearing the Kilt and have been informed that he will not be wearing underwear. They have said it is up to me (I'm a non Scot). But I have made the effort of hiring a Kilt and all the gear and am looking forward to be part of something special.


I'd be more embarrased about showing knickers and slip than my attributes. My missus wouldn't be amused either.

Ahhh but the folks that 'insist' on seeing will be the most embarassed.

I make sure my secret is safer than the government looking after state secrets.

I like to wear pink silk french knickers and matching half slip very comfortable.

My experience is that about half of the men in the group I belong to will wear black underwear and a half slip in the winter time. During the summer is a different story, depending on where you are and what activities are going on.

nylonslipmaniac<br />
There are indeed some who wear a half-slip under their kilts under the pretext of calling it a kilt liner - if you go to the forum and chat board for this group you'll find the discussions there under the heading of "kilt liner".

Does anyone wear a slip under their kilt ?

When I finally summoned up the courage to buy a kilt a number of years ago, I decided that, out of respect to my Scottish heritage, I should at least try wearing it in the so-called traditional manner, without anything underneath, and see how I felt about it. <br />
<br />
The first time I wore it in public was for a low-level walk in the Highlands, on a delightfully fine day, with just a gentle breeze blowing. True to my resolution, after changing in the car at the start of the walk, just before setting out, and after some hesitation, I rather furtively slipped off my underpants and tucked them in my sporran, just in case! I had worn the kilt indoors in private of course, but this was the first time outside, in public. Off I went, and I found that I immediately loved the feel of wearing the kilt outside in the fresh air. I loved the feeling of freedom, the comfort of the kilt itself, and the feel of the cool breeze on my skin. I found it an absolute delight to walk in. At the same time I confess that I felt extremely self-conscious. I was undoubtedly attracting attention from passers by, and initially I felt rather embarrassed as we exchanged greetings. I felt very aware that beneath the kilt I was completely bare from waist to knee. Nevertheless, in only a moderate breeze, the kilt stayed easily in place, and I found that the reaction to it was almost always positive, several folk saying how it was good to see the tartan. Had the reaction been otherwise, I think I could have given up, but I found that as I carried on walking I gradually grew in confidence, and felt increasingly proud to be wearing my kilt and celebrating my heritage. I felt all the prouder that I was wearing it in the traditional manner, and began to rather enjoy the feeling of daring. I did not entirely lose the feeling of self-consciousness that first day, but when I got back to the car, I was on something of a high. Not only had I had an exhilarating walk through some beautiful scenery, but I was extremely proud to have tried out my kilt. I felt several inches taller…..and my pants were still in my sporran!<br />
<br />
Since then I have never looked back. I wear my kilt whenever conditions allow when I have the opportunity to walk in the Highlands. Since that first day, I have never worn anything underneath, as I have come to love the feeling of freedom, I am proud to respect tradition, and I rather enjoy the curiosity of the ladies! I am not, however, a traditional purist. I respect others’ decision to wear something underneath if they wish. I’m happy to accept that, outside the military, civvies can really do as they please. I just prefer to go without. Further, I do believe that this places one under the obligation to sit down with care! Similarly, I don’t usually take the kilt on the high tops, because the wind is generally too strong there. I don’t think it’s sensible to wear the kilt without underwear when it’s likely to be up about your ears, and I’d rather not wear it at all, in circumstances where I can’t sensibly wear it traditionally. In short, I don’t think that irresponsible exposure is particularly clever, and deliberate exposure is not clever at all. Nevertheless, I think that when wearing the kilt without underwear, one has to accept that accidental exposure will, from time to time occur. As long as this is accidental, no-one should get uptight about it, and, as a kilt-wearer, one just has to “grin and bare it”!<br />
<br />
I have found only one downside to wearing nothing under the kilt on a longish walk, and that is chafing in the groin area. It seems to depend on the heat of the day, and sometimes the wind, but in any case, after suffering a couple of times, I have found that applying a little Vaseline to the area before setting off works for me, and I have had little trouble since. This may be TMI for some readers, but experience tells me it can be a real consideration!<br />
<br />
But that’s not a good note to end on. Suffice to say, I love my kilt, I love to wear it traditionally, and it makes me proud of my Scottish blood!

In most circumstances, as I would under trousers so trunks or breifs (not boxers though, they hang too low) But then I don't give a hoot about a gust of wind or how I sit even though I wouldn't purposely flash. A bit like little girls at school - who cares if anyone notices? Sometimes regimental if I'm sure no kids will be around me. I love wearing the kilt casually and will continue to do so.

In most circumstances, as I would under trousers so trunks or breifs (not boxers though, they hang too low) But then I don't give a hoot about a gust of wind or how I sit even though I wouldn't purposely flash. A bit like little girls at school - who cares if anyone notices? Sometimes regimental if I'm sure no kids will be around me. I love wearing the kilt casually and will continue to do so.

It gives the women fun rubbing the bum to see if they can feel anything underneath. As I say, the only thing under the kilt is a womans playstation. :-)

No one asked me either. I put the photos in my profile pictures. As for the whisky, because I was the only one in a kilt, Cath thanked me and gave me the remnants of the whisky. I must admit, there were a few surprised people on the bus when I went to the pub.

It was a brilliant night. Free whisky for wearing the kilt. (I was the only one). A few people took the rise of me but when they saw I was not rising to the bait, they gave up. Lots of comments on how smart the outfit was.<br />
<br />
Women who I had never met before. wanted to talk. I had my butt groped by one them :-0 But I wasn't complaining

Kiltie<br />
<br />
I have also been to weddings when the younger guys have danced with abandon and seemed quite unconcerned when their kilts flew high when dancing and revealed all. It appears to me the vast majority of younger guys, especially the twenty somethings consider that "nae pants" should be worn on all occasions and that it is just not done to wear pants under their kilts on any circumstances. <br />
<br />
As Jaxo5k notes in the comments on the Jamie Murray Wedding article it seems to be "de rigueur" for most twenty somethings to go commando under their kilts on all occasions whether at rugby or football matches, ceilidhs or weddings. <br />
<br />
Like you I have also witnessed at a couple of weddings, when it was discovered that one of the younger guys was wearing pants, the ceremonial removal of such garments much to his embarrassment and general hilarity of his mates. I am fairly sure that these guys will virtually always be commando under their kilts on future occasions regardless of the occasion whether sporting events, weddings, 21sts etc. <br />
<br />

On Burns Night, I will be as it should be. If anyone asks, my answer is"only me". <br />
<br />
The only problem is, do I go full formal Prince Charlie or semi formal, Argyll? it's only a pub do, not a full Burns Night supper.

Kiltie, my missus will have to put up with it on Tuesday Night at the Burns Night supperr and dance in our pub. The landlady expects me to wear it. <br />
<br />
I love the attention I get from the women, but why do men have to try to find out? Are they closet gays?

My missus never liked me going traditional, but she knows I won't wear anything underneath and suffers it. But whule we were away, I met (or rather she met me) a young Polish girl. While I was wearing my kilt, she honed in like an exorcet missile. She is drop dead gorgeous. However in my trousers, she didn't want to know me.

as I have said before I thik it,s a bit odd to ask what if anything is worn under the kilt I never ask and don,t tell , I like the mystery , I think it,s a personal choice to wear or not to wear anything under the kilt perhaps my reason to always wear something goes back to my childhood when I never had any underpants and was compelled to go commando ,I don,t know why I never had any it was never anything I asked about,when I got olderand started buying my own clothes I included underwear. this experience was far from unique my elder brother and some friends were just the same ( can,t remember how I knew about friends ) <br />
anyway lets keep those kilts swaying

fixabrick said: “as a late convert to wearing the kilt I always find it odd that anyone especially men would ask what you wear under your kilt”<br />
<br />
kiltandknickers said: “asking someone "Are you wearing something under your kilt" might be somewhat suspect - would you give an honest answer?!”<br />
<br />
In MY view (and practice), there are only two proper answers from a self-respecting Scot:<br />
<br />
To another man: “If ye be man enough, ye can find out for yerself!”<br />
<br />
To a (presumably pretty) woman: “I be a man of few words. Give me your hand, lass.”

Delightful to read through this thread, gentlemen. My father was in a pipe band when I was a boy, so I have very fond memories of kilts.

kiltie and trewscot<br />
<br />
Although any sample will probably not be statistically accurate I suspect that the sample at Hampden the other evening was probably quite large. This is one occasion, when I suspect that when sitting in the stand and in a mainly male environment, many men both regimental and non regimental may not be too careful how they sit. <br />
<br />
The result of the survey is very much in line with what I would expect. It is well known that the vast majority of the younger generation of the Tartan Army go regimental (in fact it is basically part of the "uniform"). My own guess is that the ratio of regimental / pants among the older generation might be nearer 70 / 30 than 50 / 50 and it may be that the older generation are more careful how they sit when they are regimental.

Oh, GREAT: a discussion on my favourite topic. Thank you, gentlemen, so much I can associate with :o)<br />
'Tis always so. It just adds fuel to my own preferred way of wearing a kilt: As I rise each morning, no thoughts of underwear; just strap on the kilt!

trewscot & highlander22<br />
<br />
I remember that the "Prove" order was only given within the barracks, and not on the parade square. In my experience there was never a "Lift Kilt" order, and the kilt itself was never touched.<br />
I was out of the Army and the TA by the mid 1960s so I do not know whether the orders were still given, but if not then I would assume that perhaps it died with the end of National Service. Remember that many of the NCOs at the training depots were National Servicemen themselves, although the senior ranks were all regulars.<br />
In the 1990s I had the pleasure of working with several regular soldiers from the same Highland Regiment who had to wear their kilts every day, and on the very occasional moments when I had an "accidental flash" they were always "regimental", and in conversation some of the others admitted that they would not consider underwear, as it was just not done. However, I do know that some of the wives of the married soldiers were not happy with this situation, and that the matter was discussed at a meeting with the Families Officer (they did not have these in my time!), but I don't think that there was any conclusion reached.<br />
Your comment about the bandsmen sitting discreetly at the championship is probably very valid.

Stirlingkilt<br />
<br />
Thanks for your comments and confirmation that in your regiment the "Prove" practice resulted in the check about being "regimental" was conducted by an NCO who had a mirror on the end of his pace-stick. Perahps as trewscot speculates the "Prove"/lift kilt practice was only used on parade grounds which were not overlooked by civilian buildings. <br />
<br />
My understanding is that sometime in the 1960's or 1970's the practice of frequent inspections to ensure that kilts were worn "regimental" either ceased or became very infrequent. Do you know when this change happened and the reason? Could the change have happened due to the end of National Service? <br />
<br />
I note that at the recent World Championships the few young bandsmen who you witnessed sitting indiscreetly were all non-regimental. Perhaps those who were regimental were rather more discreet in the manner which they sat in order that they did not reveal that they were regimental.

highlander 22<br />
The order to "Prove" in the army meant that you changed from the "Attention" position to the "At Ease" position. As you mention, this order would have been given by an NCO who had a mirror on the end of his pace-stick, and would then be able to slide the mirror between your legs to make the inspection. However, this order was not used much after you finished basic training. Also, the mirror on the guard room floor was only at the depot for recruits, and I do not recollect it in any other barracks which I was in (but of course, I was not required to visit the guard room very often!).<br />
I have not been in a civilian pipe band for a few years now, but on a visit to the recent World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, at which there were over 200 bands from all over the world, I did notice that the few young bandsmen whom I witnessed sitting indiscreetly in the Beer Garden were all non-regimental (mostly black briefs), so perhaps the "regimental practice" is now dying out due to the youngsters not having any military service nowadays. I did not see any indiscreet bandswomen.

Stirlingkilt<br />
<br />
Some interesting notes about "regimental". From your experience you may be able to confirm / clarify some points. I suspect that you were in the army sometime during the 1950's and possibly into the 1960's. In your regiment the order to confirm that you were wearing your kilt "regimental" appeared to be "prove" which I understand meant that you had to lift the front of your kilt to confirm the absence of underwear. <br />
<br />
It is widely reported that another method to confirm "regimentally" was by either having to walk over a mirror in the guard room or by a senior NCO / RSM having a mirror attached to a swaggerstick and walking up the ranks on parade and using this method to confirm that everyone was "regimental". Some comments have cast significant doubt about this method and perhaps you are able to clarify. I wonder whether it is possible that different regiments applied different methods or whether different methods applied at different periods of time.?<br />
<br />
It appears that the practice of frequent checks to confirm "regimentally" either ceased or became very infrequent sometime during the 1960's or 1970's. Are you aware when the change in inspections took place and the reason why? Was this as a result of the end of National Service?<br />
<br />
I note that in the civilian pipe band that you joined after leaving the army that it was the practice of most male members to go "regimental" and as most to start with were from the army this would be natural for them even although the subject was never discussed. I also note that younger members joing the band in later years also chose to go "regimental" without discussion which does not really suprise me as a significant number of pipeband members appear to choose this method of wearing a kilt. Your band appeared to have a number of female members and I wonder whether any of them chose to go regimental on occasion as it does appear to be a practice which some female band members adopt from time to time?

I was 5 years old when I went to my first primary school Christmas party. I did not have a kilt then, but about half the boys in my class wore them to the party. I remember being very envious, and was determined that I should get one as soon as possible. I was particulary interested in all the varied colours of underwear that the boys wore, because all male underwear in these days was white. I eventually managed to acquire a hand-me-down kilt from my bigger cousin when I was 8, which I wore to the Scouts (Wolf Cubs in these days) as it was the uniform of the group which I had joined, and my mother gave me a pair of green knickers to match the green in the tartan. I soon noticed that most of the other boys were wearing football shorts under their kilts, so I would wear mine over the green knickers.<br />
On leaving the Scouts at about 15 years old, I joined a group of hillwalking youths who all wore kilts, and on the first outing, as we jumped over fences, walls, burns, etc. I soon noticed that the others were all "regimental", so I went behind a big bush and pulled off my shorts, and was really thrilled with this wonderful new-found freedom.<br />
At 18 years old, I was called up for National Service in a famous Highland Regiment where we were issued with heavy kilts, and we were "taught" how to wear them "regimentally", although I knew all about it beforehand. During training there were numerous inspections, and orders to "prove". Usually anyone dressed "non-regimentally" could expect to spend the evening peeling potatoes or other vegetables, or performing some other menial task in the barracks cookhouse, while the others were free to go into town to go to the cinema or meet their family or girlfriend. Later, after promotion, I was posted back to the depot where one of my tasks was to instruct the new recruits on how to wear a kilt "regimentally", and was in a position to be able to check the results. This was my best time in the Army, as I thoroughly enjoyed my duties, and had a bit of power.<br />
After leaving the Army, I joined a civilian pipe band, of which most of the members were male, and although the matter was never discussed, most of the members went "regimental" as they had all done military service at some time. As new younger members joined over the years, they too seemed to naturally adopt the "regimental" style without the need for discussion, even after some girls joined the band in the 1980's.<br />
I still continue to go hillwalking in my kilt regularly, and in the "regimental" manner. I try to persuade my fellow-walkers who have kilts to wear them, and I thoroughly enjoy the company of kilted men on all occasions, and would look forward to social events with other kilt-wearers whether they were "regimental" or not.

What a fascinating set of ideas from everybody.<br />
I might add to the pot that, being an everyday kiltwearer, I don't own any underwear :o)

as a guy 40+ when i wore a kilt as lad i wore usually navy blue girls school panties<br />
<br />
now when i wear the kilt i wear white yfronts or similar as thats the underpants i wear and dont actually own coloured underpants<br />
<br />
i find in most cases people are not likely to see my underwear and if they do what the hell

I am soon to be in Scotland for our wedding anniversary and will be spending three days in my kilt. I just hope it isn't too cold or breezy. I go traditional. (perhaps I should put a notice on my thighs. "Ladies only". <br />
<br />
I daresay people will think that I am just a tourist, or look ridiculously out of place. But it doesn't bother me. If they don't like it, that's their problem.

Hi,<br />
I have found an old pair of trews that I wore in my late teens at a time when this garment was not uncommon. I have taken a photo as best I can and am sending it by email to Hugh33 along with a photograph taken of me in my kilt at a party. I apologise that it is a rather inelegant though decent upkilt picture showing me quite clearly wearing tartan trews. Hope this helps and I will look out more to forward.<br />
Regards Karl

I am most grateful to highlander22 and trewscot for their detailed accounts of kilt underwear over the years. I am currently compiling a chapter of a book on the history of highland dress and the information you give is extremely helpful. I have been unable to obtain photographic or other description or illustration of the tartan undertrews (trews) which boys and men used to wear in 50s and 60s. Even after this time there must be some garments remaining especially as I gather they were well tailored and likely to last long after other forms of kilt underwear. If anyone could help with description or photographs please contact me at I will be most grateful for your help in this matter.

In the first world war ladies bloomers were isued to the Scots Guards to prevent the mustard gas getting to where it shouldn't. I don't know about you lot, but if there is a life after death, I would hate to meet one of these extremely brave men and find someone had told them wrongly that I had called them pansies. <br />
<br />
To be fair, there is no difference between girls cotton schoool knickers and the lining of sports shorts by Cotton Traders. Or swim shorts come to that. It's the same material.<br />
<br />
Another thing is that in those far off days of the 1940's and 50's, there was not much money about for ordinary folk, so hand me downs were the norm If you were a lad and you only had sisters then it was obvious what you were going to get to wear under your kilt or trousers. <br />
<br />
As someone said, these days, mens briefs come in different colours. maybe not as much as women, but they are catching up both in colour and material. Plain knickers would be one thing, but if someone said they wore frilly tennis knickers then I would say there was something wrong with them, and that they are insulting the masculinity of the kilt.

I am grateful to trewscot for comfirming some of my suspicions about military practice with regard to underwear.<br />
I also remember that "trews" was just the generic term for special kilt underwear, as opposed to normal male underpants. No doubt the latter were also worn.<br />
I can remember some correspondence in the press taking highland dancers on the White Heather Club to task for giving away their "secret" and showing their trews -said trews, as I recall being dark pants (whether female knickers or not I do not know). Nor do I know what colour they were, altough as I mentioned before I believe that navy blue was the norm for that.

I enjoyed very much the comprehensive account of kilt underwear practices given by highlander22.<br />
<br />
I first wore a kilt as a boy in the 50s and bottle green school knickers were the norm where I lived (Ayrshire). I knew one boy who wore trews, but these were more common amongst men. I never knew anyone, man or boy, who wore nothing, but no doubt this did happen.<br />
<br />
If nothing else, I think the account given demolishes the fact that it is "tradtional" to wear nothing under the kilt. I do not speak of military traditions here, I am quite prepared to accept that going bare was the norm. I must confess, howvever, that I always find it hard to swallow all those stories about having to walk over mirrors, or mirrors on a stick for inspections. I would have thought "Lift you kilt up, soldier" would have met the case, but no doubt I may be wrong. I have certalinly heard that officers routinely wore underwear, possibly tartan trews although i'm not sure about that. I did have some correspondence with a kilt wearer of long standing and he told me he once observed someone wearing army issue women's directoire knickers under his kilt to a Cadet Corps function. I think this was probably unusual, but he must have known a friendly Quartermaster to get hold of them!<br />
<br />
You will not be surprised to learn that I wear school knickers under my kilt, often green but sometimes red or maroon depending on the kilt and my mood. I have never worn navy blue knickers myself, but I understand that they were more or less the "uniform" for highland dancing, for both male and female. I suspect that knickers wearers are a dying breed, mostly confined to those of us who wore the kilt as boys in the 50s and 60s. When I was a boy all kilt underwear was referred to as "trews", possibly to maintain the fiction that these were not female garments. I doubt if many were fooled though.<br />
<br />
Like some others I suspect that rather more men do wear something under their kilts than might be thought. No doubt the Tartan Army habitually go bare, but I suspect that the kilts at Murrayfield might conceal underwear rather more often. Polls taken by asking someone "Are you wearing something under your kilt" might be somewhat suspect - would you give an honest answer?!<br />
<br />
As I said an interesting discussion. I hope others will contribute.

Hi Highlander - I enjoyed reading your very full account. The only comment I found surprising was your claim that a significant majority of Scots currently choose to wear nothing under their kilts for normal day to day wear. This is not my experience. I would say that around 25% - 30% wore no underwear in the 1960s and 70s but today less than 10% do so. - Shykiltie

Trewscot – I fully respect that you have differing views from me on just how many men wear nothing under their kilts and how many do. It is obviously impossible to be definite and our experiences may well have differed. It would be very helpful if others contribute to the discussion as that may (or may not!!) provide a clearer picture. I note that jaggythistle’s experiences appear to be fairly similar to mine. <br />
<br />
I agree with both you and jaggythistle that for ceilidh dancing most men wear dark coloured briefs. As I have previously noted I wear nothing under my kilt for normal day to day wear, but wear green or navy blue men’s bikini briefs when I am at functions where I will be dancing and there is a high probability that my kilt will swing high enough to reveal what I am wearing under my kilt. From my experience the only exception which I noted is that at recent wedding receptions many of the younger men in their 20’s do not wear underwear even when dancing as they have proved when their kilts have flown high.

It is my belief that exept for dancingvery few men wear anything under theirkilts for walking going to football and rugby matches most wear nothing which is by far the most comfortable way to wear the kilt wearing pants under sort of defeats the purpose

ijarobb<br />
<br />
I note that you know of two friendly societies where boy members are introduced to the “no underwear” rule when they become 16 years old. It is probably not coincidental but my understanding is that currently many boys decide to stop wearing underwear with their kilts when they reach around that age. <br />
<br />
You have noted that certain pipebands applied the “no underwear” rule and I am also aware that this rule was applied by some pipebands. However I have never been sure just how widespread this rule was adopted. How widely do you think that this rule was applied and was it particularly common practice during a certain period of time? I suspect that this rule is not very common practice today as it appears that now a very significant majority of men now choose to wear nothing under their kilts, especially amongst the younger generation aged under around 40, thus resulting in the rule becoming redundant. Certain aspects of the rule may still exist today in that some bands may allow boys to wear underwear until a certain age has been reached, as the two friendly societies mentioned above, and then on reaching that age (I suspect probably somewhere between 14 and 17) expect them to start wearing nothing under their kilts. <br />
<br />
I wonder whether your knowledge and experiences of what has been worn (or not worn) under the kilt between the late 1940’s and the current date, as described in my article, is similar to mine. If you have some different experiences and knowledge I would welcome your notes and thus assist in enhancing my article further.

As I wrote above I saw scottish soldiers after the war in 1945 in Germany when I was 12. And I watched a young soldier scratching himself under his kilt very clearly wearing nothing else. This is my only evidence. And in spite of my youth it thrilled me and enhanced my desire to wear a kilt myself.

My remarks as to you statistical account refers to general wear by adults today, but as you rightly point out more so by the middle aged group. I doubt very much if schoolboys today would be subject to the rules of my time. As to organisations who still apply the rule, well I know of three friendly societies, and it is introduced in two to boy members when they have attained the age of 16 now, though in years gone by it used to be 13.

as a late convert to wearing the kilt I always find it odd that anyone especially men would ask what you wear under your kilt I wouldn,t ask anyone, man or woman, what they were wearing under their skirt / trousers it just seems inappropriate and probably arrestable .the tradition of not wearing underwear is as I understand it a military one ,how many men do not wear anything under their trousers ,very few I should imagine,the reason for wearing underwear is logical in that it is more hygenic and easier to wash . Who amongst us have never had a little accident/leakage etc ,for the truly brave an inspection of used underwear will show what I mean ,what you see there is what would end up on your kilt/trousers for that reason alone is why I always wear underwear under my kilt. as a side issue I think that the lining on my kilt is a bit short as it can get a bit itchy when I get hot what would be the ideal length? I dont want to wear an underskirt, although that would be a practicle solution, and no more weird than wearing girls knickers was years ago as previous commentators have added, as I feel there is nothing at all feminine about wearing a kilt I wouldn,t want to wear anything feminine underneath my kilt .To anyone who thinks it is a bit "girly" to wear a kilt I can only suggest you try one on and you will see what I mean.

For certain reasons I never wore or wear a kilt: I live in a wheel chair and a kilt would be too short. But since my boyhood when I was about 8 and saw the famous picture by McIan of a boy in a kilt, I had the desire. After the war, when I was 12 I saw scottish soldiers in my german home town wearing kilts as their uniform, and I was amazed and attracted by this „fashion“. Many years later I switched to long skirts a little similar to kilts: mostly of a tartan fabrique and with pleats in the rear. The skirts were tailored by girlfriends of mine. Underwear? Yes, but never briefs but kneelong white underskirts for the sake of hygenics. I know that at times my nakedness will be visible while sitting. But nobody seems to care.

To my feeling a permanent wearing kilts or other sorts of skirts from childhood onwards would make men more peaceful. More sensitive and settled. Less cruel. More caring. I would wish that skirt-wearing would become a habit for men. As it, by the way, used to be in many oriental peoples until a few decades ago. Now the whole masculine world (including many women) wears blue jeans – the very contrast to kilts.

WHAT about boxer briefs is that cool?

Trewscot’s comments about under-kiltwear during the 1940’s and the wearing of white Y-fronts from the mid 1950’s to about the mid 1960’s enhances my notes about what has been worn under the kilt since the 1940’s. The greater variety of under kilt-wear during the 1940’s does not surprise me as durng that period clothing was rationed and not surprisingly various alternatives to the normal underwear would have been worn. <br />
<br />
I was not aware that some men in the period from the mid 1950’s through to around the mid 1960’s wore white Y-fronts under their kilts. I note that trewscot indicated that this was almost the universal practice when he was at university in the early 1960’s. I have a suspicion that this practice may have been adopted only by a certain generation. I would be very surprised if men who had been used to wearing trews or knickers for a number of years would have changed to wearing white Y-fronts. I suspect that the practice of wearing white Y-fronts was largely restricted to men who reached adulthood during the period from the mid 1950’s to the mid 1960’s. I agree that it is highly probable that most of these guys changed to navy briefs when they became available. <br />
<br />
The increasing popularity of wearing nothing under the kilt has probably arisen due to a combination of the various factors described by trewscot. Obviously whether underwear is worn or not is the personal choice of the wearer. My impression is that an increasing number of guys appear to consider that wearing nothing is the traditional and “correct” way. Guys who I know that do wear nothing primarily adopt this practice as they find this is the most comfortable way possibly also influenced by tradition. <br />
<br />
It is obviously impossible to be definite as to how many men wear underwear and how many wear nothing. My notes reflect my experiences which may be different from others. There is little doubt that virtually all younger men who are members of the Tartan Army at Scottish international football matches and supporters at rugby internationals wear nothing. Also at wedding receptions when dances later in the evening quite often become fairly wild many of the younger generation prove that they are wearing nothing when their kilts fly high. <br />
<br />
To be more definite as to how many men wear underwear and how many wear nothing requires considerably more reports and evidence.