The hero of my contemporary-romance-in-progress, Ian, is a proud Scot who lives on a breathtakingly beautiful estate in the Scottish Highlands, so I should have given this question more thought before now, but honestly, I didn’t. Ian moved into my head about fourteen years ago, shortly after I spent a few days at Skibo Castle, so I’ve been living with him for a long time 🙂 . Check out this link and you’ll see why I was inspired. If you’d asked me the kilt question, I’d have said Ian would wear one at weddings and important family occasions – for sure when he marries my heroine, Rose, he will be in a kilt and so will his brother, Cameron, and his best friend, Rob – but for me it was a part of Ian’s identity, not something I chose to make him an insta-hottie.
Then I went to the Sourcebooks presentation at this year’s RWA National in San Antonio, and the Publisher, Dominique Raccah, said “Put a man in a kilt and you’re done.” I hadn’t realized it was quite that much of a given, but I checked it out, and she wasn’t kidding. Take a look at the Goodreads list of popular Highland romance novels – there are 799 books at the time of writing, including the man-in-kilt book of the moment, Outlander (see Kat’s post here for more Outlander fun).
Highlanders have been wearing the belted plaid, or great kilt, since at least the 16th century. It was originally a length of thick woollen cloth, up to seven yards long and two loom-widths wide. It was gathered into pleats by hand and secured by a wide belt. Above the belt the upper part could be worn over the shoulder as a cloak or over the head and shoulders as protection against the weather. It could also serve as a blanket. The great kilt is the look rocked so spectacularly by Sam Heughan in the current Starz TV production of Outlander.
Some time in the 17th or early 18th century, the small kilt or walking kilt was introduced. This was essentially the lower half of the great kilt, made of just one width of cloth worn hanging down below the belt. At some point the pleats became sewn-in rather than folded, and today the kilt would be worn as formal dress with a shirt and tie, jacket and waistcoat. Here’s a contemporary wedding picture, and a helpful guide for today’s kilt wearer from MacGregor and MacDuff.
Ian is a modern Scot. When he’s in the limelight he has a great line in beautifully tailored dark suits, and in his own time he wears battered jeans, washed-out cotton shirts and well-worn cashmere sweaters. For him, wearing a kilt would be a statement. It would mean the occasion was personal, not professional, and it would be important to him. There’s a scene towards the end of my story (the group scene I wrote about in this post a few weeks ago) where Ian attends a small, private family party with Rose. The party is in honor of Rose’s aunt and her aunt’s husband, who are moving to Italy to live near their son and daughter-in-law. It’s an important and emotional night for Rose, and I think that for Ian, wearing a kilt to that party would be a huge personal statement, even if Rose doesn’t realize it. He’d be acknowledging the importance of the occasion, but even more than that, he’d be showing how he feels about Rose – that her family is his family. This isn’t just putting him in a kilt for the sake of it and I really like the idea.
What do you think? Would the kilt would be a hot look for a modern Scottish hero or should it be confined to historicals? Opinions, please! Thank you 🙂 !