The fabric is used to make school uniforms, upholster vans or make scarves. Its design is much more than a whim. And nobody has managed to match the quality of fabrics made in Scotland. Where does this tradition as old as that country come from?
In Colombia there are men who wear skirts, contradicting the custom that it is they who wear the pants. That same skirt has been copied for many school uniforms. In addition, all women in the country use it, since it is considered that it looks like the skinny, the fat, the tall and the short. It is an elegant and “dressy” piece.
Those “daring” skirt men are the Scots based here. In its land in the north of Great Britain, that constitutes more than part of the women’s clothing, a garment for gentlemen. And since children, Héctor Low and Johnny Welch, young Scottish English teachers at the British Council in Bogotá, remember how they dressed them with their tactical kilts what they really call sometimes to go to school, and always to attend important events or Celebrate Christmas and the end of the year.
When he turned 17, Low wore the skirt that his father used to go to war, that of the Black Watch , one of Scotland’s oldest regiments. He currently has in his homeland, one with the design of his mother’s family, from the Mowat clan. Welsh lives in Colombia five years ago. The last time he wore the skirt was for the marriage of one of his London friends in 1988. When he attends an important event in his country, he has to resort to lending a skirt from one of his family members, because he doesn’t have one of its own, and cannot use any other: the skirt is a national symbol, but at the same time, a very important family symbol.
In the annual celebration in Colombia of the Caledonian Ball (tradition of the high mountains and St. Andrew’s Day, patron of Scotland, on November 3), it is when more men in skirts are seen. Last year, six Scots attended with their skirts on the party that Bogotá Sport Club has organized for all its members in recent years.
The Englishman Brian Chart, former president of the club, says he would never wear a combat kilt, not out of grief but out of respect. “It is a Scottish tradition, and only they have the right to use it.” Despite this, in London department stores, such as Harrods, they sell them on fabrics that, strictly speaking, could only be worn by members of a certain Scottish family group, and even only by members of the British Royal family.
The complete dress includes, in addition to the skirt, a wide belt of sheet metal, a small bag, usually of horsehair (sporran) of the type of «alms» of the middle ages, shoes with knee socks, and suspenders, in which fits a small dagger. This outfit can be worn with a running shirt, tie or bowtie, and any shoe tied, depending on the occasion; and complement it with a beret or cap essential for the famous bands of pipers and the military.
The fabric of the Scottish kilt comes from an ancient design and is commonly related to clans. There are many books on the subject. The first, written in 1842 by two brothers, John and Charlie, and that they say was received with such enthusiasm that the Scots began to look for the old tartan of their clan.
The clans were part of the Scottish organization until about 250 years ago. People lived in communities that obeyed their own boss. There were clans in the Highlands and the Lowlands (high and low lands) that differ from each other in their language, lifestyle and even attitudes.
In the upper part, where the most traditional inhabitants are still found, there are still men who wear their skirts every day. They are old men, Presbyterians who work on religious holidays, and who communicate in Gaelic instead of English.
Gladys Gorovitz, a graduate in International Law, art critic and professor of Costume History at the Universidad de los Andes, has followed the footprints of her kilt. In 1974 he visited the most famous factories in Scotland, located in Pitchy, a town of only five thousand inhabitants – where the smallest whiskey distillery is located – and in the towns of Borders, regions also known for sheep farming. Gladys has a collection of three Scottish skirts that are not from Scotland but from Spain, Italy and France. The most similar to the original is the Spanish of gray color although it could be believed that the other two would be, which have better known colors in Colombia, with a predominance of red and blue.
His opinion regarding the quality and variety of this plaid fabric (the tartan) is that there is no point of comparison between those made in and outside Scotland.
“It has tried to imitate it, without achieving it,” he says. This is because the quality of the wool and the blends of synthetic and acrylic fibers make Scottish plaid superior, which is made of pure wool and better woven. He adds that in the models of other countries, traditional Scottish patterns are less important defined more by pictures than by intersecting lines or stripes, and that Scottish tonal wealth does not exceed any country in the world.