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Welcome to Brigadoon

Since Henry’s England shares its northern boarder with Scotland, this may be the time to answer the inevitable question, “What does a Scotsman wear under his kilt?”

The early answer was “trews.” This was a Celtic garment and a form of mens underwear, consisting of loose fitting breeches and hose. It was knitted into one piece and worn by Highlanders as they walked the moors.

Sometimes it was trimmed with leather, probably buckskin, especially on the inner leg, in order to prevent wear from riding on horseback.

While still not considered to be strictly an "accessory" of Highland or Scottish dress, the subject of kilt underwear has been of long standing interest.

Today, if a kilt wearer chooses to go without underwear it is often referred to as "going regimental" or in observance of "military practice." Some prefer to use the simpler term "dressing traditionally" in the name of Scottish national pride. This is because the former terms are associated with the British military. There is, in fact, no evidence of official policy regarding undergarments in military forces that wear the kilt.

When wearing the kilt it is not uncommon to be asked, "Are you a true Scotsman?" This does not refer to a man’s ancestry in any way but is a polite way of inquiring whether the person is naked beneath the kilt.

Today’s highland dancers and athletes, however, are bound by the nature of their competitions to clad themselves appropriately and modestly. In highland dance competitions and exhibitions, the regulations of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing state the following regarding men’s underwear: "dark or toning with the kilt should be worn but not white."

Highland athletes are also required to wear shorts of some type during the athletic competitions and most opt for either regular shorts of a Lycra fabric. This is the most famous brand name associated with spandex. Compression shorts would appear to be ideal for this need – provided they follow the color guidelines stated above. Suffice it to say, men’s thongs, briefs, athletic supporters or jockstraps are a definite “no-no.”

Les Miserables

Up until the French Revolution men’s fashion was defined by knee breeches with stockings or tights worn underneath. The revolution’s date –1789, for the most part, abruptly ended the trend of visible men's stockings and knee breeches which are commonly referred to as “culottes” by the French today.

The revolutionary cry "sans culottes" rejected knee breeches which were widespread in the aristocracy at that time. Instead, the introduction of the new fashion of wearing long trousers with knee-length socks or normal socks occurred.

This was a turning point in the history of European fashion, which still shapes typical men's wear today. Stockings and tights, as men’s underwear, were still sporadically worn under knee breeches or long trousers but they became relatively rare at the time of the French Revolution.

The Age of Enlightenment introduced us to the dandies. These men did not subscribe to the relaxed mode of dress. The most notable dandy of this period was England’s George Byran “Beau” Brummel, who branded himself with the smooth, wrinkle free fit of his clothes. He was known particularly for his meticulously kept underwear at a time when cleanliness was not given a high priority.

As meticulous as Beau Brummel was about his underwear, it would be consistent with his fastidious nature to wear a more gallant type of men’s underwear in the form of men’s thongs, shorts, bikinis or any of the other kind of sexy underwear that we have today. However those items were obviously not available to him at the time. Beau’s contemporaries, the sporty Parisian dandies of the same era, were known to wear girdles.

This should not sound strange because throughout the centuries, some men in many nations, particularly those in the various militaries, have worn some form of a corset in order to facilitate the upright stance consistent with a warrior cult.

As recently as 1908 the Sears, Roebuck catalog offered a “male military corset giving the straight front effect that is so much admired.” No doubt some unknown upper-class male passenger on the Titanic was wearing one when the ship went down.

There were two versions available at the time. One sold for ninety-two cents; the other for $1.50. Some obscure mail order catalog may still offer the male equivalent of the panty-girdle and tout it in the same way as was the tradition in the early twentieth century – for their “health-giving” features. Needless to say, these ads also count on the vanity factor to attract what few buyers there might be.

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