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Kilt Manufacturers

August 25 2002 at 8:31 PM
Joe Sweeney 

Did Canada have any manufacturers of military Kilts circa WWI?

I ask this because I've never seen an original Kilt issued to a Canadian that was anything other than Scottish manufactured.

I'd assumed that a Kilted unit would naturally prefer Kilts from the source.

I've also assumed that when the temporary issue of "Drab" kilts was made in the early war that these were of Canadian manufacture to make up for the lost source in Scotland (manufacturing for its own needs). However, I've recently come across British War Office sources from 1915 talking about the cost of drab kilts for Canadians.

Does any one know of any kilt manufacturers in Canada that supplied military kilts to the CEF?

Joe Sweeney

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Canadian Kilts

August 26 2002, 4:05 AM 

From what I can determine from the Kilts that I have collected, they were all made in Scotland. They all appear to have been manufactured to British military specification. I have at least one with a 'C Broad Arrow' stamp, even though mine have all come from Canadian sources.

Even now, replacement Kilts are purchased from Scotland by Canadian Highland Regiments.

Kilts are probably one of the last items of Canadian military equipment that is not manufactured in Quebec...

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Depends on the unit

August 26 2002, 7:13 AM 

The Calgary Highlanders use locally made kilts, to a degree, especially the pipe band and officers. Depends on the availability of a tailor who knows how to make kilts, too.

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Kilts & Lieut. Rob MacDonald

August 28 2002, 1:26 AM 

As I recall, the vast majority of our Seaforth kilts were acquired from Scotland. I examined those that I collected for the Seaforth Museum - including one from the vet who wore it in WWI (he explained that some of the holes in it were bullet holes, and some were moth holes - he could not tell me which were which though).

Rob MacDonald who had served in the regiment with me as a fellow subaltern in the 1970s today makes kilts to order in the Vancouver area.

Remember too that the officers' kilts are a finer weave and a wee bit softer on tender parts of the anatomy.

I still have my father's officer's Essex Scottish kilt (MacGregor tartan) that he acquired in the UK in 1943.

Left to right: Lieut. A. H Stevens, Governor General of Canada the Earl of Athlone, unknown man. Hamilton, Ont. 1944. Dad is wearing a 21 Army Group patch under his Essex Scottish shoulder title. The kilt it the Macgregor tartan. I have the battledress blouse, kilt and sporran that appear in this photo. Dad had cut off the 21 Army Group patches, and I have replaced these two with other originals that I was able to obtain.

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Bill Alexander


August 28 2002, 4:33 AM 

Colin, in the photo it appears that the shoulder title is metal? And of more interest, it appears that there is a division patch under the 21st Army group patch? (or is it just some sort of image problem?)

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Bill Alexander

Kilt Covers?

August 26 2002, 5:17 AM 

Is there a possibility that the drab kilts were in actuality the kilt covers?

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Art Johnson

Kilt Apron

August 26 2002, 7:49 AM 

Bill I think you are talking about a Kilt Apron they came in at least three different sizes that I have seen, full apron, half apron and just recently I came across a picture of what I would describe as a demi apron. The dyes used in making the tartan cloth of that period tended to be of a duller hue than more modern tartans. The Davidson Tartan used by the 48th Highlanders is not generally available and has to be made up on special order. During WW I some of the 15th Bn. CEF (48th Highlanders) at one point were outfitted with uniforms supplied by the Gordon Highlanders because Davidson Tartan was not available. While most of the kilt were supplied from Scotland the Regiment did employ it's own kilt maker up until about 1970.

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Bill Alexander

Kilt aprons

August 26 2002, 4:06 PM 

Art how were these worn? Eg over all the other uniform / kilt? The images that I have seen appear to be an additional layer, worn over the kilt so that it wouldn't get muddy in the trenches.They are unclear as to how the bottom of the kilt is covered. Was it loose like an apron, or fastened in some way? Seems to be a bit of a cost in weight, wearing a double layer, especially in the wet and mud of the trenches.
As a footnote, the 97th Algonquin Rifles contributed about a company in strenght when the initial call for volunteers went out in 1914. At Valcartier they were put into the 15th. One diary comments on the fact that he and several of his buddies rued the fact that they'd be kilties. Didn't want anything to do with "that skirted uniform". He got his way and ended up in the 4th.

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Kilt apron

August 26 2002, 5:15 PM 

They are not heavy at all, I wore one on the set of Legends of the Fall for two weeks, in deep mud and water, and the weight they add is negligible. They are worn overtop of the kilt and are very lightweight cotton, secured at the top by a drawstring (on the one's I've seen) and left open on one side.

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Art Johnson

Kilt Apron

August 26 2002, 5:25 PM 

Bill, Michael has beat me to the answer. The aprons were made of a light cotton and the weight factor was negligible. Much easier to wash the apron than clean a wool kilt. A number of units contributed to the 15th Bn. CEF and I am sure that some of their members were not too thrilled with wearing the kilt. After all it takes a man to wear the kilt. Right Michael?

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Art, what I like about you best...

August 26 2002, 9:28 PM 

...is you're rarely wrong. Amen!

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Christopher Furlotte

Takes balls to wear a kilt!

August 26 2002, 9:48 PM 

especially when provoked in to defending the traditions of Highlanders and the native dress!

That is where unarmed hand to hand "combat" comes useful!

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Takes balls?

August 27 2002, 7:10 AM 

If only men can wear the kilt then we know who wears the pants in a Highlanders house!

(Damn, I should have posted this anonymously. Now Art and Maddy and others will be after me. Imagine all these grown men in kilts chasing me down the street - tourists will think that it is Gay Pride Day in Ottawa (again))

Just kidding guys. I proudly wore Government Tartan while a cadet with the Black Watch.

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Art Johnson

Speaking of Balls

August 27 2002, 7:28 AM 

A Scottish man was at a baseball game. It was the first
time he had ever seen the sport so he sat quietly. The
first batter approached the plate, he took a few swings
and then hit a double. Everyone was on their feet
screaming "Run, Run."
This happened two more times, with a single and a triple.
The Scottish man was now exited and ready to get into the
game. The next batter came up and four balls went by.
The umpire called "walk" and the batter started on a slow
trot to first. The Scotchman, extremely excited now, stood
up and screamed, "R-R-Run ye basstarrd, rrrun!"
Everyone around him started laughing. So the Scotchman,
extremely embarrassed, sat back down. A friendly fan,
seeing the Scotchman's embarrassment, leaned over and
said, "He can't run - he got four balls."
The Scotchman then stood up and screamed,
"Walk with pride, laddie...walk with pride!"

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Kilts & kilt covers tartan shorts

August 29 2002, 12:33 AM 

The Toronto Scottish and London Scottish both have the plain coloured kilts as I recall.

In WWI the kilt aprons tended to be full wrap-around, made of khaki cotton cloth, quite light. I believe that the front only type was also worn in WWI. I would have to check the various signed examples - entire platoons in WWI in the 72nd Bn CEF would sign a kilt aprons and the museum has several of these.

In WWII the kilt apron tended to be for the front only.

There was a pocket on the front where the sporran would be normally worn. I am not sure if a sporran was also worn underneath the apron or not.

In the early 1970s in the Seaforth Armoury fan room (attic) I found some old tartan woolen shorts. I asked a WWI veteran of the 72nd Bn CEF about these. He said they were for when they went on leave in England. The lassies were operating the double-decker busses, and when they saw a kiltie coming would say "Top 'o the bus mate!".

I never had any other versions of stories about these shorts, and they were definitely NOT normal wear!

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Joe Sweeney

Canadian Kilts,

August 29 2002, 8:25 PM 


Thanks for your replies.

I think this helps a bit with my perception of how Canadians received their Kilts.

In Canada it seems Kilts procurement depended upon unit. Majority of Kilts coming from Scotland, however individual units did have Kilt makers. Did not hear anyone state that Canada had a capacity to manufacture Kilts to supply the expeditionary force in large numbers. Seems likely that Britain supplied majority if not all Kilts to CEF units after arrival and especially in France.

The reference to Drab Kilts is not to the Apron. It specifically is found in the Priced Vocabulary 1915 section 33 "Special Articles Provide for War Service"

Its specification is that it be made of Drab Serge----same wool as used in SD Jackets. Some margin notes in the copy I have say issue for "Canadians". These were priced at 16s 6d, which is significantly cheaper than the 1 pound 3s 9d that a Kilt made from No 1-5 Tartans costs, but significantly more than the Apron.

I also have in my collection a Davidson Tartan Kilt with a crisp label remaining. Duncan, Smith & Co. Ltd. Glasgow 1917 made the Kilt. The label also states Kilt "Davidson" Canadian, has a sealed pattern number of 8418/1915, and British acceptance stamps.

Thanks again,


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re: Kilts

August 30 2002, 10:20 PM 

Alot of CF kilts are made in Pakistan these days.

I play for the Lorne Scots pipe band, and my kilt was made in Pakistan. Almost all of our uniform is made in Pakistan, along with many other, if not all militia units. I have a friend in the Irish Regiment Of Canada, and his kilt was also made in Pakistan.

Thats my 2 cents

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Irish re. of canada

April 9 2012, 1:36 PM 

I belonged to this reg. for a short time around 53-54 and seem to remember that we had a solid brown kilt. Am I mistaken...

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April 9 2012, 3:18 PM 

My understanding is that your memory is correct; The Irish Regiment did wear a solid kilt in a brown/mustard yellow shade known as saffron.

When I was in Borden circa 2000 my roommate was a piper in the Irish. There were two jokes extant at that time.

a) he was in the 2nd Battalion, The Irish Regiment of Canada - the joke being that there is no 1st Battalion, and

b) they had at that time an adjutant (from a Regular Force infantry regiment who shall remain nameless) who did not like the kilt, and therefore, he showed up at camp in green CF trousers and a green beret with the regimental cap badge as his headddress. Don't know of the veracity of that story, but I do know what he was wearing for a CF uniform. Either way, very odd for a piper to show up at camp without a kilt. Then again, it may have been a dodge to get out of the extra kit maintenance required of highland dress (I was not fond of the brass polishing, shoe maintenance, and combing of horse hair that accompanied my parade preparation - but did it out of regimental pride).

The Toronto Scottish wear a similar kilt, though in a much different shade, known as Hodden Grey.

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Re: Saffron

April 9 2012, 10:17 PM 

As it is after midnight and I have a meeting at 07:00, I will keep this one short. I regards to the Irish Regiment of Canada, the kilt is saffron tartan. not a solid colour. If I could figure out how to post photos, I would. Maybe tomorrow afternoon.

I have a few Irish Regiemnt of Canada kilts in my collection. It has a label marked Beauchamp and How, Ltd. 91 King Street West, Toronto Ontario. in pen is the date Jan 14/42. IIRC one of the other Kilts in my collection has an Eatons tag in it.


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Pakistan Kit

April 20 2012, 2:57 PM 

Its a shame to see alot of Canadian Scottish Regiments turning to countries such as Pakistan to purchase accrutrements and uniforms. Companies such as Burnett's & Struth in Barrie Ontario or L & M Highland Outfitters in Dartmouth Nova Scotia are a dying breed in this country as a result. They just cannot compete with the price of the inferior kit produced in Pakistan and India.

I have been involved with procuring highland kit for an Army Cadet unit affiliated with the Nova Scotia Highlanders and can tell you from first hand experiance the huge difference in quality and service between Canadian suppliers and companies in Pakistan.

The NSH Have some Pakistan kit, it is crap to be honest. For example, white spats. We purchased spats from Burnett's & Struth, the Highlanders had just received an order from a supplier in Pakistan. The difference in fit and finish was amazing. First time you put the Pakistani spats, the buttons break! Its a cheaper product, it looks like crap and It will not stand the test of time.

I am happy to say, for Kilts, they had there last batch made by a company in Cape Breton. The Battalion had 20oz MacDonald tartan made to spec in Scotland ($60,000 worth of Tartan) and shipped to the kilt maker. In the QM they have a mix of suppliers dating back to the early 1950's, all the kilt makers are either Canadian companies or Scottish companies(Gordon and Sons for example).

Have a peek at the attached photo. Its one of our Cadets from a few weeks ago instructing cenotaph drill for a Vimy Day parade. The fellow in WWI Kit is a re-enactor. Have a look at the sporrans. The Cadet is wearing a sporran made by L & M Highland Outfitters in Nova Scotia to NSH Specs, the re-enactor is wearing a sporran made in Pakistan. The Pakistani Sporran costs about $100 less then the real deal. You can plainly see the difference in quality, thickness of the hair and the all important swing!


I know money these days is tight, but, I guess in the end you get what you pay for.

Sorry for the rant happy.gif

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Michael Dorosh

Burnett & Struth

April 20 2012, 5:14 PM 

I do some of the ordering for the regimental clothing stores of a military highland regiment, in cooperation with the RQMS, Fin O, and other appropriate agents of the Regiment. Not sure if discussing procurement in open forum is permitted - not because anything 'bad' is going on, but because of the seriousness with which DND takes the entire process. We've all done some training courses recently reinforcing the need to properly tender bids, etc.

I think I am safe in saying publicly, though, that we have dealt with Burnett & Struth as well as L&M Highland Outfitters in the past and indeed have noticed the quality of their work, and speaking as a private individual, not a member of DND, would second your opinion of their work. Not just because it looks good, but because higher quality kit lasts longer. We have a high turnover of equipment - you mention spats. We bought some spats from a well-known highland outfitter who was known to outsource his work to Pakistan, and as noted, got what we paid for - his wares were replaced in less than five years if I recall correctly.

Why is this applicable to a 20th Century/re-enactment forum? I guess there will always be a debate as far as how close is "good enough", particularly for re-enactors or reconstructions, and what the purpose of your reconstruction is. For deep background film-work, I don't think you particularly need the best and most-expensive kit available, nor necessarily for "mucking" in private shoot-em-up events. For public displays, photo-shoots, or hands-on events, or for getting into a hobby you intend to be a part of for many years, as you note, the extra investment will pay dividends.

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