Scottish Boys' Clothes: Individual Experiences


Figure 1.--By the 1960s, Scottish boys no longerr commonly wore kilts, but they were still worn at private schools and other situations such as Scouts, weddings, and ethnic events such as Highland Gatherings.

HBC has received from readers or noted a few indivisual accounts about growing up in Scotland and boyhood clothing. We also have old photographic images of Scottish boys phs. The accounts run the gammit from growing up on a council estate to experiences on a country estate. Readers from both state and private schools have contributed accounts. We hope to add more such accounts to provide a fuller picture of Scottish boys clothing. These personal accounts have provided, for example, some insights on wearing kilts in Scotland. It once was quite common, but by the 1960s had declined significantly. We are unsure, however, with the revival of Scottish natioanlism to what extent the kilt is worn today. Hopefully our Scottish readers will provide some insights.

The 19th Century


1854: Jo... Gordon Downhill

Jo... Gordon Downhill was born in 1853. He had his portrait painted in 1854. He wears a strange jacket/sweater garment with a kilt. We think this is a Scottish imahe, but are not sure. It suggests that in the 19th century, Scottish boys were dressing up in kilts. The fact that he is having a portrait painted suggests thast he came from an affluent, but perhaps not rich familybecause the painter is good, but not a master artist.

1858: William and John Napier

William John George Napier, 11th Lord Napier, 2nd Baron Ettrick (18461913) was a British Peer born in 1846). We note a portrait with his mother Lady Napier and his younger brother John Scott (1848-1928) probably taken about 1858 when Lord Napier was serving as a British diplomat in the United States. The portrait was taken in Washington, D.C. at the Brady studio. Minister Lord Napier and Lady Napier quickly became part the Washington social scene just before the Civil War (1858-59). The boys would have been about 10-12 yars old. The Napiers were known for their fine entertainment balls. Although Scottish and Queen Victoria was popularizing Scottish dress, the boys do not wear Scottish outfits. We donot know if they did in Britain. William wears a short lapel jacket looking rather like an Eton jacket and loose white collar and not a stiff Eton collar. ohn wears what looks like a tunic and more rounded collar. Both boys wear long pants. William's parents were Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier and Anne Jane Charlotte. His father had a long list of accomplishments. He served Governor of Madras and Acting Viceroy of India and oversaw a royal commission on the conditions of crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands. William Napier married Harriet Blake Armstrong Lumb (1867) and Grace Burns (1898). He had three sons: Francis Edward Basil Napier, 12th Lord Napier, 3rd Baron Ettrick; the Hon. Frederick William Scott Napier; and the Hon. Archibald Lennox Colquhoun William George Napier.

About 1860: Unidentified teenger

This uncased Ambrotype is difficult to assess. The portrait tyle and the clothing date it to about 1860, surely between 1855-65. This is the time range of most Ambrotypes. He wears a cut-away jacket with a vest. The cut-away jacket which the boy wears was a popular style in the 1860s, at least in America. We are less sure about the time line in Scotland. The pose seems more like the 1850s. The teenager seems a little older than most Americas noys we have found wearing cut-away jackets. Agaon, the conventins could be different in Scotland. While the portrait is not identiied, we think it is Scottish for twp reasons. One is the Balnoral cap or tam the boy wears. That would have been unusual in America. To is that the back of the portrait has what looks like newspaper from Bbitain. He has an Eton collar and elogated boe. He seems to be wearing some kind of leggings. His hair worn long, covring part of the ears.

The 1870s: An Affluent Boy

The boy seen here is Sidney Harvey Burnett who was photographed during March 1872 in Aberdeen, Scotland. He looks to be about 4 or 5 years old. His kneepants suit looks to be an expensive velvet outfit with a hint of sailor trim. This and the fact that he had an individual portrait taken in the 1870s suggest that he came from an affluent family. The portraits the kneepants outfits had become fashionable for boys by the 1870s.

1888: Percy A.W. Summers

We do not know anything about Percy's later life, but we have two fascinating portraits when he was 6 years old. The portraits are breeching images from Scotland. The photographer is from Lamb late P. Devine, Artist. Edinburgh. I think that means Lamb took over the Devine studio. The advertisement on the back states that they maintain all negatives and have enlarging and painting of photographs. The portraits are phjotographs that have been painted over in color. The child is Percy A. W. Summers, 6 years old. The second photographs was taken on Feb. 7, 1888. He looks domewhat younger in the first photograph, so it may have been taken earlier. However, the hair and props look identical in both photographs, which implies that he changed clothes at studio. He probably was breeched on 6th birthday at the studio.

1890s-1900s: Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart

A Scottish reader tells us about by Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart. He published a fascinating bool about hios boyhood. [Lockhart] Robert was born in 1887. He became a real life James Bond secret agent. His father was a headmaster of Speirs School in Beith where the boarders wore kilts but the day boys did not. Lockhart's father had a falling out with the school and left to set up his own prep school on the English system in Broughty Ferry near Dundee--Seafield School which no longer exists. It was a school mainly for wealthy Jute barons of Dundee who would send there son's there before they went on to the public schools of both Scotland and England. The kilt was compulsory part of uniform. In the book he talks a lot about wearing kilts at school anf being given lines for having dirty knees! He played golf in his kilt and visited his aunt in Edinburgh. She gave him a kilt as a present. He had a 'Dress Kilt' for important family occasions which he did not like. His normal Kilt for school was of the Macgregor Tartan as this was his mother's maiden name.

1895: Geoffrey Keen

We found a painted portrait of Geoffrey Keen painted in 1895. All we know about him is that his father was Percy Keen. Geoffrey was painted in full Highlnd garb. We assume that the Keens were Scottish, but do not know where they were from, certainly it was Britain. We have mnoted numerous images of boys wearing Highland garb in the late 19th century. We are stoll unsure, however, how common it was in the early 19th century. One interesting feature of the outfit was the large cap or bonnet. It is a little hard to make out in the image. We believevthst it is probably a Balmoral Tam. The portrait is signed Williamson, although it is difficult to make out.

The 20th Century


The 1900s


The 1910s

The 1910-20s: Gavin Maxwell

Gavin Maxwell, Scottish writer and naturalist, was a remarkable person who led a event-filled life. He was born in Galloway (southwest Scotland) and grew up with his two brothers and sisters in an isolated country estate. His family was titled and he grew up in comfortable circumstance. He was habitually dressed in kilts. He has written a lovely discription of his charmed childhood and rather unhappy school experiences. Like many boys his age, he lost his father in World War I. It was in Scotland during his younger years that he developed an interest in wildlife. He is best known of course for his captivating book, The Ring of Bright Water.

The 1920s


The 1930s

The 1930s: Scottish Brothers

Here all we have to go on is a family photograph of two Scottish brothers in their kilts. We have drawn some conclusions based on assessing the photograph. A vaiety of questions, however arise about the boys and their outfits.

The 1940s


The 1950s

The 1950s: A Council Boy

A HBC reader has provided us this wonderful account of his boyhood memories concerning clothing in the 1950s and 60s. He grew up in a family where money was tight. His family lived on a council estate (government housing). His mum, however, was careful to send him off to school, as he phrases it, "neat as a penny". It is innteresting to note that as a boy he occassionally wore a kilt for special occasions as did many other boys. This appears to have become much less common among working-class families by the 1960s. Interstingly, the article of clothing that he appears to have disliked the most was the gaberdine raincoat his mother often insisted that he wear.

The 1950s: Wearing kilts

I am course am Scottish and I grew up in the 1950s and 60s in Scotland. I don't really have much knowledge of how wide spread the wearing of the kilt was throughout Scotland, as I said before our horizons as children were very close. I can only tell you about my family and village. My mother was a big believer in the kilt. Both my sisters and I wore kilts. I wore short trousers as a small boy, but my mother preferred the kilt and through most of my boyhood that was what I wore.

The 1960s

The 1960s: School Experiences

I came across your web site and found it rather interesting. I'd like to add some of my own personal memories and comments. I went to school in Elgin, Scotland, during the 1960s. Nearby was Gordonstoun, the Public School attended by Prince Charles. Apart from this claim to fame it was well known throughout Scotland for its uniform--boys of all ages wore short trousers. Because of this, many of us local boys were also kept in shorts longer than might have been expected. What was good for Prince Charles was good enough for us.

The 1960s: Scotland and England

As promised, some recollections about what I wore as boy in Scotland and England. Apologies for writing so much, I don't know whether a lot of the subjective stuff about attitudes, likes/dislikes and social connotations is really useful to HBC. I was born in 1955. I can't remember really thinking about my clothes until I was about 9, and after the age of 15 my clothing probably no longer reflected "boyhood" (unless one counts the school uniform, which was however no different to what 18/19-year-olds wore). So my personal experiences cover the approximate period 1964-1970.

The 1960s: Dutch Boy

My parents were interested that I learn English. As a result, I spent several summers in Scotland with friends of the family. I'm not sure how many people learned English in Scotland, but I did. Our friends lived in Kinrossshire, several of the boys there wore kilts when they dressed up. I never did, but as they wore their national costume, I often wore my lederhosen as it was as close to a national costume as I could get, my father being partly of Austrian extraction. Of course lederhosen are really German/Austrian and not commonly worn in either the Netherlands or Belgium.

The 1960s: A Baptist Boy

I enjoyed reading your pages, which I stumbled on accidentally, believe it or not, when looking for a football (= soccer!) kit for my youngest daughter! Maybe I can comment a bit about kilt wearing. I grew up partially in Scotland in the 1960s, but never wore a kilt until I was a young adult, at my cousins' weddings. Most of the boys I knew only ever wore the kilt as part of full Highland dress, usually for weddings, New Year parties or folkloric events. When on holiday in wealthier country areas I can remember seeing boys on Sunday mornings going to and from the kirk in kilts, but we were Baptists, and hardly anyone ever wore a kilt to our churches! Sometimes at Highland Shows I also saw boys in much less formal outfits of kilt and sweater, wearing the kilt much as the rest of us would wear our shorts. I don't know where these kids came from -- probably larger farms and estates.

The 1970s

The 1970s-80s: School Experiences

I grew up in Scotland during the 1970s-80s. My parents were (and still are) what could best be described as "traditionalists". Both were Scottish and traditinalists not just in terms of fashion/clothing but on a whole range of issues. From as early back as I can remember I had bare knees. In my early years this was not a problem, however, as I got older it did become one.

Glasgow boy

I was born in Glasgow in 1960 at the time we lived in Hyndland, Glasgow. We moved to Linwood in Renfrewshire. My mouther told me that if we had stayed there I would have went to that school and would have a kilt as part of the uniform. The school I did go to did not have kilts. I think by the 1970s it was only private schools that had the kilt. I had a friend at school who lived in the country in a small village and his parents were more wealthy. Both he and his brother would wear kilts at home changing out of the school uniform into kilts when not at school. I wanted a kilt but my parents would not get me one.

The 1980s

William John George Napier, 11th Lord Napier, 2nd Baron Ettrick (18461913) was a British Peer born in 1846). We note a portrait with his mother Lady Napier and his younger brother John Scott (1848-1928) probably taken about 1858 when Lord Napier was serving as a British diplomat in the United States. The portrait was taken in Washington, D.C. at the Brady studio. Minister Lord Napier and Lady Napier quickly became part the Washington social scene just before the Civil War (1858-59). The boys would have been about 10-12 yars old. The Napiers were known for their fine entertainment balls. Although Scottish and Queen Victoria was popularizing Scottish dress, the boys do not wear Scottish outfits. We donot know if they did in Britain. William wears a short lapel jacket looking rather like an Eton jacket and loose white collar and not a stiff Eton collar. ohn wears what looks like a tunic and more rounded collar. Both boys wear long pants. William's parents were Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier and Anne Jane Charlotte. His father had a long list of accomplishments. He served Governor of Madras and Acting Viceroy of India and oversaw a royal commission on the conditions of crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands. William Napier married Harriet Blake Armstrong Lumb (1867) and Grace Burns (1898). He had three sons: Francis Edward Basil Napier, 12th Lord Napier, 3rd Baron Ettrick; the Hon. Frederick William Scott Napier; and the Hon. Archibald Lennox Colquhoun William George Napier.

The 1990s

The 1990s: School and Home Experiences

The following contains some recollections of growing up in the south of Scotland during the eighties and nineties. For the record, I started primary school in 1989 and secondary school in 1996. Neither school I attended had particularly strict uniform policies, allowing a wide range of possible uniform combinations.

Sources

Bruce Lockhart, Sir Robert. My Scottish Youth (1937). The book was republished by B+W publishing in Edinburgh 1993.






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Created: April 22, 2002
Last updated: 6:36 AM 1/3/2015