Recently #GNKfamily have received an upsurge in requests for information from various areas of the
press and media, regarding the issue of non-Scots wearing Kilts and Highlandwear. We always welcome
an opportunity to share our insights and expertise and so take time to respond as fully as possible to
each enquiry, including examples and evidence to support our viewpoint. It can therefore be more than a
little disappointing when the resulting articles choose to misrepresent, re-hash or simply ignore the
information we supply, and erroneously report in our name.
As a means of clarification, we want to highlight our stance regarding the universal appeal and
enjoyment of wearing Kilts and Highlandwear, which is wholeheartedly welcomed - we relish
opportunities to celebrate and share our cutural identity and thrive on the exchange . What follows is our
response to a number of connected questions.
" - Have you noticed an increase in non-Scots buying or hiring kilts? If so, can you give any idea of scale
- If there has been, why are non-Scots choosing kilts? (e.g fashion, ancestry, comfort vs suits, etc)
- Are they nervous about potentially offending Scots by wearing their national dress?
- Is it ok for non-Scots to wear a kilt?
- Did a rise in non-Scots wearing kilts contribute to the kilt shortage last year?
- Who are the non-Scots buying/hiring them? Is it mostly English people or maybe members of diaspora
in Canada, US, Australia etc.
We have always enjoyed serving a very global market from early days, which has certainly grown. Pre-
pandemic our overseas customer base was increasing steadily, however the enforced shift to online shopping during lockdown restrictions led to an exceptional upsurge in international Kilt sales. Since the
ease of restrictions and a return to more familiar shopping habits, we have recorded approximately 25%
increase in export kilt purchases.
In our experience, non-Scots have always bought kilts. Tartan is internationally recognised and revered,
indeed it connects Scotland to many other cultures in terms of identity, symbolism, design and craft.
Here at GNK we aim to design tartans which celebrate the enduring appreciation that exists for its unique
form and the diversity of its uses. We design tartans that offer inclusive opportunities to honour every
kind of community, achievement, commemoration, brand or aspiration. For example our Official tartan
design for the University of Edinburgh appeals to staff, students and associates the world over,
connecting this Clan of learning in a very observable manner - products produced range from kilts, trews
and Highlandwear ( obviously suitable for graduation and occasions ) to small accessories and
homewares. The connection is not that of Scottish nationality, but of proud alumni.
Other notable tartans in our portfolio include John Muir Way, Flodden Commemorative, XBOX, SiMBA,
Kidney Kids Scotland, Scottish National Football Team, Celtic FC.
Many of our customers very consciously aim to avoid causing possible offence and do check that
wearing highland dress and/ or specific tartans is acceptable. We certainly welcome all enquiries and
are proud to offer highland dress to everyone, however it is necessary to advise that numerous tartans
are restricted in their availability for a myriad of reasons - they may be intended specifically for wear by a
particular clan, society or corporation and are not encouraged to be worn by others without permission.
Simultaneously there are thousands of non-restricted and generic tartans in existence which are
universally and willingly accessible.
Absolutely YES, it is ok for non-Scots to wear a kilt and at GNK we actively encourage non-Scots to
indulge ! As well as offering bespoke sales on an individual basis, we also specialise in providing
corporate hires to groups from all over the world who may be visiting Scotland to celebrate cultural
connections or simply to celebrate achievements which have no particular Scottish association. For us
this is always hugely rewarding to deliver, to share the recipients' fun and enjoyment of the experience
and to hopefully promote a little of our cultural heritage in such a tangible way.
Undoubtedly, there was very high demand for kilts last year from both domestic and international
customers which continues to grow. We are extremely proud that each kilt purchased is individually
handmade by highly skilled Kiltmakers. We are fortunate that through our own Edinburgh Kiltmakers
Academy (founded 2016) we continue to train talented students in the craft of traditional handsewn kilt
tailoring to exceptional standards. This not only serves to develop our own workforce , but bolsters the
whole Highlandwear Industry as skills, knowledge, experience is shared. Gratefully, our customers are
content to invest and wait up to 16 weeks for their bespoke kilt.
GNK customers reside in all parts of the world with a notable concentration of orders being received from
the Diaspora in USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe."
The #GNKfamily serve not only as retail and hire experts but as professional custodians of our sartorial heritage. We passionately strive to uphold respected traditions and etiquette associated with our National Dress, whilst dispelling the many myths and inaccuracies which surround its fascinating and continuing evolution. We recognise Highlandwears' meandering and at times debatable history, we understand its progression. Through our Edinburgh Kiltmakers Academy, we educate and share skilled craftsmanship techniques, underpinning a strong framework to secure the meaningful transformation of the Highlandwear Industry for future generations.