This study explores how influential the kilt and tartan are in the way
Americans perceive and express their identity in Scottish terms. Its
principal focus is directed on individuals who wear the kilt in America
The reasons which prompt people to consider qualifying their
American identity are considered in the context of a number of
different Scottish American organisations and community activities.
These are prefaced by an appraisal of contemporary attitudes to
wearing the kilt in Scotland today.
An ethnological approach has been adopted to ascertain the role
played by these material cultural elements, and in particular the
informants' own words are used to illustrate the power these symbols
possess to influence the construction of Scottish identity. The
changing nature of society is considered as one of the factors
contributing to such a need. Tartan and the kilt encapsulate many
facets of an heritage which people aspire to access; they may also
represent a part-mythical family origin for those seeking roots. They
are the apparent visual manifestation of ancient kin links.
The author's own observations through participation in some of the
activities of the Scottish American community provide further
evidence of the significant role played by tartan and the kilt in the
iteration of Scottish identiy by Americans. The remarkable growth in
the number of Americans who choose to adopt a Scottish element as
part of their identity can be attributed in substantial part to the power
these symbols possess.