It is believed the kilt first appeared as the great kilt during the 16th century and is Gaelic in origin. The Kilt at that time was a full-length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the shoulder, or brought up over the head.
The fabric was at first pleated, ten wrapped around the body and belted, with a skirt like lower half, and an upper portion that wrapped over the shoulder. Indeed, dressed in such a way, the men were often referred to as ‘red shanks’ (or bare-legged) and prided themselves on their ability to withstand the rigors of the wet and harsh climate.
There also was a smaller kilt, or walking kilt as it was known (similar to the modern kilt) introduced sometime in the 1720s for the use of the Highlanders when working in logging or iron works during that era.
However, most historians do seem to agree that the kilt was adopted by Irish Nationalists around the turn of the twentieth century although many historians claim that the kilt has been worn in Ireland as far back as the sixteenth century.