Why Kilts?

Not so long ago, women used to play lacrosse in kilts. Not the elastic, moisture wicking, athletic material “kilts” you see as part of uniforms these days, but plaid, pleated, actual woolen kilts.  That’s what I wore when I played in high school.  I remember thinking, Wait, why do we wear kilts? Lacrosse is a Native American game that was renamed by early French settlers, so why do we use a traditional Scottish garment as part of our uniform?

After several years of passive wondering, I decided to do some research.  Long story short, in the late 1800s there was a headmistress of a Scottish boarding school for girls that was on holiday in Canada visiting family.  She happened to see a lacrosse game (between two men’s teams) and was so impressed with the beauty of the game — the grace, skill, and athleticism displayed out on the field — that she determined to bring the game home and teach it to her students at St. Leonard’s school in St. Andrews, Scotland.  The first all-women game of modern lacrosse was in Scotland, where, of course, the students were all wearing kilts.  As the popularity of the game spread through Europe (and back to America), the tradition held. That’s why we wear kilts in women’s lacrosse.

Some lacrosse programs are moving away from the kilt tradition toward using shorts as part of the uniform.  We have seen the transition from wooden sticks to plastics and composites.  We saw goggles introduced twelve years ago and are starting to see helmets emerge on the women’s scene.  These shifting trends in apparel and equipment parallel the growth of the sport and the transformation of the game over the years.  With all the rules changes we have seen this last decade — especially the new set coming in at the NCAA level this year — the game is evolving incredibly.  Part of me is nervously wondering how will this change the way I play, coach, and officiate.   Another part of me is eager to see how players and teams will demonstrate their creativity within the newly adjusted parameters.  I am as excited as ever to get out on that field and intrigued to see how the new rules will play out.

Emily Muelken
Epoch Women Author

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