Trews (Gaelic Truis or older Truibhs) are men's clothing for the legs and lower abdomen, a traditional form of Scottish apparel. Trews could be trimmed with leather, probably buckskin, especially on the inner leg to prevent wear from riding on horseback.

"Trews" may be the origin of the word "trousers".

Tartan trews shared the fate of other items of Highland dress, including proscription under the Dress Act of 1746 that banned Highlanders from wearing the truis ("Trowse"), and resurrection during the Romantic Revival. See kilt for a full discussion.


Illustrations in the Book of Kells and on the Cross of Muiredach show soldiers wearing short truis-like garments which reached to just above or just below the knee. Those illustrated in the Book of Kells are of a single colour, tight-fitting and end below the knee while those shown on the cross panel are loose-fitting, striped and gathered just above the knee. Also illustrated in the Book of Kells are long tight-fitting truis which are secured by loops under the foot.

The word is "triubhas" in Scottish Gaelic. "Truis" or "trews" are anglicised spellings.

:Edward Dwelly, Faclair Gàidhlig gu Beurla: Illustrated Gaelic to English Dictionary:Colin Mark, The Gaelic-English Dictionary

Traditional trews

Traditional trews were form-fitting garments, similar to the footed hose of the Renaissance, from which they probably evolved. They could be cut as Knee-breeches or full length.

These trews were cut on the cross-grain (US bias), which allowed the fabric to stretch sufficiently to mould to the body, and placed the tartan "sett" on the diagonal.

Modern trews and Military trews

Modern trews are more like trousers, with the fabric cut on the straight grain but without a side seam, and are often high-waisted, to be worn with a short jacket, as an alternative to the kilt.

Colonel Sir John Sinclair of the Caithness (see image), proved to his own satisfaction that "the truis" was an older dress than the kilt. []

Until the establishment of the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006, military trews were usually worn by members of the lowland Scottish regiments as part of their No 1, mess and full dress uniforms. Members of highland Scottish regiments were usually authorized to wear kilts with these orders of dress. However, all Highland regiments, in more recent times, wore trews with less formal orders of barracks and training dress. They were also part of the uniform of the composite regiment known as The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) formed in 1994. The new Royal Regiment of Scotland comprises all the former Scottish infantry line infantry regiments and continues to wear trews in certain limited orders of dress.

It is interesting to note that historically, trews were part of the Highland cultural tradition, not Lowland. As such, when Lowland regiments became the first of the Scottish regiments to be formed in the mid-1660's to late 1680's, the Lowland soldiers wore standard British military uniform and had no desire to wear tartan items and march to the bagpipes, which they considered to be part of a foreign and savage culture. From these early beginnings up to 1881, the famous Lowland regiments (1st, 21st, 25th, 26th, 70th, 90th, 94th and 99th) wore standard English uniform.

Meanwhile, from 1739 onward, the Highland regiments which were raised insisted on the familiarity of their native dress and Great Highland war-pipes, albeit in a modified form to suit a British military identity, as part of their cultural identity. They wore the complex belted plaid and latterly, to encourage recruits unfamiliar with such garb, they adopted the simpler kilt. However, trews were increasingly worn as off-duty dress and even campaign dress from the late 18th Century. Highland regiments stationed in hot or unhealthy surroundings often took to wearing simple white cotton trousers or tartan trews. For example, the 91st Highland Regt of Foot wore trews during the Walcheren campaign of 1809 and more famously, the 93rd Highland Regiment of Foot wore trews and round unfeathered Highland bonnets during the war of 1812-1815 against the USA, when taking part in the British campaign to capture New Orleans in January 1815 and during the disastrous Battle of Chalmette Plain itself (lithographs of the battle wrongly depict them wearing kilts). The year 1809 was a disastrous one for several Highland regiments. The 71st Highland Regiment of Foot was converted to Light Infantry, but kept its Highland status. But though Highland, now being part of the elite Light Infantry corps meant they have to adhere to the Light Infantry collective image and so they gave up their kilts (but kept their bagpipes). They also adopted a red/white/green diced band around their new light infantry shako caps. However, other Highland regiments who due to:- the ongoing Highland Clearances, competition from the Royal Navy for recruits, campaign casualties etc, had to increasingly recruit men from the Lowlands, England, Wales and especially Ireland to keep up their numbers. Even Germans and Swiss were admitted. The War Office in London decided that the recruits from South Britain found Highland dress objectionable which affected recruitment and so several Highland regiments were singled out to lose Highland status including Highland dress, officers' Highland weapons and the right to have regimental pipers. These regiments were the 72nd, 73rd, 74th, 75th and 91st. The regiments keeping the kilt and pipers etc were the 42nd, 78th, 79th, 92nd and 93rd. Despite constant appeals, the ex-Highland regiments were refused any repreive and so they soldiered on in standard English-style uniforms.

In 1822, however, following King George IV's successful first visit to Scotland including a separate coronation, he ordered the resumption of Highland dress and traditions for one de-kilted regiment. The regiment chosen was the most senior of the de-kilted regiments, the 72nd. They adopted the Highland feather bonnet, the Highland version of the red coatee, but in lieu of kilts, they were ordered to wear trews for all duties etc. The tartan chosen was a new form of red or Royal Stewart called Prince Charles Edward Stuart, reflecting the new romantic fashion for all things Jacobite. In 1835, after various appeals, the 71st Highland Light Infantry was granted Highland dress, partly as per the 72nd style, but with the old 71st's traditional large MacKenzie sett and with their stylish Light Infantry shako instead of the feather bonnet. In 1845, after lobbying in high circles, the 74th resumed Highland dress in a copy of the elegant 71st HLI dress with shako, but the 74th's now wore the Black Watch/white-striped sett called Lamont tartan (the 74th's originally came from South Argyll and Lamont was the main South Argyll clan having associations with the regiment. This invented clan tartan was basically universal Black Watch/Government sett with the regiment's white facing colour added as a stripe and called Lamont). In 1864, after much appealing from the regiment through the years to the War Office and finally to Queen Victoria etc and with the Duke of Argyll's involvement, the 91st Argyllshire Regiment of Foot became the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders and adopted the latest style of 71st/74th Highland dress, with trews of Campbell of Cawdor tartan. Indeed, the royal connection to the regiment was strengthened in 1871 when the Queen's daughter, Princess Louise, married the Duke of Argyll's son, the Marquis of Lorne. The 91st furnished a guard of honour at the wedding. Princess Louise took a great interest in the regiment and when it merged with the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders in 1881, she became Honorary Colonel-in-Chief of the new regiment Princess Louise's (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders), a position she held until her death in 1939. Queen Elizabeth II is the current Honorary C-in-C.

When the Childers reform of 1881 took place, numbered regiments were amalgamated and new county regiments formed, the 42nd (Royal Highland Regiment - Black Watch) and 73rd (Perthshire) combined to form the 1st and 2nd Batts Royal Highland Regt - Black Watch, 71st (Highland Light Infantry) and 74th (Highlanders)combined to form 1st & 2nd Highland Light Infantry, 75th (Stirlingshire) and 92nd Gordon Highlanders combined to form 1st and 2nd Gordon Highlanders, and 91st Argyllshire Highlanders and 93rd Sutherland Highlanders combined to form 1st & 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, only the HLI continued wearing trews (and diced shako). The rest of the above-mentioned Highland regiments and converted regiments now wore the kilt. But in 1881, the Lowland regiments were granted permission (with mixed reception from the regiments - the Royal Scots wanted kilts while the Royal Scots Fusiliers wanted to continue with English dress and tall fur cap as befitted a Fusilier regiment) to wear the HLI style of Highland dress - except instead of a diced shako, they continued to wear their English-style police helmets with spike on top. Having no tartan tradition, the Lowland regiments adopted the Government tartan (Black Watch) for their trews. The combination of 26th Cameronians and 90th Perthshire Light Infantry resulted in a conversion to a rifle regiment - the Scottish Rifles (Cameronians) in dark-green and black uniforms instead of standard scarlet. As the years progressed, the Lowland regiments grew into the new look and even adopted regimental tartans. The Scottish Rifles even adopted a dark green/black version of the HLI shako. In 1904, the Royal Scots and King's Own Scottish Borderers adopted a new parade headgear, a stiff form of tam-o-shanter with black-cock's tail feathers. By now, the Royal Scots were wearing trews of Hunting Stewart tartan, Royal Scots Fusiliers were still in Black Watch tartan, King's Own Scottish Borderers were now in Leslie tartan and the Scottish Rifles in Douglas.

This of course blurred the Highland status of the Highland Light Infantry in the public mind. The War Office and the regiment still considered them as Highland as the other Highland Regiments, but despite the fact that the Black Watch, Gordon Highlanders and Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders all had their regimental depots/HQ's and major parts of their regimental areas set in the Lowlands, there was growing perception of the HLI being a Lowland regiment. This was increased when their regimental HQ was grouped into the Lowland district for purposes of forming the Territorial Force in 1908. From now on, territorial battalions of the new Territorial Force would be part of the Lowland Division (later titled 52nd Lowland Division). In WW1, the HLI wore standard non-kilted khaki uniforms with khaki trousers and glengarry or tam o'shanter. By default of a hijacking of their regimental dress by the Lowland regiments and the passage of events around them, the HLI had become effectively Lowland. They protested their Highland status for many years and continued after the end of WW2. Amazingly, in 1948, at a time of government cut-backs and disbandments, their Highland status was re-confirmed and to ensure no misunderstanding in the light of trews now being thought of as Lowland military dress, the HLI were given the kilted form of Highland dress as worn by the other Highland regiments.

The kilting of the HLI was short-lived however when, in 1959 spending cut-backs, the government ordered the loss of one Scottish battalion by amalgamation of one Highland and one Lowland regiment. The HLI and Royal Scots Fusiliers were chosen and became the Royal Highland Fusiliers - a Lowland regiment.

Interestingly, due to the continued military use of trews by the Lowland regiments, the perception of trews as Lowland dress spilled over into civilian wear, so that for many years, trews began to be viewed as Lowland dress, rather than the Highland kilt. However, in recent years, a re-surgence in Highland history and traditions has seen trews re-enter the Highland wardrobe, whilst interested Lowlanders have now encompassed these traditions within a wider Scottish template.

Highland dance

Today, the sideways kicking step of Scottish highland dancers performing the "Seann Truibhas" dance is said to symbolise the kicking off of the trews or trousers in favour of the kilt.

Considering that tartan trews were part of the Highland wardrobe for chieftains and gentlemen whilst on horseback (the large Highland ponies) from the early 1600's onward, it is more likely that the 'Truibhas' in the dance represent English-style plain trousers (breeches), adopted under duress by Highlanders following the ban on their native Highland kilted dress effective from 1st August 1747.

Plus-fours and golf attire

Tartan plus-fours are traditional golfing attire that are based on the traditional trews. These pants extend 4 inches below the knee and are often worn with argyle knee-socks. Plus-fours were first introduced to the USA by the Prince of Wales during a 1924 visit. The full-length plaid pants popular with many golfers are also based on trews, but are cut fuller for more freedom of movement and warmer climates.



# [ Scottish Military History Society Article]

External links

* [ History of the Tartan]
* [ Scottish Military History Society Article]
* [ Gael Agus Gall]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Trews — Trews, n. pl. Trowsers; especially, those of the Scotch Highlanders. He wore the trews, or close trowsers, made of tartan. Sir W. Scott. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • trews — [ truz ] noun plural tight pants, especially with a TARTAN pattern …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • trews — [tro͞oz] pl.n. [Gael triubhas] Scot. trousers, esp. tartan trousers …   English World dictionary

  • trews — noun plural Etymology: Scottish Gaelic triubhas Date: circa 1568 1. chiefly British pant III,1; especially tight fitting trousers usually of tartan 2. close cut tartan shorts worn under the kilt in Highland dress …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • trews — /troohz/, n. (used with a plural v.) close fitting tartan trousers, worn esp. by certain Scottish regiments. [1560 70; < Ir and ScotGael triubhas < OF trebus breeches] * * * …   Universalium

  • trews — noun trousers, especially if close fitting and tartan …   Wiktionary

  • trews — see TROUSERS …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • trews — n pl See troos …   Contemporary slang

  • trews — [tru:z] plural noun chiefly Brit. trousers. ↘close fitting tartan trousers worn by certain Scottish regiments. Origin C16: from Ir. triús, Sc. Gaelic triubhas (sing.); cf. trousers …   English new terms dictionary

  • trews — noun (plural) a pair of trousers, especially with a tartan pattern …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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