"We all know that Robbie Burns was a famous Scottish womanizer and tax-collector, but did you know that he also wrote poetry?"
Every year, on or around January 25, clubs and families all over the world celebrate the great works and spirit of Robert Burns, who was unfortunately born in the cold depth of winter, making the journey to the event... um... quite bracing.
The evenings are not necessarily full of kilts, as most guests generally opt to wear smaller tartan of some sort. The organizers can offer anything from a simple toast to the poet, to a full ceremonial evening with rivers of whisky and hills of haggis.
Our event (above) saw only three kilted gents, while the rest opted for tartan ties, tartan suits and jackets, scarves, skirts, thistle pins, etc. The gent on the left is wearing his black tie, and he has excellently and staunchly refused to purchase a dinner jacket and trousers, correctly reminding the inquisitive that his kilt and Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket are formal, thank-you-very-much.
What should I wear to a Burns Night Supper?
The answer is, whatever you want.
Outside of a Burns Night Supper, kilts are a tough angle, though. One can get deeply into the realm of costume very quickly. As everyday wear (in the US), they are a sure ticket to the kooky end of the eccentric spectrum. Occasional use, such as hiking, spey-casting, in-field shooting, etc. can be pleasant in one. They are always correct during ceremonies though, and they are not unfamiliar sights at weddings, funerals, or black-tie events, especially in Georgia, the Carolinas, and the more maritime areas of Canada or any Caledonian Club of [insert city/country name] around the world.
Can I wear a tartan that is not mine?
Of course. If not, the Stuart Clan (above) has a LOT of complaining to do, and lumberjacks all over will have to make a genealogical case as to their decendency from Rob Roy. Find a tartan you like, and wear it. If someone asks you if you are of that family or clan, you need only explain that you wear it as tribute. If you are questioned further, ignore them and find someone better to talk to. In the US, you can always play it safe and go with understood-as-neutral Black Watch:
I still see guys wearing the "work" or "sport" kilts, generally on college campuses, usually monochromatic and paired with a black undershirt depicting a band of some kind. I think people should wear whatever makes them happy, but that is a look that is not for me.
As for the other question that people always ask concerning kilt, I suggest you research it for yourself.