There are a number of good reasons to love Outlander: the romance; the idyllic, dreamy landscapes; Sam Heughan's bulging muscles. But the series is down one very important reason in Season 3: hot dudes in kilts.
When we first see Jamie (Heughan) in Sunday's "Surrender," six years have passed since he was brought home to Lallybroch. Our first glimpse of him reveals that he's not only grown out his curly hair and opted for a rather unfortunate beard during his time in hiding, but he's also traded in his trademark kilt and taken to wearing trousers. And there's one very good reason for this.
Following the fateful Battle of Culloden, the events of which were depicted in the show's Season 3 premiere, Parliament passed the Dress Act of 1746. Put into effect August 1, 1746, it outlawed wearing what was known as the Highland dress, which included tartan and kilts. So take a good long look, folks, because it's likely that we won't be seeing the likes of this anytime soon:
Or even this:
This sounds a bit extreme, right? Well, there was a political significance that had come to be linked to wearing tartan and kilts by that time; they were associated with Scottish rebels because they were the most obvious supporters of the Jacobite cause. The colors and designs of the area's various tartans were believed by the Hanoverian government to represent different Highland clans, however, there are accounts that do not support this. Complicating matters is also the fact non-rebels and even Lowland Scots wore tartan too. Still, making it illegal to wear tartan was a strategic move to both eliminate the threat of Jacobite Highland clans after the Jacobite rising of 1745, and also squash the Highlanders' cultural identity.
Now, imagine if your government tried to control what you could and could not wear today. Pretty ridiculous, right? What's more ridiculous were the consequences for wearing tartan or anything else associated with the common Highlander dress after the Dress Act was enacted: a first offense for wearing such clothing would result in six months in prison, while a second would result in the offender being sent to a penal colony for several years.
Of course, it is important to note that tartan was not made illegal across the board; it was acceptable if it was in service to the crown. This meant that members of the army could still wear it. And many did — but obviously not Jamie, who was a wanted man and spent six years living in a cave. Though he is now currently heading to prison, it is not for the clothing he decided to wear, but to protect his family. (Honestly, no one deserves Jamie. He is too good for all of us. And yes, that includes Claire).
The Dress Act was eventually repealed in 1782. Although Outlander is jumping around through time much more this season than it ever has before, we still have a ways to go before the series likely reaches this point. What this means, is that fans better get used to the trousers and the unfortunate lack of sexy men in kilts for the time being.
With the events of Culloden now in the show's past and the Dress Act (and the associated Disarming Act, which played a role in this week's episode, too) firmly in place, we've now entered a new era for the series, and it's unlike anything that's come before.
Outlander airs Sundays at 8/7c on Starz.