Style Guy
May 31, 2007

Style Guy May 07

Welcome back to The Style Guy, your resource for all things sartorial when it comes to wearing the Garb of Auld Gaul. The Style Guy will make your old garb less galling. Does your kilt hang low? Does it touch the ground? Flashes too flashy? Waist-belt too skinny? The Style Guy is here to help, so write in with your burning style questions before you burn your kilt in style!

Lots of inquiries from inquiring Scotch-fashionistas. Let’s open the mail-sporran to see what we have:

Style Guy:

I see a lot of different ways to tie ghillie brogues. Some with not much at all, others going right up the leg. And what about the bow? Where should that go? To the side? At the front?

Please tie me up

Hi Tieler:

The ghillie brogue is a phenomenon of pipers and drummers. This is a shoe designed for ghillies, or “boys,” who worked on Scottish estates for lairds with English accents. It was originally the shoe of the lower-classes. Because these estate workers often were out and about, their feet got wet a lot, and the ghillie brogue was made to dry faster. There is a practicality in them.

It’s also the reason why a lot of the old Scottish “society” types, who still linger at places like the Argyllshire Gathering and Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society, would sooner be seen driving a Lada than wearing ghillie brogues. They don £500 Church’s wing-tips. Ghillie brogues are for ghillies, and ghillies compete for prize-money.

That’s the end of the history lesson. Now then, the business of the laces. Ghillie brogue newbies get the shoes confused with Roman gladiators: they think the laces should climb their skinny ankles as far as possible. This is a mistake. A properly tied ghillie brogue should twist twice at the front, then wrap around once just over the ankle. The bow tie should be at 10:00 on the left leg and 2:00 on the right, and double-knot the bow so that it doesn’t come undone as you march in to the circle, resulting in you looking like an absolute goof.

Style Guy:

Why do some bands in both North America and overseas commit the ultimate fashion faux-pas by wearing short-sleeved-shirts and belts whilst wearing waist-coats? If it’s too hot outside to wear long sleeves, does wearing a dark coloured vest make any sense? Why would anyone want to wear a belt under their vest? You can’t even see it and it digs into your gut all day long.

Yours aye,
A Concerned Style Observer

Dear ACSO:

If you didn’t sign your message with the ultimate in wanna-be-Scot, “Yours aye,” I would commend you on your intelligence and sartorial skills.

The truth is, wearing a vest with short sleeves not only looks appalling, each thing cancels out the other. Hot weather? Short sleeves are fine, but forego the vest. Cool weather? Long sleeves always with jacket and/or waist-coat. The belt – never worn with a waist-coat – should be purely decorative, since your kilt should not require a belt to stay up. And there are few things less sightly than a belt-buckle peeking out from under the bottom of the vest. Taaaaaacky.

Dear Style Guy:

If you were wearing a waist-coat but didn’t have a pocket-watch would you still leave your bottom button undone? Actually, why do you leave your bottom button undone even if you are wearing one? It goes through the button hole above it doesn’t it? And finally, are you supposed to wear your watch with the chain going from pocket to pocket or are you supposed to wear them with the chain going from pocket to the button hole?

Ben G.

Dear Privates Benjamin:

What, did you date Queen Victoria or something? A pocket-watch? You are one courageous dude.

Okay, if you’re brave enough to take on the pocket-watch, here are the rules: it may only be worn with evening-dress, i.e., Prince Charlie or “military” jacket with a waist-coat. Anyone who wears a watch and chain with daywear in this day and age is just plain poncey.

Unbuttoning the bottom-button of the waist-coat is practical as well as sartorially correct. It allows some give when the wearer sits, so that the garment doesn’t ride up or, good heavens, burst open. A bespoke waist-coat will have pocket-watch pockets, and in the right one your watch should rest. The chain should extend through the second-last button and clip to the inside of your vest. Again, your tailor should account for this with a small button. This business of creating a garland effect with the chain going across both sides of the waist-coat is overkill, and should only be attempted if you have Donald Cameron’s Powder-Horn and a brace of pistols to go with it.

Dear Style Guy:
I have a question for you, well more of a complaint. Why is it that young men insist on wearing the kilt on their hips as they do those long crotched pants? Has no one in their band ever taken them aside and explained that a kilt is not a fashion statement, but a uniform and should look like all the other kilts in the band? I’m tired of going to the games and seeing kids with kilts well past the knees and only because it is pulled down to expose boxers and body parts!


Cracking Up from Overexposure!


I disagree. The kilt is a fashion statement and designers and “young men,” as you call them, are doing creative things with the attire. But I’m with you when it comes to wearing a uniform. Looking slovenly and making a fashion “statement” while with the band is being disrespectful to the group. The person, in essence, is saying, “I’m not with you people and I don’t care if you look bad because of me.” It’s a bit like insisting that you play a different make of chanter in the pipe section.

Unless you’re with the Celtic-Punk band playing in the beer-tent, you should respect traditional Highland dress. If you don’t like it, go learn the guitar, woman, and get your birl-finger pierced.

My advice is that the rest of the band creep up on the offender, grab hold of the exposed boxers, and give him an atomic wedgie he’ll never forget.

We had lots of comments from readers, and here are a few.

Dear Style Guy,

I don’t know if this is a style question/comment, but here goes.

What the heck is the matter with men who forget that they have nothing under the kilt and sit with their knees apart. Some things are NOT a spectator sport, especially at an indoor recital where it’s very difficult to get out of eye shot of their other instruments of war.

Perhaps there should be instructions given on how to wear a kilt in public, when you buy one.

Thanks for the moan,


Dear Lizzie Bored-One:

There is a direct correlation between age and male kilt-wearers exposing the old frank and beans. It is a peculiar thing that fellows actually forget what they do and don’t have on, especially in those military-like group shots with the officers in the front, knees splayed before a barfing photographer.

And why, or why, is it never a completely hot female piper who commits this Sharon Stonesque, MacBritney flash of brilliance? It’s always the old sod whose stuff is well past its sell-by-date.

Here’s is my advice to these old bastards: wear underpants. Yes, underpants. Underpants, underpants, underpants. (It feels so good to say that!)

Underpants are completely functional: 1. They keep Mr. Johnson from rubbing against that heavy-worsted kilt. 2. They absorb the sweat in the heat of competition (nothing more distracting than a bead of sweat inching its way down the inner-thigh when you hit the crunluath a mach, and 3. They keep all those excretions off of that £700 kilt.

But if you insist on buying in to the preposterous myth that “nothing is worn under the kilt,” and you can’t keep your knees close together when you sit, always push your sporran down to create at least a shadow. This forces the apron of the kilt down and makes a nice eclipse of the offending moon.

And to those who do it intentionally: get yourself to a shrink.

Got a question of dress for The Style Guy? Click here to send! We can’t promise that yours will be posted, but The Style Guy will get back to you with advice.

Remember playing well is good. But looking good is marvelous!




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