Style Guy
September 30, 2007

Style Guy Sept 07

Style Guy’s been away at various Highland fashion shows over the last few months, and I’m happy to report that, yes, tartan is in this fall! Actually, it’s in every fall, according to Stella and Calvin and Jean-Paul. These people are just way behind the tartanistas who live and breathe worsted wool while blowing pipes and lugging drums in blazing heat and pishing rain and everything in between. Never mind.

Lots of inquiries from my challenged readers, so let’s get right down to it. The Style Guy has the answers . . .

Dear Style Guy:

Don't tuck in jumpers! NEVER wear waist-belts over a sweater! Get those sporrans matched! Learn proper carriage of pipes!Our band is based in New Jersey and we have a huge dilemma on our winter uniform. As you know it gets a bit chilly out here, so we wear military olive (or puke green) sweaters over a black turtle neck. Our kilts are Lindsay tartan with green socks and ghillies. Our P-M suggests black sweaters, however navy would match our kilt a bit better. Your thoughts?


Kevin, you did the right thing coming to me. I’m afraid to say that your band is a walking sartorial calamity. For goodness sake, get things uniform and someone work with your pipers to learn proper carriage. These players may be Silver Star winners for all I know, but the way they’re carrying their pipes looks more like the late Rufus Harley. (I’m only providing what the Colonials call “tough love.”)

The truth is this: the piping and drumming suit was made for the Scottish climate, and that climate is year-round pretty much mild-winter in North America, so you should be warm enough – and a lot better looking – wearing the usual kilt-jackets and wool socks. If it’s too cold with that on, then I question the notion of subjecting your instruments, never mind the people, to such harsh conditions.

But, look, if your leader is bent on performing in the freezing cold, then take the cue from the military and go with the olive look. Those sweaters/jumpers with the bits on the shoulders are quite smart.

Hand cable-knit “Arran” sweaters are terrific things, but they are expensive. I recommend them if you find a little Highland spinster to knit 30 of them for you. They need to match, so unless you’re ScottishPower – the best-dressed band on the planet – they’re probably beyond affordability.

But navy blue or black? Sorry, too frightening. You’d look more like storm-troopers than Highland gentlemen and ladies.

Dear Style Guy:

At first I thought your dislike of “shades” on players while in competition was somewhat anal. I don’t know if you are a Jeopardy fan or not, but I’m now forced to concur. This past two weeks has been the Jeopardy College Tournament, hosted by USC. The Trojans band has been providing the music, and several scenes (opening, pre-commercial break etc.) show the band performing in the studio. Many (but not all) of the members, replete with Trojan helmets, breastplates and full regalia are sporting “Ray-Ban-ish” black shades. It looks completely daft! All the more daft when you consider that the band is playing indoors!

No more shades in the circle for me!

Mike Baker

Dear Baker-man:

I am delighted that you have seen the light. Every new generation of pipers and drummers struggles with this. They all want so desperately to be cool. They all want to seem aloof. They all want to be movie-stars when they’re really just dorky ethnic musicians. Sunglasses are fine when it’s sunny and you’re not in competition. Any other time and the look plain stupid. Indoors or when it’s raining and you’re a clown.

Dear Style Guy:

I am frequently appalled by some of the methods used by fellow piper and drummers to tie their Gillies. I worked in a kilt shop on Princes Street where I frequently advised customers on the proper method of wearing Highland attire and one of the most common questions asked was regarding tying the ghillies.

Surely you must have some advice on the right way to tie ghillies?

Colin R. Merry

Merry Colin:

I’ve known Gillies to tie one on, but that’s another story . . .

I’ve written about this before, but the question comes up a lot. It’s probably the most frequent Highland fashion faux pas one sees, so it’s worth repeating.

One wrap around the leg, no more than 2.5 inches up from the ankle-bone. Leave the lattice-style Roman Centurion-like winding up the leg for pathetic groomsmen forced to rent Highland dress for their buddy’s “cool” kilted wedding.

Laces tied at the exact front are the look of an amateur. Laces tied to the side look like a birthday present bow. Go right in between – that is, at about 2 o’clock on the right and about 10 o’clock on the left.

Dear Style Guy:

I suppose I could be described as a “hanger on” – I don’t play pipes or drums but I am an “enthusiastic spectator.” My question is this: is there a dress code for those of us who attend at piping competitions faithfully every year. Is there a fashion cycle? Is tweed the new black?



Mags P.I.:

It all depends. If you are the spouse of a prominent piper or drummer and you like to attend the big events, then always look your best. It’s not Royal Ascot, but it’s important to play the part if you want your man or woman to get a leg up.

I like tweed. A tailored Harris tweed jacket ensemble goes a long way. It all depends on the season and the country and the climate. The golden rule, though, is like the one at weddings: don’t upstage the bride or groom. If your competing spouse isn’t known for dressing well (tut-tut), be sure not to steal the spotlight from him/her.

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!




Forgotten Password?