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:
Dear Style Guy: I’ve been playing in band competitions for a few years now. I notice that some judges wear pretty much what I’m wearing, taking pride in their kit, while others look like they don’t care much. What’s your take on what judges should have on? Signed,
Judgment Judie Hey Judie: It is a sad phenomenon that those who have earned our respect and who you would think take pride in themselves decide to look disrespectful. I have indeed noticed some judges looking more like they’re on a fishing trip in Wawa, Ontario, than a prestigious pipe band competition in Maxville, or Pleasanton, or Bethlehem. They don’t seem to care that a lot of eyes are on them; or maybe that’s why they wear floppy hats and ill-fitting socks. Most pipe band associations have a dress-code for adjudicators, but many don’t enforce it. Some groups even encourage judges to wear asinine-looking baseball caps. Look, Judie, all I can say is that judges who disrespect their appearance lack self-respect. What’s more, they disrespect the competitors. Too sunny? Wear sun-screen. Save the floppy hats and baseball caps for your next vacation. You’re being paid to be an esteemed adjudicator, so please act with self-esteem.
Dear Style Guy: Am I right in assuming that tartan hose and buckle shoes is the correct attire to be worn with a Prince Charlie? I see ghillies and off-white hose worn by most men these days, which I understood was for day-wear with the Argyle jacket. Who Knows? Tom B. Dear Tommy Boy: You are indeed correct. The Prince Charlie demands tartan hose. The business of wearing white socks with this dress attire is atrocious and comes straight from Alabama St. Andrew’s Society balls. Ghillie brogues can indeed be worn with tartan hose and a Prince Charlie, but make sure that the shoes are buffed to a high shine. Style Guy much prefers the dress “Mary Jane” shoes proscribed for officers of the Scottish regiments. They are delicate and a bit feminine, yes, but, hey, you’re wearing a freakin’ skirt anyway, so you may as well go the whole pig! But never, ever wear Mary Janes with day-wear jacket and monochromatic socks (see Alabama comment above).
Dear Style Guy: I’d like to know your thoughts on wearing a black glengarry with a tweed (probably green) jacket and waistcoat. I’m wanting to get away from the black jacket and waistcoat for solos as I think it looks too band-like, but not sure what would be proper headwear for this look (I’m not crazy about the look of a balmoral). Thanks,
Neil Neil kneel (that’s a command): Slowly, slowly, like Yeats’s beast slouching towards another gyre, the piping and drumming world is realizing that the glengarry is a military hat. As such, it should be worn ostensibly with military uniforms. But because what we wear was derived from the military, we have adopted the look. But Highland pipers started in the Highlands, so Highland dress should be used and respected. The balmoral is the Highland hat. You, being a solo-only piper, have a great opportunity for sartorial creativity. As my good friend Paula Abdul would say, You can make it your own! Because you asked for it, here’s my advice: ditch the black Barathea jacket. Go for a bespoke tweed number made by a custom tailor in Scotland. You will pay a higher price for it, but a lot less than a decent, off-the-rack Hugo Boss suit, and your jacket will never go out of style. Find a balmoral to tie in to the jacket, kilt and hose (knitted by hand by an old wifey in Arisaig), and Rab’s yer uncle.
Style Guy also received a few comments from readers courageous enough to question Style Guy’s authority. Damn them! But here are there thoughts, with my further genius comments. Brown brogues? Black brogues? Glengarry? Balmoral? It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it. Attitude and a bit of panache never went wrong. Margaret Aburn Margie, Margie, Margie: If it were anyone else saying this I’d lay into you like a chainsaw through buttermilk pancakes. But, I know what you mean. Trouble is, one is born with this sort of panache or one is not. You cannot force it. You can go to the best tailor and have the best advice (mine) in the world, but, at the beginning of the day only you can get dressed yourself. The best-dressed piper in the history of piping, John D. Burgess, had that natural panache. Even when he went over the top it suited his (at times) over-the-top personality. Here’s the clincher: He wore Highland wear that fit. There are a lot of pipers out there who spend a lot on their unique and “stylish” looks, but fail to wear gear that fits. JDB was made-to-measure from birth. He still is my God.
Dear Style Guy Sir: In your response to Island Woman, I oppose your view. It warms my heart to see ladies in pipe bands, or perform by themselves, when wearing the tartan skirt and a ladies’ blazer. It is graceful, alluring, attractive and most of all tasteful. Ladies should not, not wear the kilt, nor the men’s day coat or the military doublet; neither should a lady be made to look like a “guy.” These are items of men’s apparel, and should be reserved for that distinct male individual. Would you suggest that men wear tutus, if the majority of the performers in a ballet company were women ? I think not! Come on, let’s get real. There are ladies and there are gentlemen. Let’s not try to lump them into one mega-gender, for the sake of “uniformity.” Neither should judges deduct points when assessing a groups’ or an individual’s skill on the pipes or drums because of their lack of uniform conformity. A member’s apparel can match and yet be relevant to the uniqueness of the gender that people are born with. This does not detract from the fact that there are ladies who are excellent pipers and drummers, and should be encouraged to be pipers or drummers and solid performers. “Craigie MacPherson” Dear Craigie of Stirling: Ooooo-errrr . . . all this talk of “members” and “performing” is getting me a little hot under the sporran. Down, Boy. But Craigie-Mac, you are confusing the issue. My point was about ladies and men in pipe bands, where there is a uniform. Why do we have uniforms? So as not to distract spectators by putting a spotlight on someone who is different. When a band is out there, everyone is as one. The only person who should be attracting any attention is the Pipe-Major, and that is only because of necessity. A lovely female band-member who is out of uniform is like a bass-drummer galumphing about the circle: it distracts from the unified purpose of the band. It may be lady-like, but it is not band-like. Sorry, Craigie my man, I remain steadfast and resolute on this one.
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!