Style Guy
December 31, 2008


Well, the weather’s colder and that means that the mainstream fashion world is making its annual “tartan / plaid is in” decree. They parade models around in frumpy woolens, only to decide, once again, that it’s a bad idea. We all know that only pipers and drummers should parade around in frumpy woolens.
Here are a few de-frumping tips from The Style Guy to keep you warm.
Style Guy:
My question is simple: do you think that bands/drum corps should take a long hard look at what colour their uniform is and buy drums according to the colour of their uniforms rather than what looks cool to them?
Coloured Drummerboy
Dear CDB:
The trend these days in the top tier Grade 1 bands is to come out with garish drums that seem out of whack with the group’s attire. This is, I believe, due to these bands getting free equipment from the manufacturer-sponsors. The drum-makers want to show off the new finishes, so they throw the latest hideously coloured drums at them and, well, you know, beggars shouldn’t be choosers.
Unfortunately, whatever the big bands do or play is emulated on down the grades. The lower-tier bands think that this motley approach is, as you say, “cool.” Like sunglasses in the circle, it is not.
If it were up to me, I would challenge the drum-maker to match a certain minor colour of the band’s tartan, like, say, a small stripe in a fairly neutral colour. Anything that distracts an audience from the music is bad, in my mind, so keeping the drum colour discrete is the way to go – unless, of course, you’re a band that wants to distract from the music.

Dear Style Guy:
I’ve been part of a small group within our band fighting a desperate delaying action against the band buying vests. I listened to Style Guy several years ago who said, if memory serves, that they looked shabby and were a passing fad. Should we give up the fight and resign ourselves to looking half dressed during competitions, or keep the faith and fight on? And are balmorals still back?!
No vests or die
Dear NVOD:
You are a wise man, indeed. The Style Guy has fought the good fight not against vests/waistcoats, per se, but wearing them with short-sleeved shirts and – worse luck – waist-belts.
Some history: the first major band to wear vests was Polkemmet in the 1980s. Actually, we can blame that band’s leaders at the time, Robert Mathieson and Jim Kilpatrick, for starting the seemingly endless trend. The two of them distinguished themselves by wearing waistcoats while the rest of the band didn’t.
Anyway, it caught on, and soon bands saw it as a cost-cutting measure, opting for the “smart” vesty look over full jackets.
If I were kitting out a band today I would avoid vests. It’s done, unless of course you want to look like every other band out there. Get well made jackets and proper long-sleeved shirts.
That said, the 2008 World Champions are one of the smartest bands out there, with their well-cut navy blue waistcoats and long-sleeved blue shirts. But when your Pipe-Major and Pipe-Sergeant work with a Highland dress retailer, it makes sense to show off the product.
Ultimately, the pipe band world takes its cue from the world of solo piping. The fashion trends generally start with the top soloists. The daywear look adopted by bands in the 1970s was essentially what solo pipers had been wearing for several decades. The not-white socks craze was started by soloists in the 1990s. If more solo pipers take to wearing balmorals, then they too will come into pipe band vogue.
I would say that glengarries are still in because they’re still in on the solo boards. But you can see more and more soloists wearing the more Highland / less military headgear, and sooner or later a top Grade 1 band will take the plunge and everyone will follow.

Style Guy:
Would it not make more sense to have the World Pipe Band Championships in a different country every few years? For decades, the World’s has been held in the motherland, Scotland. However, I think it would be nice to see this venue more around the world, as bands from every corner of the globe attend this competition.
I think it would be only fair that bands from the UK and Europe also have a chance to travel and get to see other countries and cultures. I know the idea has been brought to the table before and has been completely shut down and disregarded. I think it really could work, and this way, bands from North America wouldn’t have to pay a large amount of money to go overseas every year!
What’s your take on the situation?
Mr. Finding Things Expensive
Dear MFTE:
While your query does not immediately seem like one about style, it is. The style of the big pipe band event has not much changed over the decades, mainly because it has been held in the same city every year.
I would not hold your breath for a change. There is too much money wrapped up in the contest for it to go anywhere else. Unfortunately, the players don’t really share in the dosh.
And that’s why, sooner or later, some other city will step up and do it right, and the “World’s” will become like Cowal: the event that used to be the pipe band competition pinnacle.
And when the Inter-Continental, Universal or Inter-Galactic Pipe Band Championships emerges in Las Vegas or Toronto or Vancouver or, for that matter, Belfast, you will see the sense of style change. Have you ever checked out what pipe bands from the western United States wear? Lots of bright colours. Purple, sky-blue and pink tartans! The effect on pipe band style will be enormous.

Dear Style Guy:
I notice a lot of bands put their band’s name on their bag-covers. What’s your opinion of this?
Dear Bagged:
At first I liked this, and I still do, as long as it’s discreet, tasteful and well done. But I’ve noticed that some bands are lately looking like NASCAR racers, what with all the logos on drums and bag-covers.
I don’t really understand the need to have a logo on a bag-cover unless, again, it’s to distract from the music. Or perhaps it’s a property thing, and bands want to be sure that departing pipers return the gear.
If you must put your band logo on the cover, follow these rules: 1. Make sure it’s embroidered. 2. A sewn-on patch looks cheap and tacky. 3. Don’t allow anything more than the band’s name/logo unless they pay big bucks. 4. If a sponsor asks that their logo goes on the covers, come up with an alternative option. No sponsor wants to be tacky.

Is your band into a big cover-up? Finding that your being pushed around by forces making you look bad? Bring your questions of style to me. Send me your queries and I will set you straight.




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