Style Guy
December 20, 2021

The Style Guy: offline, online, we all want to be in line

The Style Guy’s been in hibernation once again, and who hasn’t? This thing keeps marching on, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a pause to consider what’s worn and what’s worn out before we all get back to wearing things out, as it were. The Style Guy’s been keeping your questions of what, wear and when, so let’s see what’s in the wee kilt purse, otherwise known as a hanging Highland handbag.


Style Guy:

Okay, so we’ve now had almost two years of online competitions. Last year you suggested that pipers and drummers should wear in videos and streams and what nots what they would normally wear for in-person competitions. Do you still have that opinion?


Only Online Lonely

This works just fine for online.

Thanks for the question, OOL. In a word: no. No, I do not think that we need to carry on with wearing “Highland” wear for online competitions. Why? For the simple fact that there is no non-piping/drumming audience for these things. It’s pretty much just the judge. Even the top Professional players only get a handful of views after the fact, and they would all be from other pipers/drummers and their family.

But if you really want to tart up yourself, go right ahead. If were me, I would wear something comfortable that’s conducive to good playing. Some organizers have required contestants to wear the usual kilt, hat, etc. attire, but to me that’s just a bit much. I mean, we’re all just trying to get through all this, and, on that note, are they also requiring judges to get dressed up? No, they are not, simply because no one sees them. I rest my case.


Dear Style Guy:

Let’s say you, yourself, The Style Guy, are competing in an online competition. Maybe you already do. What would you wear?


Worn Willie

Not quite what we’re thinking of.

Well, Worn Willie . . . erm, I mean . . . Mr. Willie . . . if I were to compete I’d keep it simple but smart. If there’s a live audience, then, yes, I would kilt it up. But if it’s one of those record a video and submit with your best take out of 20 deals, I’d probably go with casual but respectful attire. It’s a great chance to break out the trews. I think “slacks” is a funny word, but a decent pair of trousers for guys and, for women, casual sporty stuff is a good choice. A polo shirt without a logo is comfortable and smart. Considering it’s as much a sport as it is an art, then athletic wear makes sense. I just hope the Highland dress peeps out there use this as an opportunity to design and manufacture new gear for pipers and drummers, so we can say goodbye to the requirement to lug 20 pounds of wool on our bods in the middle of a summer swelter.


Mr. Guy,

It’s been too long, since my last email about who knows what. I took two years off from my band and am now back playing with it, as well I am jumping back into the solo arena with my number one goal this time around for both, to be complete enjoyment of playing.

With that being said, I quickly learned that without the band, I was missing a sporran and cap badge. What are your thoughts on animal heads, faux fur with the dangles, band style leather, or the new and I think attractive tweed sporrans for a solo competitor now days? And should I just go with my own clan for the cap badge or are there other smart alternatives that don’t require a custom mold?



Well, perhaps not . . .

Great questions, J.E., and congrats on getting back it. Let’s address the cap badge question first. You can wear whatever the heck you like. If you look around, there are literally tons of antique cap badges out there often in solid silver. Maybe you have a long-gone relative who was with one of the Scottish regiments. I think that entitles you to pay homage to him or her with the regiment’s crest.

Or maybe you’re a Miami Dolphins fan. I bet there’s a cool pin out there that might work. If you’re really creative, have something designed especially for you by a jeweler, like Islay Spalding. You’re going to have this thing forever, so why not splurge a little? It’s a great investment.

Now to the sporran question. I’m torn. I love the traditional animal sporrans, to a point. Having some beautiful dead fox adorning your crotch is just sort of creepy, even if it might be “antique.” There’s a school of thought that displaying such antique animal pelts, or even having ivory on your vintage bagpipes, implicitly condones the use of animal products for our titillation. I think that’s going a bit far, but I respect those who feel that way. There are artisans out there who are making some really lovely leather sporrans, or even creating gear from faux-leather materials. Just poke around the net a bit, and Etsy can be a good resource.

For both of these items, like the kilt itself, your gear if well-made will last a lifetime, so be sure to go for quality and distinction. When competing or performing solo, you’re not with the band. You’re on your own, so make a tasteful statement.


Dear Style Guy:

I have always wondered why drummers rarely purchase their own attire when competing solo. Why is this?

Hands Solo

I, too, have wondered about this. To be sure, there are some snare drummers at the top of the tree who have their own kilt and jackets and things, but the vast majority just wear the band stuff. Some solo pipers do this as well. They’re either travelling light, lazy, frugal, want to be associated only with their band, or all of the preceding.

It’s strange to me that big drumming competitions list the competitors and the band they play with. Why is this? Is the band who they are? No! Drummers are people, too.

When I see a drummer who has purchased their own kilt ensemble, I am immediately impressed. It makes a statement that says they take this stuff seriously. They have a life and musical personality that isn’t completely attached to their band.


Dear SG:

I know it’s late, and probably past time to get Christmas presents, but what would be your recommendation for a gift for myself in 2022? I mean, I think we all deserve a little treat to ourselves next year.

What would you get?


Present in Pretoria

Never worn better.

Well, PiP, that’s a very generous thought. I like it. Chances are, with not much or no travelling to competitions and band practices, you have some extra savings built up. I don’t want to presume, but that’s the case, you can never go wrong with this addition to your wardrobe:

A kilt.

As I mentioned earlier, a kilt lasts a lifetime. Not those cheapie seven-yard soft kilts that you see on the toffee-nosed gentry; I’m talking about a proper kilt of a worsted wool, at least eight full yards, and – here’s the most important part – made to your measurements. A kilt that fits.

Take your time. Choose your kilt maker wisely. If you’ve seen a perfect kilt, ask the wearer who made it. Go with a bespoke tailor who will work with you on the finer details of the cut and fit. Do not stop until it is exactly right.

Wear it for a lifetime. Wear it well. You deserve it.


What’s your burning question of piping and drumming wear and gear? Are you ready to burn that tie or are you on fire for a new look?  Contact The Style Guy, and he’ll be happy to set you straight down a path of sartorial splendor. Here to set you straight on all matters of style.



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