Published: August 31, 2009

Vested interests

It has been awhile, Dear Readers, and I apologize. I had taken a sabbatical to the great fashion capitols of Milan, Paris and Portree to recharge my sartorial batteries. I’m now back in my bespoke saddle, ready to answer your every question of dress. Let’s upon yon mail-bag . . .
 
Dear Style Guy:
 
Two words: “brown brogues.”
 
Comment?
 
Signed, 
Mr. Shite Shoes
 
Dear MSS:
 
Ah, yes, the precious wearers of the brown brogues. I see there’s some sort of club now on Bookface, or whatever they call that wretched anti-social thing.
 
Brown brogues, just like brown shoes with any outfit, only work when they go with the rest of the ensemble. I personally don’t approve of brown ghillies with anything but a hunting tartan, or at least neutral earth-tones. Brown brogues just for the sake of wearing brown brogues look ridiculous, since invariably they’re worn with a kilt in bold primary colours.
 
And for MacCrimmon’s sake, never, ever, never wear brown brogues with a black waist-belt or black bonnet.
 

 
Style Guru:
 
Why is it that everyone and their mother seems to own a green-and-blue themed kilt? They recently are starting to offend me, and while I know much has to do with family, can’t these people that have the last name Rutemeigerhiman just pick what they want instead of finding that sliver of Scottish descendant in their family to decide on which kilt they buy? Because it always seems to be a blue-and-green kilt.
 
I’m not going to punch Willie McCallum in the face for wearing his tartan. Surely he deserves the right to wear it. And he does it proud but, Christ, I think you should be allowed to slap random people in the face if they seem to not have any good reason for wearing one than, “It was on clearance from the tea and biscuit shoppe.” Whatever.
 
I should probably get slapped for asking this question. I know what you are thinking: “What’s this guy waiting for?”
 
What did they five fingers say to the face of the guy in a green and blue kilt?
 
SLAP!
 
Mr. Black and Blue
 
Dear B&B:
 
Whoa. I know I feel strongly about questions of dress, but, really, take a pill. Calm down. Deep breath.
 
Now, then. I don’t know what you’re on about. The soothing colours of the cool-hued kilt I don’t think are overused at all. In fact, I would like to see more bands take advantage of them. I do note that the further west you go, whether in Scotland, Canada or the United States, the more popular the blue colours tend to be. Argyllshire seems especially rife with cool-coloured tartans, and with Inveraray & District becoming the toast of the scene there, here and everywhere, the trend will only increase.
 
I agree about the freedom-of-choice thing. There’s no law that requires anyone to wear their family tartan or, as you say, some tartan remotely connected with some long-dead ancestor. It’s a nice gesture, and all, but just go get something you like, unless you have to appease your auntie at your wedding or something.
 
As for even thinking about slapping the great Willie McCallum. Don’t try it. He’d kick your sorry arse.
 

 
Dear Style Guy:
 
Our band is soon to add a vest to our uniform. An objective and up-to-date opinion would be appreciated regarding this decision.
 
Our band wears the Gordon tartan. Number-one dress is tunic with plaid. We also in hot weather wear just the short-sleeved white shirt and tie and of course, kilt, etc. Our socks are white. We have recently added a navy blue golf shirt, crested, for informal performances and have a navy blue pullover that we will be wearing with white shirt and tie.
 
So the question is what do you suggest for vest colours and do we change the colour of our socks?
 
We are not a competitive band. We do parades and performances.
 
If you have any further questions, please contact me.
 
Thank you for your insight and assistance.
 
Bonnie
 
Dear Bonnie:
 
Yes, I do have a further question: do you also wear pith helmets and white spats with black buttons over top of Velcro closures? I would have loved to have seen a picture of your crew, but shall leave it to my fertile imagination.
 
Is there a more discussed article of Highland dress these days than the blessed vest? It has become either a required part of the modern pipe band get-up or an unfortunate cliché. Too often it’s the latter.
 
There are exceptions. Take, for instance, what the Grade 1 McNaughton’s Vale of Atholl Pipe Band of Pitlochry, Scotland, does: they actually match the colour of the satin backing of their vests with the primary colour of their kilt. This is simple brilliance, and it caught my eye this summer at the various Scottish competitions. The Vale is of course sponsored by a major Highland dress organization (as are a few other bands), and they make the most of it. Their sponsor understands that their band is a walking billboard for their stuff, so it had better look good. You may want to consider that matchy-matchy approach. Pure class, that.
McNaughton's Vale of Atholl and their coordinated waist-coats. Pity about the short-sleeved shirts.
As for your band’s hose, it’s the trend these days to dislike white or off-white kilt-socks. This is probably the main reason why you should seriously consider keeping them. Any good clothing designer knows that whatever is in is out, so they simply rummage through 25-year-old editions of Vogue and Cosmopolitan to see what was hot, and then retread some “ideas.” Wait a generation, and the next generation thinks it’s all new. So, white kilt socks are cool and “retro.”
 
That said, you’ll have to withstand the ridicule from the lily-livered conformists. If you’re not up to that, go with neutral tones for your hand-knitted hose (must be hand-knit). Rule of thumb is never to draw attention to your calves, unless your name is Bob Shepherd.
 

 
John D. Burgess MBE and the McSaughton tartan.And, dear readers, I leave you with a photo passed along to me by my Editor, sent in by an anonymous donor. It is a reminder that nobody, but nobody, could carry off such acts of sartorial derring-do like the late, great John Davy Burgess. When will we see his like again? Answer: Never.
 
So what are your issues of dress? Zebra-skin bag-cover? Platinum mounts on your Hendersons? Drum sparkle in the rain? Send your queries and The Style Guy will set you straight.

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