The Style Guy notes that more than three-quarters of us prefer to wear proper Highland dress in competition, eschewing “Smart but casual everyday clothing.” This tells me that we want to continue to look the part, even if it means that we won’t be as comfortable. (I doubt any one of you slips into your band kit when you get home from a long day at the office . . . ) So with the New Year at hand, here are some style resolutions intended to help you look and act your best when doing your piping and drumming thing.
Resolution: first band back to jackets and no vests wins style points.
The Style Guy is hoping that 2018 will be the year when bands replace the horrible waistcoats/vests with jackets. Just jackets. It’s a clean and modern retro look. And I don’t mean that you have to wear your jackets in competition. They’re conducive to staying warm, but destructive to good playing because of being restrictive on the arms for pipers and snare drummers, not to mention the tenors who need the range of motion of a gymnast. I’d love to see a band out there with jackets on, but it would be just as great to see a full complement of crisp long-sleeved shirts. That’s all. Just one band that finally leaves their cheap and ill-fitting waistcoats on the bus will make a statement that they’re looking forward by looking back.
Resolve never to wear ridiculous ties
You might think you’re being funny when you wear that ridiculous necktie, but, in truth, you’re looking like a fool. And you’re not really a fool. You’re actually pulling attention away from your good playing. You’re communicating that your tie is more engaging than your performance as a piper, drummer or adjudicator. You can make sartorial statements in tasteful ways, though. Start a style trend with a taste in clothing that reflects your good taste in music. No, you don’t need to look like everyone else, just as you don’t need to be the umpteenth piper to play “Susan MacLeod,” as great a tune as it is. You can play tastefully different tunes, and you can wear tastefully different items. That yellow Mickey Mouse tie? Well, it Disney work.
Decided: no more matchy-matchy in 2018
I’ve seen a rise in pipers and drummers and judges working too hard to have matching tartan everything – waistcoats same as the kilt, and even sporrans and shoes customized with swatches of the same tartan, trying to match everything. I like this for non-competition events, like recitals, Burns Suppers and Halloween, but when it creeps on to the contest field one must declare that enough is enough. The all tartan thing might have been cool when Queen Victoria strutted her stuff at Balmoral, or when The Style Guy’s muse, John D. Burgess, could pull off the feat at the big events, but today it just misses the sartorial mark for all but the most judicious folk. In general, Style Guy recommends avoiding direct matching tartan. Just like a piper with a bag-cover that matches a kilt immediately suggests “Bad player,” so, too, can a matchy-matchy Highland wear ensemble. Complementing, not copying, is what sharp style’s all about.
Be it resolved never to wear sunglasses while competing.
The Style Guy can’t stop saying this but many pipers and drummers still appear blind to the no shades rule. I still see players in bands and soloists compete wearing sunglasses. It might be blazing sunshine, and you might think sunglasses are medically necessary, but surely you can live without them for a few minutes. There are few things more style-destroying than a well-turned-out band looking immaculate on the field, but then there’s that one member out there who “forgot” to take off his/her sunglasses. It’s a fashion blooter that pulls down the performance with a single suggestion of arrogance. It’s an early E of style. Sunglasses are an ensemble clanger.
Resolution: better decorum on social media.
Style is more than what you wear. Your style also includes what you say and how you carry yourself. I’ve noticed an unfortunate growing trend on social media with young pipers and drummers gloating about their success. It’s often positioned as some sort of announcement to the world about themselves. “I was just informed that [whatever] association has officially upgraded me to Open!” or “Congratulations to everyone who got a prize today at [Podunk competition] – chuffed to bits that I won!” This sort of thing lacks decorum. It’s in bad taste. What’s always in good taste is humility. Let others do the talking for you on things like this. Do you ever see Angus MacColl or Willie McCallum gloating about their success? No. The cardinal rule is “Magnanimous in victory, gracious in defeat.” (If you’re not sure what magnanimous means, I’m sorry that you didn’t pay attention in English class, but, in general, it means generous and noble.) Social media has changed a lot of things for the better and the worse, but one thing that should never change is thoughtful restraint and humbly moving forward. Trust me, you’ll look a lot more mature for it.
Jackie Bird: resolve to get with the bands
Style Guy has loved the Beeb’s Jackie Bird ever since she hung out with The Jam and Echo and the Bunnymen back when she was the coolest 1980s groupie ever. Assuming she’s back doing the multi-million-pound broadcast of the World Championship in 2018, it would be great if she did a little something with her outfit to give a nod to the subject matter at hand. Don’t get me wrong, she’s got lovely style, and can certainly afford designer duds. But she looks like she’s in her usual weekend attire, getting the shopping done at Jenners, ready for selfies with adoring fans in the shoe department, rather than covering the major pipe band competition of the year. Just a little something, Jackie. Maybe a wee Gucci tweed cape, or a Stella McCartney tartan clutch, or perhaps some cashmere fingerless gloves by Armani? Just give us a signal that you’re with the team.
Hey, look, style is subjective, but the subject of this is good style, and these are just a few of my thoughts and tips for a better-looking 2018. I could go on, but I, too, will resolve to practice restraint. And it’s my resolution be back with you more regularly next year, so please send The Style Guy your questions of kilt disquiet, your wonderings of Highland wear, your flashes asks . . . whatever you might be torn over when it comes to what to wear. The Style Guy is here to serve.