Style Guy

The Style Guy: game sporran game, a dilemma of judges, and what women want

Published: March 7, 2018

The Style Guy has been busy perusing letters, opening emails, and gazing longingly at old photos of some of his style icons: Pipe-Major Angus, D.R. McLennan and, of course, the uber-dapper John David Burgess. Let’s see what answers the messages request and, for the first one, what the cat dragged in . . .


Dear Style Guy,

Dangerous choice.

What do you think of sporrans that use animal fur? I’ve seen whole heads of critters like foxes and badgers. Okay or what?


Fur Goodness Sakes


Excellent question, FGS, and thanks for bringing it up. Little known fact that sporran makers that still make these animal models these days will use the unfortunate victims of highway accidents. In another word: roadkill. It’s a bit of re-use or repurposing for the Highland wear industry. But I’m not sure on this one. While a classic animal sporran can be a tasteful trademark, it can also be incredibly insensitive. A discreet and traditional musquash model can complete a daywear ensemble perfectly. Wearing anything endangered should be avoided for ethical reasons, even if it’s antique. A bass drummer going around with an antique leopard skin apron would be as tacky as that old lady with the arctic fox coat shopping at Macey’s. Yick. When it comes to animal sporrans, keep it simple, keep it antique, keep it discreet. And sporting an old sporran made from a now protected animal pelt is hardly any different from playing an antique set of drones with real elephant ivory, but it is more obvious and upsetting to some.




Hi Mr. Guy,

Resplendent or reprehensive?

I saw this photo recently of a bunch of judges. Just curious, which one of them do you think got it most right?


Randall Smythe-Johnson
Weston Super Mare, England


Thanks for the query, Mr. Smythe-Johnson. I love judging judges. First of all, this is a good lineup of opionaters. They’re all looking at least pretty okay, each obviously having put some thought into their get-up.

The fellow on the left has probably taken the longest steps to coordination. Elegant tartan. Beautifully cut and pressed kilt.  Complementary shirt, and looks like he has rolled up the sleeves in the hot weather, which is a whole heckuva a lot better than short sleeves, which are a no-no with a waistcoat, Looking good there. (Just put your sporran down a notch.)

The lad on the far right is okay. The tartan is a bit mundane and the kilt not quite sitting right, and the sporran askew, but maybe the photo was snapped before he adjusted things – and we should all should take a second to adjust all those straps and buckles and bits and pieces of what-nots before a picture is snapped. (Remember also to remove the lanyards or similar judge-tags that spoil the look.) The colour palette is pretty good, though I might have looked to match the shirt colour with the socks, or vice versa.

The white-shirted bloke is plain, but well turned-out. Obviously, tucking the too-long tie into the kilt is a massive faux-pas. Please, people, take the time to get the tie-length right. The end-point triangle should start at the top of the kilt, so slight overlap, but no unsightly shirt peeking through. Really like the deep green hose.

The winner for me, though, is the trews-wearing gent, second-left. For a judge, this is a derring-do, especially if the rest of the pieces are poorly picked. But the unconventional grey waistcoat is well cut and the brown shoes are another excellent touch. Many might have been tempted to go over-the-top with a balmoral, but this understated glengarry completes the look.

So, my judging of these judges, would go 1st: second-left, 2nd: far-left, 3rd: far right, 4th: second-right. But it’s close. Ensemble breaks the tie.




Dear Style Guy:

Uniformly unchuffed.

What about women in pipe bands? Why do they always seem to have to wear the uniform that the men have on? After all, female police or military personnel usually have a different uniform. Flight attendants have uniforms, but they’re not all the same and male and female workers seem to be allowed to choose. What’s your take on this?


A tired and weary


I have often wondered about this. On the one hand, it is a uniform, and that suggests every member of the band should be uniformly attired. On the other hand, bands might well want to let women wear something less manly, and maybe come up with a variation that might replace the necktie with something more feminine, or supplant clunky big brogues with a lighter shoe. We have also inherited the kilt, which is traditionally a man’s item of clothing, so that’s a dilemma as well.

I don’t know. I’m The Style Guy, so I don’t know what women prefer, and certainly not all women prefer to wear the same thing. But I do like the notion of providing a bit of choice. My guess, though, is that, when it comes to playing in the band, everyone wants to be treated as equals, and that means no special dispensation. But I certainly would not be offended if all the women in a band wore a uniform that was a little less manly-manish. I’m also open to any band that comes up with a decidedly unisex ensemble for all players.




Hello Style Guy:

Got the look.

Can you give us an example of an average modern solo piper (and by that I mean, not a military guy or super-duper-soloist or a band player) who has got his or her kilted look totally going on?


Catwalk Chris
Norfolk, Virginia


Hey, Cat-Chris. Tough task, but I was sent this resplendent image the other week. We can’t see the edge of the kilt or the shoes, socks and flashes, but just based on the rest of the garb, you can be pretty sure that they’re just as well picked, primped and placed. The cut of the jacket and waistcoat are excellent. Love the Lovat-style cuffs to the traditional tweed, the colour of which perfectly complements the lively and fresh tartan. Sporran is pretty good. I might have gone with a little more daywear and leather, as opposed to the quasi-evening sealskin with the silver cantle, but it’s still very nice. The balmoral I quite like. Plain black is far, far better here than the somewhat begging-for-attention pastel colours we’re seeing too often these days, and the red-and-white check is a good touch. A well-tied basic blue necktie with a coat-of-arms woven pattern keeps everything tied down.

But, in addition to the attire, take note of this young man’s carriage. The pipes are solidly under the arm with the drones nice and upright. His hand posture suggests that this fellow can play a bit. The drones themselves aren’t splayed apart, nor are they too close together. A wee bit of attention might be given to how the cords are attached the middle tenor, and he might want to sharpen his reeds a bit to get his tenors further up the pin, but these points are splitting hairs and silk. The guy looks to be in good shape, too, and a frame like his can be a lot easier for a tailor to dress. You could do far worse than to model you ensemble after this piper, Chris.


Questions about what to wear for your questionable attire? The Style Guy is here to provide answers, so just fire him a quick email message and he’ll be happy to assist!

1 thought on “Style Guy

  1. What are your thoughts when it comes to choosing an outfit for a lady piper in solo competition? I’m of a ‘certain age’ and I’m considering a simple tartan skirt (below the knee), a turtle neck, plaid, balmoral, and low heeled shoes. Would this offend some in the judging world since it isn’t part of the expected uniform? I have a traditional band uniform if this alternative is considered too radical…


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