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Don't get ripped off on things you don't need. The list of accessories is long, really long. And within every category there are so many varieties. But don't despair. You can do with very few, and they don't need to cost a fortune.
Find out, which accessories are must-haves, which are nice to have, and which you shouldn't consider at all for casual and smart casual wear, and some not even for dress-up events.
Kilt accessories are related to the traditional kilt.
The kilt and nothing but the kilt
When going really casual you might
wear just the kilt.
Just the kilt. Sport Kilt.
However, I think you should soon feel the need for a few accessories.
Must-haves for casual and smart-casual wear
There are only four accessories which I consider being really basic. They are
1) a sporran
2) a kilt belt
3) kilt socks
To some they might be one or two too many; to others too few. But let's go through them.
Plain day wear leather sporran.
A traditional kilt has no pockets. The “authorized” pocket for a traditional kilt is a purse to hang on your front and is called a sporran.
There are three types of sporrans, dress sporrans, semi-dress sporrans,
and day wear sporrans.
For casual wear only the day wear sporran is a possibility. Sometimes it is called a leather day sporran.
With or without tassels?
Most sporrans on the market come with tassels on the front. When you are walking they make you sound like a drummer. To most kilt wearers it seems to be OK. To me it is not.
I suggest you go for a plain
leather day sporran without these noisy and annoying tassels.
Often sporrans with tassels are cheaper than those without them. If you buy a sporran with tassels, and you don’t like the noise they produce, cut them off. Just be sure that they are fastened under
the sporran flap.
From a conventional day sporan with three tassels to a plain leather sporran.
Chain or strap?
With very few exceptions, sporrans are delivered together with a metal sporran chain.
A chain can be a little bit hard on your kilt, however. That is what many frequent kilt wearers think, and accordingly they, for casual wear, prefer a leather strap. Me too.
Left: traditional sporran chain strap. Right: back of sporran with leather sporran strap.
I have made me some black and brown leather straps for my day sporrans. But such are also to buy. Tartanista
, a London based company, sells cheap leather straps in black and brown. (Should you feel tempted to buy one of their 'value kilts', don't think of wearing a sporran).
Must I wear a sporran?
Going without a sporran is definitely against rules. Kilt and sporran are often considered strongly connected items. Some kilt wearers will even say that without a sporran a kilt is a skirt. That makes no sense. A car from which something as essential as the wheels have been stolen is still a car, is no bycycle or whatever.
But back to the question, you must not.
Most people would still think that a Traditional 8 yard kilt looks right only when worn with a sporran, quite apart from the practicality it lends to a garment without pockets in giving you somewhere to carry those coins and keys. But a Casual Kilt is quite another story, and it is entirely a matter of style. If you wish it to resemble the traditional 8 yard garment, a sporran is probably still desirable. But if you are wearing your Casual Kilt as a versatile fashion garment, then how you accessorize is a purely personal style statement. It’s cool either way!
In disfavour of the sporran is also the fact that today’s smart phones are big, very big, and soon they’ll grow out of sporrans, meaning you must have another place to accommodate them. Or sporran makers are to adjust sizes in accordance with today’s needs.
If your kilt is designed to sit low, you probably shouldn’t wear a sporran either, because a sporran should neither hang too low nor be too close to the top of the kilt.
Holyrood kilt worn with sporran.
Holyrood kilt with a shoulder bag.
Until a few years ago I on this page wrote that I would almost always wear a sporran, even if empty.
My wife, however, finds that a kilt is looking much better without a sporran and that I should instead wear a shoulder bag when needing pockets. Ditching the sporran certainly also adds to comfort. Therefore, I started, sometimes to leave the sporran at home. First with my USA Kilts Casual which was ordered short to be worn at jeans waist; then with my Sport Kilt, which has deep inside pockets, and later it was with all my kilts.
At first, I thought it was wrong, but now it has become natural to go without and no one cares. That means the folowing practice:
For casual wear, never sporran
For smart casual wear, about 50-50
For more formal wear, always sporran.
But even if no longer always worn I still consider a sporran a "must have" thing. And especially if you live closer to a Scottish environment than do I.
Belt & Buckle.
An original kilt belt & buckle
might be a little bit overdressed for casual wear; nevertheless it looks quite good; and wide-enough ordinary belts are hard to find elsewhere. Also, kilt belts and buckles are most affordable, so go for them.
less 'Scottish' alternatives, however. Before mentioned Tartanista
is selling them.
On the picture above the buckle has been attached. It is a simple "Celtic knot buckle".
I like this cheap one because of its pretty clean design.
Must I wear a belt?
Technically there is no reason why you should wear a belt with a kilt. By means of buckles and straps it stays up perfectly well. However, a kilt looks at its best together with a 2 ¼-2 ½ inch wide belt.
If you are wearing a sweater untucked - as it should be – a belt is unnecessary. If you are wearing a waist coat, you should not wear a kilt belt!
Long socks, called kilt hose
or kilt socks
are common with the kilt. They are basically "over knees" and meant to be folded down about one inch (2.5 cm) below your knees, contrary to knee high socks that end just below them.
They come in many colours. White socks, whether long or short, are not to everybody’s taste; nevertheless, most kilt hose are probably white or off white. The reason might be that they'll go with practically every kilt.
Other popular colours are black, charcoal, lovat green, lovat blue, bottle green, dark grey, and navy.
Kilt hose must not
be solid coloured. In fact, some Scots like diced ones, I have been told. I definitely prefer solid coloured hose. In my book, mixing different patterns is bad taste. But so, we are all different. And you do see similar examples in women’s fashion.
All kilt vendors I know of are selling kilt hose.
Otherwise I can recommend Brevin & Co.
via Amazon. WB Socks.
High value for money.
Due to the customs clearance fee, which always applies when goods are sent from 3rd countries to EU-countries, it might be a good idea to order more pairs of socks at a time, like for example ten.
Garters. Flashes removed.
To simply keep your kilt hose staying up, you need garters.
Garters always come with flashes.
Finding, like me, flashes overdressed for casual wear? Just remove the flashes from the garters, or don't mount them. The garters themselves are invisible when your socks are folded down just below your knees as they should. And when you think you need the flashes put them on. It is very easy.
This ends the list of the high land items you need when wearing traditional kilts in a smart casual way. For less than £70 you can have them all.
Dress it up a bit
You might invite your wife to a nice restaurant or go to the opera house or theatre. In these cases you'll probably need a few more or other accessories:
A kilt jacket
Argyle kilt jacket.
Men's ordinary jackets are too long to wear with a kilt and should look absolutely ridiculous. You’ll have to invest in an Argyle/(Argyll)
, of which the Argyle is the most popular one. It is available in various colours like lovat blue, lovat green, and of course black, the latter probably being the most versatile one.
Price level £150-£250.
Garters with dark blue flashes removed and mounted.
Supposing you already have garters, you’ll also have flashes. For dressing up they might be fine. How to wear them is described on the next page.
A kilt pin
Many kilt wearers are always wearing a kilt pin. It is cheap, and if you want one, buy one, and wear it. Also for casual wear.
A kilt pin is for pure decoration and to be fastened to the outer apron about three inches up from the bottom of your kilt and about two inches from the apron fringes.
Some will say a kilt pin, due to its weight, helps keeping the kilt down in windy weather. It is not my experience.
For obvious reasons a kilt pin is not welcome on board a flight.
Kilt pins are available in many designs. From about £10.
I have several kilt pins, but I will only wear them at dress-up situations and even then, far from always.
By NO means a kilt pin shall hold the two aprons together. It should destroy your precious kilt in no time!
Taking it further
For dress up situations where you could not go without your best evening suit, you might need some extras.
A semi-dress sporran
For dress up situations the leather sporran is considered too ordinary. On a semi-dress sporran, the front is decorated in some way. Earlier it was always seal skin, but as seal has been forbidden in many countries, including a big market like USA, sporran makers have come up with other solutions.
On most dress-up occasions I will simply wear one of my plain day sporrans.
A sgian dubh
The sgian dubh is the Gaelic name for the special knife to be worn in your right (or left) kilt hose. Be aware, however, that in some countries the wearing of it could bring you to jail if the blade is a little bit too long. And don't even think of wearing one in an airport.
You can have sgian dubhs which are made of harmless plastic, and nobody knows until you draw it. But also replicas of weapons may not be permitted on board an airplane or they might otherwise be considered illegal.
I will only wear a sgian dubh at dress up occasions AND when at no risk of being accused of illegal possession of weapons.
Special shoes with long laces to tie around your ankle. Unless you'll wear your kilt at white or black-tie events, you don't need them.
The full packet
Kilt, kilt belt, semi-dress sporran, kilt pin, kilt hose, garter flashes, ghillie brogues, Argyle kilt jacket, dress shirt, tie,
Kilt, kilt pin, kilt hose, garter flashes, ghillie brogues, sgian dubh.
Ready for the concert hall
But less will do. You may refrain from the ghillie brogues. For the concert hall, theatre, and opera house they are a bit over-dressed. Ordinary dress shoes will do. And you can let the sgian dubh at home.
The two pictures above illustrate where many other kilt sites start. Should you like to know more about how to dress for such rare occasions you'll find excellent advice there.
To my opinion, they are big overshooting the mark when it is about wearing kilts as daily attire, thereby to replace jeans, shorts and equivalent, and where the kilt should just be considered another piece of clothing, rather than part of national dress.
Don't waste your money
A dirk in the belt, a bonnet, feathers, cap badges, and a plaid over the shoulder? Absolutely NO.
Too much national dress and should look rather ridiculous if worn by a non-Scott.
Let's sum it up
1. For casual, really casual wear
you don’t need accessories at all.
2. For casual/smart casual wear
you should invest in
a day wear sporran
a kilt belt
None of the items must be expensive. Black leather things go with all kilts. Black, white, and dark grey or charcoal kilt socks go with most tartans.
3. For dress up events
like visiting better restaurants, going to the theatre, concert hall etc. you should complement with a kilt jacket.
All other accessories are up to you, unless we talk black and white tie functions, where rules must be followed.
That was what should be said about accessories. Except, perhaps for one thing, which might come in handy; regardless of how you else are going to accessorize your kilt:
Under your kilt?
What you wear – or don’t wear - under your kilt is a matter of personal preferences. But the idea of wearing the kilt “as a true Scotsman” on a more or less regular basis might appeal to many. Probably every kilt wearer has tried it at least
once. It is part of the game, isn't it? However, before you ditch your underpants keep in mind: Wool kilts must be dry cleaned and even if some PV-kilts are machine washable they might still need a lot of ironing.
With only 5-6 kilt wearers out of 10 (according to earlier mentioned YouGow reserch) wearing regular underwear under their kilt, there should be a big market potential for a solution, at the same time solving the hygiene problem and still letting 'them feel the breeze'.
A kilt liner
Such solution does exist. It is called a kilt liner
. But even if making a lot of sense, obviously only one company is selling them, G. Lieberman & Sons.
Their kilt liner is $24 + shipping (+ VAT, if you are an EU citizen). It is 46 cm long, is made of nylon and comes in two models, one black opaque and one in sheer
i.e. transparent nylon.
A reason that Lieberman & Sons are alone on the market might be that some kilt wearers have found other solutions for the hygiene issue.
An alternative kilt liner
A kilt liner is, in fact, simply a thin skirt or what women might call a half slip. Practically, the same thing you can therefore find easier and cheaper - provided you can accept it to be sold as a skirt – in women’s stores.
It is then marketed as a skater skirt, a bell-shaped skirt, or a circular skirt.
Skater skirt or bell-shaped skirt
A skater skirt worn under your kilt makes a great kilt protector.
Such skirt is, contrary to the “authorized” kilt liner, wide, really wide, and accordingly much more like a kilt, in fact. The elastic waist and the jersey fabric you’ll know already from your underwear or sport clothes. So, nothing feminine per se about that. When worn under a kilt a skater skirt is just open, roomy underwear, which shall protect your precious kilt efficiently against you.
A grey skater skirt is serving as kilt underwear. Unless the kilt is grey, a black skirt is better, however, because it shall 'disappear' in the shadow under the kilt.
Depending on how often you plan to go commando you may need more than one of these protectors. Fortunately, they are cheap and should not be difficult to find. This one is 18" = 46 cm long, the same as the Lieberman kilt liners.
But how about comfort, you may ask, when wearing a kilt liner or skater skirt as underwear? Try it out. I guess you'll find these “semi-commando”
things very much as good as the ‘real thing’.
However, if you think tradition must be followed, forget about this advice, whether kilt liner or skater skirt, and do what do you must.
Besides, on windy days or when you have to do a lot of sitting there certainly are better, more straight-forward solutions than going full- or semi-commando. And even then, the kilt is a most comfortable garment.
When cold outside? Don't worry. It may be individual, but unless you are standing still, for example talking to someone for a very long time, you'll hardly need anything under your kilt, other than socks and shoes, not even when it being well below freezing.
The eternal question: What is under the kilt?
Under which of the three kilts are underpants worn? Under which one is a skater skirt? And under which kilt are only socks and shoes?
From outside no one can possibly tell. Nevertheless, the high probability that a man in a kilt is bare under it, obviously makes very many people curious to find out. Not that seldom, therefore, you shall be more or less directly asked, especially by women. Have you? Or have you not? Whatever your
truth, keep it your
secret - like I do here.
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