Thursday, March 24, 2011

File This Under "Plaid" (part 2)

As with most activities worth doing, one of the perks of being in a Scottish pipes and drums band is the cool outfit.  My husband has on occasion mistakenly called it a "costume."  In his defense, he has spent a lot of time with "theater people" so instead of punching him, I just quickly correct him and tell him it's very clearly a "uniform."  When I'm all suited up, Sofie often asks me if I want to twirl my "dress."  I cut her some slack because she's still young but in time, she too will be instructed to always call it a "kilt" or, in certain company, a "man skirt."

The following is a crash course in Scottish regimental attire, specifically the uniform of the 42nd Highlanders Regimental Pipes and Drums band.  This is in no way an extensive study of the ins and outs of Scottish fashion; however, this knowledge could help you avoid some awkwardness should you ever run into a person dressed like this...

Starting at the top, the hat is called a glengarry.  Drummers wear the "diced" or checkered glengarry and pipers wear plain black ones.  In our band, we all wear a Black Watch cap badge and a red hackle which is the feather thing sticking out of the glengarry.  The khaki shirt is just a typical uniform shirt.  It's hard to see in this picture but there are plaid epaulets attached at the shoulders that match the Black Watch plaid of the kilt.  

The thing hanging from the white belt centered under the belt buckle of the regular belt is called a sporran, which simply means "purse."  Sporrans come in all different shapes and styles.  Not only do they hold your stuff, they also help to hold your kilt down on a windy day.*  The one pictured here is a military style sporran and is traditionally made of horse hair.  Me and one of the other drummers in the band have fake ones that we joke are made of Barbie hair.  I've considered making one out of my own hair but that just seems weird and creepy.  I'm sure it wouldn't be that difficult to get my hands on some horse hair, I just never think of it at an opportune time.

In the band we wear two different sharp pieces of weaponry.  I guess there's always a chance things could get out of hand when there are Scottish people and bagpipes involved so it's nice to know we're armed.  Unfortunately, both of my "weapons" are just for show.  They do have sharp tips but in a fight I could probably do more damage with a set of knitting needles.  The mini sword-looking thing hanging from my belt is called a dirk.  Here's a better picture...

Some members of the band actually have nice dirks with sharp edges but many of us carry this version.  It looks very Scottish at first glance but if you examine it closely, you'll notice it's made in India and it probably isn't worth much more than the eighteen dollars I paid for it at the Queen Mary Scottish Festival.  Whatever, like I said before, it's just for show.  Some day when I get into blade smithing, a new dirk will be at the top of my list of things to make.  Until then, my outsourced version will do just fine.

The other pointy accessory is called a sgian-dubh (pronounced "skeen doo" -at least that's how I've mostly heard it said).  I recently found out "sgian-dubh" loosely translated means "hidden knife."  This makes perfect sense because it's worn like this...

The intent no longer seems to be to conceal the small dagger but to show off the ornate handle and/or plastic jewel, as it is now traditionally worn sticking out of the top of the kilt hose.

Speaking of which, those crazy red and black socks are called kilt hose and those red streamer things sticking out from under the cuff of the kilt hose are called flashes.  There are countless combinations of kilt hose (which are often a solid color) and flashes but we wear the regimental style hose.  From time to time I have people at events ask me whose idea it was to pair those socks with that plaid, implying that we should all be arrested by the fashion police.  I usually pretend I don't know what they mean, then I give them a good poke with my sgian-dubh.  Honestly, though, I've gotten so used to seeing this ensemble that none of it strikes me as strange anymore.  

Last but not least, there are special, fancy Scottish shoes called  ghillie brogues (I swear, I'm not making up any of these names) that are traditionally part of the Scottish dress attire and worn by many pipe bands; however, since we wear white spats over our shoes, we are able to wear any ordinary pair of black shoes (I think I got mine at Payless).  The spats also hide the fact that my kilt hose are actually just half hose which means they don't have feet like socks do.  They're pretty much Scottish leg warmers (which I think is like totally awesome to the max for sure).

Tomorrow I'll have some random internet videos and photos of the band for you!

*Windy days can be tricky for a person wearing a kilt or anyone watching a person wearing a kilt for that matter.  Kilts are often worn with nothing underneath so use caution.  I have witnessed more than one inadvertent mooning of an innocent bystander.  Not everyone goes "regimental," as they call it, but many do.  When I get the ever popular, "What do you wear under your kilt?" question.  I always say, "That's between me and my kilt...or not."  It usually takes people a moment but once they get it I think they appreciate the mystery.


Carolyn Ford said...

HI Katie! Sure, help yourself to the photo. What a coincidence that I got this shot...small world! Enjoy! And, your post is super...I enjoyed it.

Katie K said...

Thanks Carolyn! The post will be up tomorrow. I'll be sure to credit you and include a link to your blog. Thanks again!

Drummer Lass said...

I find it funny that you are posing TOWARDS the wall. Were you feeling the urge to scurry into a corner and tune your pipes?

Katie K said...

Wait a minute, you can tune pipes? Has our band ever heard of this? Ooooh, burn!

But seriously, I have no idea how bagpipes work- it could be witchcraft for all I know- that's why I'm a drummer. =)