When it comes to occasion dressing and black tie events, consider the kilt. A made to measure outfit will cost upwards of £1000, but it’s the ultimate in investment dressing for men.
A bespoke kilt and jacket will last for decades. It’s an outfit that makes almost any body shape look good and always draws admiring glances.
It makes sense to hire an outfit first to see if you feel comfortable wearing it, but if you attend a lot of events or you’re getting married, then having your own made to measure kilt in your own tartan is worth considering. As well as clan, district, personal and organisational tartans, there are universal tartans such as Black Watch and Flower of Scotland that can be worn by anyone, whether they can trace their ancestors back to the Jacobites or not. The Welsh and Irish have tartans too.
If you’re not sure about your clan tartan, your kilt maker will be able to show you a selection of appropriate patterns. There’s also a useful search facility called the Tartan Ferret, which will help you find tartans associated with your surname or other search options as well as an A-Z browsing option. tartansauthority.com/tartan-ferret/. Many clans have several tartans including ancient and hunting varieties, so you may have a few patterns to choose from. The search facility doesn’t have every surname in the database, so you may need to go back into your family history to find a surname associated with a clan. If you really want to push the boat out, you can even design your own personal tartan at tartansauthority.com/tartan/tartan-today/croft-weaver-tartan-designer/ then have it specially woven and made up into a kilt.
Typically, a kilt uses eight yards of fabric and takes around 30 hours to make a hand sewn, knife edge version. If you’re not a fan of tartan, then kilts also come in plain colours and even black leather. The outfit is completed with a shirt and tie, long woollen socks with tartan flashes, kilt brogues, belt, a sporran and your choice of jacket and matching waistcoat. Fly plaids, which are worn over the shoulder are still favoured by some. Underwear is, by tradition, left at home.
The Prince Charlie is the most formal style of jacket, generally coming in black or a dark shade that complements the kilt fabric. The cut is similar to a shortened tail coat and comes with silvered buttons. The Argyll Jacket is less ostentatious with silvered buttons on the packets and cuffs while a Braemar style is similar to a single breasted suit jacket. Lastly, tweed jackets are often worn to country events such as Highland Games. You’ll also find less traditional fabrics being used, such as velvets, for weddings.
When it comes to selecting a sporran, avoid anything that resembles a folded badger or a full-length horsehair job that makes you look like the leader of a pipe band. If small children point and laugh, you’ve made the wrong choice. If sealskin seems cruel and leather is too plain, it’s possible to get vegan sporrans or ethically made sporrans that use roadkill.
Finishing touches include a Sgian Dubh dagger worn tucked down a sock and a kilt pin. There are bladeless daggers available for flights and even some which have a bottle opener, which are useful if you’re travelling to an international football or rugby fixture. As well as kilt stockists, most jewellers will have a selection of kilt pins, or if you fancy something more unusual, many will be able to create a bespoke pin in the form of your choice.
Images © Donna Murray Photographer