Traditional Versus Modern!
Living in Edinburgh its hard to escape the traditional image of the the Scotsman in full regalia. Every highlandwear shop on the high street has its shop window display and a piper is positioned every few hundred yards as if by some government directive to ensure you are never not hearing ‘Flower of Scotland’. lovely for the tourists but for the native Scots it can become a tiresome stereotype. It’s no wonder then that when we look to don the highland garb the native Scots tend to look for ways to break from tradition. Every wedding you attend, every formal function in fact will have wall to wall ‘Prince Charlies’ and ‘Argylls’ Their owners knees given an airing for the occasion thanks to the local kilt hire shop. But these shops will only provide you with the standard look, the kilt in Black Watch or Flower of Scotland. Tartans that are to highlandwear what Arial and Times Roman are to typography.
The manufacturers of highlandwear have realised that there is a demand for a look that ‘breaks the mould’. A few years ago the ‘black on black’ style of tartan became the vogue, closely followed by tweed kilts and even more outlandish colours (a look that has been given a shot in the arm by the rise in civil ceremonies or same sex marriages in the UK). Celtic designs that look more at home on a tattoo than on a sporran are becoming popular and with the demise of traditional sealskin alternative furs have led to an explosion of colours.
All of this looks very exciting and every time a new design comes out we are always keen to let our customers know about it. But what is funny is how our customers outside the UK react to them and in particular those in the USA and Canada. What we have come to realise is that while we are desperately trying to break traditions our friends over the ‘pond’ are just as desperate the recreate them. Tastes can sometimes seem to be stuck in some sort of Jacobite time warp, as if fashion stopped moving forward some time just after 1745 (about quarter to six in the evening). Where traditions don’t exist they are invented; the rise of ‘kirking of the tartan’ and hand fastening ceremonies are testament to this. And so there it is. It seems pretty clear cut, over here in Scotland we are doing all manner of whacky and unusual takes on the kilt and over in America the look is as traditional as tartan apple pie, right?
As if to through a big kilted spanner in the works along comes ‘dressed to kilt’
One of the signature events of New York’s Tartan Week this fashion show attracts some of the top celebrities from both sides of the Atlantic and also encourages some of the best fashion designers in the world to showcase just how far you can ‘push the envelope’. In recent years we have seen (or rather not seen) the see through kilt and a whole spectrum of other variations on a tartan theme that show just how limitless the imagination of top designers can be. And what is great is that many of these designers are from America and Canada, designers, for example like Veronica MacIssac who’s tartan dresses are breathtaking.
On the whole though the grass roots expat Scot wants to get that look exactly off the box lid. The look that demands that the sporran is EXACTLY 5 inches from the top of the kilt and the Belt is NEVER worn with the Prince Charlie jacket and that the shoes are tied in the proper way and so on and so on. There is no shame in this at all, get it right and its a stunning look. make a few subtle changes and it’s a show stopper look, just be sure you are stopping the show for all the right reasons though!
So come on lets celebrate our common differences! Lets take our hats off to our American, Canadian and Australian cousins for their faithful representation of Scottish tradition and lets encourage those who want to break the mould and innovate, after all if it hadn’t been for a little innovation the kilt we all wear today would not exist!
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