Alexander Scott founded Alex Scott in Aberdeen on 6th August 1925. Since then our shop has been proudly sourcing and producing Highland wear and all things Scottish. Proving our commitment to great customer service I’m passing on some of our extensive product knowledge in our new series of guides. Here is the second of my Buyer’s Guides:
The exact origin of the sporran and its traditional role are unclear. What is most likely is that its ancient uses were mixed. Two thousand years ago, Roman Legionnaires would have looked very similar to the Highland warrior, as their tunics were knee length. They had leather straps reinforced with metal hanging down and a piece in the middle to protect the groin. The Scottish warrior also had a similar piece but theirs doubled as a pouch. Thick leather could take a significant blow meaning there was some protection but the sporran was much more useful for carrying all manner of things. Hip flasks, musket pellets and rations would be kept in this easy access pouch. Other cultures moved away from pouches and belt-pouches as clothing started to be made with pockets. However the kilt has no pockets and so the Scottish sporran survived. Today sporrans carry credit cards and mobile phones, the essential accessories of a modern Scot.
The traditional sporran was made from two pieces of animal skin sewn together with the fir facing inwards which was then turned inside out to make the pouch section. A lace or a metal cantle could then be used to secure the top. Cantles were hinged metal brackets attached to the top of the sporran that had a spring loaded clasp to keep them securely shut but allow easy access when required.
Modern sporrans are slightly more complex but follow the same basic design.
The dress sporran is usually ostentatious in style as it is worn with formal outfits such as the Prince Charlie outfit. They are usually made with animal skin such as seal, fox, raccoon or mink and have a decorative metal cantle in polished chrome or silver. The front is also decorated with tassels in the matching skin.
Semi dress sporrans are much more versatile than the dress sporran. This is because they can be worn to day and evening events, while the dress sporran is restricted to formal evening events.
The semi dress sporran is made with shorthaired skins such as seal but have a leather lid that folds roughly half way down the front of the sporran. The lid is often modestly embossed and sometimes has small metal details. They also have the matching skin tassels as seen on the dress sporran.
This is the correct sporran to wear with the Argyll jacket that can be worn with an evening shirt and neckwear or plain day shirt and tie. The semi dress sporran is even more versatile though as it can be worn with day jackets as an alternative to the day sporran.
The day sporrans are the plainest sporran, usually the same style as the semi dress sporran but all leather. Brown and black are the two most common colours and plain leather tassels and modest embossing is all the decoration they have.
These sporrans are worn with tweed day jackets and in the modern era, Scotland rugby and football tops. They are essentially the most dressed down sporran designed for any informal or casual occasion.
In the last few years, high fashion and traditional Highland wear have met in the middle with results that have been met with mixed reactions. Many people feel that the traditional Scottish national dress should not be altered with modern designs. However many feel that if the traditional kilt is not replaced, any additions are welcome especially if they get people talking about Highland wear.
Sporrans have been given a makeover by some designers with a ‘no limits’ ethos. This results in dress sporrans in vibrant colours such as the one shown in the Buyer’s Guide page as well as more daring designs. If you are interested in a more unusual sporran, contact us for more information.
New guides are added regularly. All our buyers guides are available in our Buyer’s Guide section. We strongly encourage your comments and feedback: