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  1. #21
    Join Date
    30th November 07
    0 Post(s)
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    I think there are two things happening...

    One - I can confirm that waistcoats were pretty rare in the world of highland dress from the 70s through until the late 90s. They became popular in pipe bands in the aughts as a cheaper alternative to jackets - 30 jackets are pricey, especially when there are kids in the ranks who insist on growing. Waistcoats are also significantly more comfortable to play with - jackets tend to slip when a pipe bag is under the arm and sleeves can be restricting. Before waistcoats were so ubiquitous, it was either play in shirtsleeves or with a black wool jacket on. In July in the states, you can guess what most people preferred. Keep in mind that highland wear and piping were pretty closely aligned in the states for a long time - it's much easier to cater to bands of 20-30 people who buy kit at an even clip than the random country dancer or St Andrew's Society member. Piping defined sales, and sales/availability drove the trend. The majority of highland wear shops in America and Scotland were very piping oriented. So that's part of the reason... until Braveheart happened...

    The other reason (related to above) is that people wearing kilts just to wear them in the US is a relatively new phenomenon. You just didn't see non-Scots or people with at least some cultural connection wearing the kilt, and certainly not with the eye towards detail that some people have today. People like the "authentic" tweedy look, and it's certainly an easier, more individualistic look to go for (let's be honest - if you're dressing like Prince Charles at Braemar and you're not a Scot, a piper, or an aspiring royal, you're very much an individual). So assume that the already limited supply of jackets/waistcoats that were out there thanks to the market being dominated by a sea of black pipe band jackets was probably quickly snatched up by shoppers. And, of course, some people really did just prefer to wear jackets and belts - it was a popular, easy look for a long time in the US and Scotland.

    Things are obviously different these days - if you wanna wear a kilt, you can wear it. You don't have to be "Mac" anybody or know the a tenor drone from a bass drum. The internet opened up sales of old and new across the US and Scotland. Weirdly enough, you'll probably see as many "purists" in the US as Scotland - if not more. If you doubt me, just go to a Scottish wedding and count how many men have kilts brushing their shins and belt buckles sticking out from under their Charlies vests - if they're wearing kilts at all. "Scottish-ness" isn't quite what we expect in the U.S., although I'll defer to those currently there for further details.

    It's an interesting time to be a kilt wearer - decent kit is easier to get than ever. Hell, garbage kit is SO easy to get thanks to Pakistan's ability to churn out low quality kilts and jackets for people ready and willing to pay for them. I suspect that if some of these vendors had to show images of the actual articles and not blatantly ripped off images of the real thing, the market for their wares would cool off (or they'd be forced to start making stuff that actually looks/fits right).

    Anyway - that's my unsolicited opinion on the topic. I for one hope people keep buying quality tweed waistcoat/jacket combos, if only so in a few years I can grab a nice used one in a stout American size for cheap.
    Last edited by Piobair; 12th April 19 at 06:04 PM.

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  3. #22
    Join Date
    22nd October 17
    6 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)
    I find Jock and Steve's suggestions about wristwatches and central heating perhaps leading to a phase-out of vests (a "devestment?") interesting. They remind me of the views that central heating and cars helped to usher in the decline of men's hats during the 50s-70s.

    But I also think that the pipe band fashion point is well taken. Those who lack the money (or connections) to have what they want custom made, will be limited to buying from the universe of "what's available." And if pipe bands weren't wearing vests during the 70s, and pipe bands accounted for most of the Highland wear market at the time, then few manufacturers were likely to put out many vests. Anyone who has ever shopped for anything knows the frustration of realizing every shop you've visited is offering the same 3 items that are not quite what you want.

    The internet has certainly allowed many people with more specialized interests (like we Rabble here) to find each other. This has enabled lots of small manufacturers and hobbyists to reach a global market of people who share their niche interest/tastes, which now supports a variety of options that would be impossible if everyone had to support themselves with just the local flea market trade. It also means we can find vintage jackets from the UK and US, instead of just our local thrift store. It is an interesting time to be shopping.


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