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  1. #1
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    black shoes brown sporran

    The topic of matching leathers in Highland Day Dress has come up many times.

    Since I closed my Photobucket account my old threads are probably photo-less, so I'll post this thread with working photos.

    When I started kiltwearing in the 1970s I saw most men wearing black shoes and brown sporrans.

    I didn't question it. I didn't try to apply the rules of non-Highland clothing. I didn't do the Yankee Ingenuity thing of disregarding Old World ways and re-imagining Highland Dress to suit my own logic. As an outsider I felt the best thing to do was to become a tabla rasa and accept what I saw, just as I would if learning a foreign language or what have you.

    Many years later, after getting every book I could on the history of Highland Dress and more recently acquiring a number of vintage Highland Dress catalogues, I have added perspective on this issue (and many others!)

    So where did the brown sporran black shoe thing come from?

    It goes way back to our earliest clear images of men in Highland Dress. They show sporrans in soft light brown leather (deerskin?) and black shoes.

    Here in 1700:



    1714:



    Here c1750:



    In the second half of the 18th century it became the fashion to make sporrans out of sealskin, and the classic brown early 18th century sporran became a thing of the past.

    The sealskin sporran of the late 18th century gave way to the hair sporran of the 19th century. Leather still might appear on the sporran, on the cantle or on the cones.

    Here in the mid-19th century we see brown Ghillies worn with black belts (the sporran is fur with no exposed leather)



    And another image of brown Ghillies worn with black belts, and in this case black leather sporran fittings. Ghillies, in these Highlanders Of Scotland paintings, are usually rough brown leather and have the feel of a rustic shoe



    Yet here is a fellow with all matching brown leather:



    Interesting is this fellow with black shoes and brown leather sporran fittings:



    Around 1900 Highland Dress underwent a major transformation and long hair sporrans became unfashionable. They were replaced by a suite of new small pocket-shaped sporrans, in brown leather (sometimes with fur added) for Day Dress and in sealskin with silver cantle for Evening Dress.

    Here, in 1926, only brown Day sporrans are offered:



    and only black shoes are offered- it even states that black shoes are "correct" for Day Dress (they use "correct" quite a bit, back then). Since only brown Day Dress sporrans are offered, the assumption is black shoes worn with brown sporrans.



    In the army, these small modern leather Day sporrans were adopted in the early 20th century and are still issued today. They have always been brown (varying from mid-brown to dark brown) and are worn with black shoes



    In looking over 300 years of civilian and military Highland Dress it's apparent that having the leathers match rarely (if ever) crossed anyone's mind.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 8th June 18 at 06:46 PM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first white settlers on the Guyandotte


  2. #2
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    While I know many traditionalist mix leathers, I do not.
    "Good judgement comes from experience, and experience
    well, that comes from poor judgement."
    A. A. Milne

  3. #3
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    I believe I have seen photos of HRH Duke of Rothesay mixing his leather colors. I figure that if he can get away with it, I probably can as well. And, I don't have any dressy brown shoes anyway, which makes the decision easier. I just wear my black brogues, regardless of the sporran of the moment.

    Holcombe

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  5. #4
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    My usual day sporran actually has a black front panel and brown side gussets, so it will always match.

    But I've never had anyone comment on the leather colors if I wore a black sporran with brown boots or brown sporran with black shoes. The comments are always about the kilt or asking about my family connection to Scotland or what some of the accessories are.

    Andrew

  6. #5
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    My Sporran has black body and brown flap. I commissioned it this way on purpose in order to be able to combine leather colors on the shoes and belt, and still have some sort of continuity. While I wouldn't mix leather colors in a Saxon business suit, I love how it looks with the kilt!

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  8. #6
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    In addition to the black and brown body panels, my sporran actually has 3 different flaps I can snap on or off: a black one, a brown, and one with my tartan (which I usually use). So it's very flexible.

    And I agree with you, mixed leather looks fine with the kilt and odd with Saxon clothing. Although I will admit that I never change my black leather watch band, regardless of what belt, shoes, or other leather accessories I have on.

    Andrew
    Last edited by kingandrew; 10th June 18 at 03:13 AM. Reason: mis-typed "black and white" when I meant "black and brown."

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  10. #7
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    An excellent collection of images to demonstrate the roots of a tradition still in evidence here in Scotland. I don't think that I've ever knowingly matched my leathers.

    Peter and John.jpg

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  12. #8
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    Another wonderful 'history through pictures' post; thanks Richard!
    Allen Sinclair
    Eastern Region Vice President
    North Carolina Commissioner
    Clan Sinclair Association (USA)

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  14. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holcombe Thomas View Post
    I believe I have seen photos of HRH Duke of Rothesay mixing his leather colors.
    Indeed he does, and has done for his whole life. When he is seen in a kilt these days, he is almost always wearing the same brown cantled sporran with the same black shoes. As I recall, there is a story behind that sporran that makes it meaningful to him, but I don't remember the details. And he has had that same pair of shoes for decades, from what I've read. But even before he started wearing this sporran exclusively, he has always mixed a brown sporran with black shoes.



    And let's not forget Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who also wears the kilt quite well with unmatched leathers.


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  16. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tobus View Post
    Indeed he does, and has done for his whole life. When he is seen in a kilt these days, he is almost always wearing the same brown cantled sporran with the same black shoes. As I recall, there is a story behind that sporran that makes it meaningful to him, but I don't remember the details. And he has had that same pair of shoes for decades, from what I've read. But even before he started wearing this sporran exclusively, he has always mixed a brown sporran with black shoes.
    I think the sporran was his grandfather's (George VI).

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