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  1. #1
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    Evolution of Traditional sporrans

    Being a visual person I want to see things!

    And my eye best sees comparisons, patterns, and connections if I see things side-by-side.

    Growing up with Traditional Highland Dress, and accustomed to its three distinct modes

    -Civilian Day Dress
    -Civilian Evening Dress
    -Military Uniform

    one of the first things that struck when I got the book The Highlanders of Scotland was that the type of sporran now called a "piper's sporran", only seen nowadays in the military and with military-style civilian Pipe Band outfits, was worn in all three of those modes of dress in Victorian times. (Left column, below.)

    When one looks at Victorian images the first impression is of chaos, of various bits being freely combined, and little demarcation between Day Dress and Evening Dress.

    But then I started to see that there was a distinction between Day Dress and Evening Dress, perhaps more so than today, in that metalwork tended to be avoided, dispensing with kilt pins, weaponry, metal buttons, sporran-chains, metal on sporran cantles, and sometimes even cap-badges.

    Though things were often mixed together, and Victorians generally worn long hair sporrans both for Day and Evening, there was a distinct Victorian proto-Day Dress sporran: brown-grey hair and with a plain leather cantle. In the Victorian proto-Evening Dress the long hair sporran was nearly always white with a silver cantle.

    Victorians had another sort of Day sporran, the small rounded animal mask sort.

    By Edwardian times the long hair Day sporrans were gone, replaced by brown leather sporrans (sometimes quite ornate silver-mounted Revival kind) and small fur sporrans as well as the continued popularity of animal mask sporrans.

    The Victorian style Evening sporran continued to be popular. (Centre column, below.)

    Shortly after World War One the long white hair Evening sporrans began to be replaced by the sort of sporrans considered Day sporrans before the war, small rounded fur with silver tops.

    Brown leather Day sporrans were becoming less ornate. (Right column, below.)

    Here are snapshots of popular sporrans from the 1860s (left) 1907 (centre) and the 1930s (right).

    In each column Day sporrans are top, Evening sporrans bottom.

    Many of the 1930s sporrans will look familiar, because several of those styles are still in regular production today.

    While sporran styles underwent a near-total overhaul between 1900 and 1930 they've remained essentially unchanged since.

    True that since the rise of the kilt hire industry (taking off in the 1980s) the new category of "semi dress" sporran was created by taking traditional Day sporrans, making them black, and adding hardware from Evening sporrans. Yet, most of those traditional 1930s Day and Evening styles are still being made and worn.

    Last edited by OC Richard; 11th January 24 at 08:36 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  3. #2
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    Thank you, Richard for your frequent research, analysis, and sharing of so much. It is a really helpful and enlightening insight for all of us. You are appreciated!
    Rev'd Father Bill White: Retired Parish Priest & Elementary Headmaster, lover of God, dogs, most people, joy, humour & clarity. Legion Padre, theologian, teacher, philosopher, linguist, traditionalist, bon-vivant, encourager of hearts & souls & a firm believer in dignity, decency, & duty. A proud Canadian Sinclair.

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  5. #3
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    Yet another great analysis, from OC Richard. Thank You Sir!

  6. #4
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    Thanks!

    I had long wondered where the new small rounded seal Evening Sporrans with silver tops, which began appearing after World War One, had come from.

    Then I saw exactly where, when I saw the sporran illustrations in that 1907 catalogue!

    Amongst the Day Dress sporrans, upper right, is a sporran the size and shape of the other Day sporrans, but with a full fur body. So it combines the small rounded fur body of the animal mask Day sporrans with the silver top of the ornate brown leather Revival Day sporrans.

    For whatever reason this type of Day sporran exploded into a host of similar styles, creating a new genre of Evening sporrans, in the 1920s and 1930s.

    As we've seen it's rare for a sporran type to "code switch" like that. It is however exactly what happened to the Ghillie brogue, which started out as a Revival quasi-rustic tan roughout leather outdoor shoe, but which by the 1920s was being made in black Patent Leather with decorative silver buckles tacked onto the toes and worn with Evening Dress.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  8. #5
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    great job

    although now I have an urge to make some new sporrans:^)

  9. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    Being a visual person I want to see things!

    And my eye best sees comparisons, patterns, and connections if I see things side-by-side.

    Growing up with Traditional Highland Dress, and accustomed to its three distinct modes

    -Civilian Day Dress
    -Civilian Evening Dress
    -Military Uniform

    one of the first things that struck when I got the book The Highlanders of Scotland was that the type of sporran now called a "piper's sporran", only seen nowadays in the military and with military-style civilian Pipe Band outfits, was worn in all three of those modes of dress in Victorian times. (Left column, below.)

    When one looks at Victorian images the first impression is of chaos, of various bits being freely combined, and little demarcation between Day Dress and Evening Dress.

    But then I started to see that there was a distinction between Day Dress and Evening Dress, perhaps more so than today, in that metalwork tended to be avoided, dispensing with kilt pins, weaponry, metal buttons, sporran-chains, metal on sporran cantles, and sometimes even cap-badges.

    Though things were often mixed together, and Victorians generally worn long hair sporrans both for Day and Evening, there was a distinct Victorian proto-Day Dress sporran: brown-grey hair and with a plain leather cantle. In the Victorian proto-Evening Dress the long hair sporran was nearly always white with a silver cantle.

    Victorians had another sort of Day sporran, the small rounded animal mask sort.

    By Edwardian times the long hair Day sporrans were gone, replaced by brown leather sporrans (sometimes quite ornate silver-mounted Revival kind) and small fur sporrans as well as the continued popularity of animal mask sporrans.

    The Victorian style Evening sporran continued to be popular. (Centre column, below.)

    Shortly after World War One the long white hair Evening sporrans began to be replaced by the sort of sporrans considered Day sporrans before the war, small rounded fur with silver tops.

    Brown leather Day sporrans were becoming less ornate. (Right column, below.)

    Here are snapshots of popular sporrans from the 1860s (left) 1907 (centre) and the 1930s (right).

    In each column Day sporrans are top, Evening sporrans bottom.

    Many of the 1930s sporrans will look familiar, because several of those styles are still in regular production today.

    While sporran styles underwent a near-total overhaul between 1900 and 1930 they've remained essentially unchanged since.

    True that since the rise of the kilt hire industry (taking off in the 1980s) the new category of "semi dress" sporran was created by taking traditional Day sporrans, making them black, and adding hardware from Evening sporrans. Yet, most of those traditional 1930s Day and Evening styles are still being made and worn.

    Thanks for sharing Richard.

    I prefer the older styles, so it's always nice to see the old photos, catalogs, etc., that you share.

    Frank
    Drink to the fame of it -- The Tartan!
    Murdoch Maclean

  10. #7
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    I love these old catalog pictures!
    Allen Sinclair, FSA Scot
    Eastern Region Vice President
    North Carolina Commissioner
    Clan Sinclair Association (USA)

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