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The K.A.P.&D.A. Uniform


The first thing one notices when approached by a piper, (besides the brain-rattling noise), is often his uniform. Upon first glance, you may think he looks a bit silly.  The kids in his neighborhood certainly do.  But there is actually meaning, and plenty of tradition, behind the piper's attire.

So, whats the deal with these funny outfits?

The Kenosha Area Pipes and Drums Association uniform borrows the clan tartan and crest from the MacLennan Clan.  Clan MacLennan, also known as Siol Ghillinnein, is a Highland Scottish clan which historically populated lands in the north-west of Scotland. The surname, MacLennan, in Scottish Gaelic, is Mac Gille Fhinnein meaning the son of the follower of St Finnan. The MacLennan Clan Motto, featured on the clan crest, is "Dum Spiro Spero" (While I breathe, I hope).

The piper's dress has many different components.  Most noticeable is the piper's kilt.  The kilt is a knee-length garment with pleats at the rear.  The history of the kilt stretches back to at least the end of the 16th century, where it was the traditional dress of the men and boys in the Scottish Highlands.  It is most often made of a woolen cloth in a tartan pattern.  Each clan has its own distinctive tartan pattern.  The word "kilt' comes from the Scots word kilt, meaning to tuck up the clothes around the body. This Scots word derives from the Old Norse kjalta from Norse settlers who wore a similar, non-tartan pleated garment. A decorative silver kilt pin adds weight to the loose bottom corner of the kilt. This kilt pin displays the crest and motto of the piper's clan. 

As a kilt has no pockets, it is worn with a pouch called a sporran. Originally this was a soft deerskin pouch, but with the development of military uniforms, elaborate hard leather sporrans came into use, often with decorative silver tops and white hair facings with large tassels. The hair and tassels are traditionally made up of horsehair.  The sporran is worn around the waist on a strap or chain and a wide leather belt is worn over that.

Shoes are usually leather brogues, sometimes with open lacing. Covering these marching shoes are spats. A spat is a garment of fabric, which is worn over the ankle and lower leg and extends over the upper part of the shoe or boot. The spat is traditionally white and made of canvas.

Knee-high socks, called hose, are worn with the kilt.  The garter flash wraps around the calf and is made visible protruding from the folded-over hose. These are usually made of wool and red or green in color, to go with the predominant color of the kilt.

A small dagger called a Sgian Dubh (skin-doo) may be slipped into the top of the hose.  Although it looks like a weapon, the Sgin Dubh is actually a utility knife or simply decorative. The reason it is worn in the stockings is because it is too long to fit in the sporran. Anything else that fits this description may also be carried in the sock, including a tobacco pipe or reading glasses. The Sgin Dubh should be worn on the piper's dominant side.

The Glengarry cap is a traditional boat-shaped hat, without a peak, made of a thick-milled woolen material with a toorie (a small pom pon made of yarn) on top and ribbons hanging down behind. It is normally worn as part of Scottish military or civilian Highland dress. KAPDA pipers wear a black cap, while the drummers wear a cap with red and white dicing on the side. The feather adornment above the cap badge is a hackle.  The correct method of wearing the Glengarry has changed since the end of the Second World War. Prior to 1945, Glengarries were generally worn steeply angled, with the right side of the cap worn low, often touching the ear, and the side with the cap badge higher on the head. The trend since the end of the war has been to wear the Glengarry level on the head.

With some full dress uniforms, a plaid (played) is added in the form of a pleated cloth in the same tartan as the kilt, cast over the shoulder and fastened at the front with a plaid brooch. The brooch is a large, decorative, pin which may contain the crest and motto of the clan. Typically, a portion of the belted plaid hangs down to about the knees with the rest of the material being wrapped up around one's upper body in a variety of ways and pinned or otherwise secured to keep it in place with the brooch.  The KAPDA dress uniform also features a leather cross belt with a silver buckle.

In addition to the traditional elements, the Kenosha Pipes and Drums uniform also features elements symbolic of our firefighting and law enforcement background.  Our day to day uniform includes a white shirt or black sweater that bears the KAPDA patch on the left sleeve and the patch of that individual's police or fire department on the right sleeve.  Members also wear their department badge on their shirt or sweater.  Color is also symbolic in our hackles and pipers' drone cords.  Fire personnel wear red, law enforcement wear blue and anyone not affiliated with police or fire wear white.

Now... the answer to the most frequently asked question we hear...     

A good rule of thumb is that kilts should be worn without underwear in daily use, but with it for dancing (when a light kilt may fly up). In practice, underwear is not needed for a fully lined kilt, but may be preferable for an unlined woolen kilt to prevent chafing. In the end, whether or not underwear is worn on any particular occasion, is up to the weather, the company, and the individual wearer.

Whatever decision is made, what a Scotsman wears under his kilt is, traditionally, his own business and generally, Scotsmen will be at pains to keep it so. Thus the reply to a question on the topic may hint at the answer but should never state it outright. A good standard reply when asked, is that, "Nothing is worn under the kilt. It's all in perfect working order".

Some of the above information was gathered from:
"So You're Going to Wear the Kilt" (Revised 3rd Edition) by J. Charles Thompson
And the fine folks at Wikipedia, whoever you are.