CHAMPIONS OF SCOTTISH CRAFTSMANSHIP

Inside Highlandwear: Jackets & Waistcoats

You may not finish every event in your jacket, but it’s nice to start it in one. And to help you rise to the occasion, here is an overview of the different options. 

There may seem like a lot of rules for a style of clothing descended from the wardrobe of freedom fighters, which is why we prefer to view them as guidelines.

WARNING: kilt jackets are called kilt jackets for a reason - they are cut short, designed to wear open, and will not work with suit trousers, jeans or tracksuit bottoms (even with a sporran). 

The Prince Charlie

First advertised in 1920s tailor catalogues as the trendy option for daring young men, the Prince Charlie is the most formal kilt jacket worn today - the glamorous highlandwear take on black or white tie.

Made from a heavy-worsted black wool cloth known as barathea, the Prince Charlie is an elaborate affair, rich in period detail. Distinctive for its tails, it is both shorter (at the front) and longer (at the back) than any other kilt jacket. It features ornate diamond-shaped buttons on the front, sleeves, shoulders and tails, as well as satin lapels and silk braided epaulettes. Its three-buttoned vertical scalloped cuff is also known as the Prince Charlie. 

The Prince Charlie is the perfect option for momentous occasions like weddings, grand dinners, dances and graduations. It’s a popular choice for a ‘first kilt outfit’. After all, dad will remember wearing one himself (perhaps in velvet, with a lace cravat, if it was the seventies). 

How To Wear It:

Paired with a matching three-buttoned waistcoat, the Prince Charlie should be worn with a bowtie and wing-collared shirt. Because formalwear has rules, tradition dictates accompanying black, cream or matching tartan hose, a dress sporran and well-shined black ghillie or buckled brogues. For those seeking a slightly less ‘polished’ effect, the traditional chrome buttons can be replaced with antique-finish ones (just be sure to match the cantle on your dress sporran accordingly). For a still more modern look, some renegades may opt for a five-buttoned waistcoat, which will allow them to wear a cravat or straight tie. 

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The Argyll

We’ve called it ‘the Argyll’ but, really, this is an updated version of the traditional doublet / sack jacket hybrid (there’s a bit of tailoring history for you). More versatile than the Prince Charlie, the Argyll can move seamlessly through formal dos, informal hootenannies, and events that manage to combine both.

Made from the same 15oz heavy-worsted black barathea as the Prince Charlie, the Argyll is cut like a blazer with just one fastening. A curved cutaway at the front helps show your kilt and sporran off to full advantage. Like the Prince Charlie, it has ornate diamond-shaped buttons and silk-braided epaulettes. What it lacks in tails, it makes up for with button-accented scalloped pocket flaps. While classic Argylls feature heavy-duty gauntlet cuffs, we favour the Prince Charlie cuff. They’re a little easier to alter and a lot more contemporary looking.

The Argyll is a bit easier on the waistline than the Prince Charlie, and a popular formal accompaniment for a pair of trews. 

How To Wear It:

Paired with a matching five-buttoned waistcoat, the Argyll can be dressed up with a wing-collared shirt and cravat, or down with an everyday shirt and tie. Some may choose to lose the waistcoat altogether (whether by choice or necessity), in which case the Argyll can be worn with a kilt belt. A dress sporran will always work well with the Argyll, but a semi-dress (or even a day sporran) won’t raise any eyebrows on less formal occasions. Similarly, it can be paired with a wide range of hose for daywear, although white and black, accompanied by black ghillie brogues, remain essential to evening dress. Chrome buttons can be replaced with antique-finish ones to match an antique sporran cantle.

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The Holyrood

The Holyrood is an Argyll jacket in a lightweight tweed. You may have heard it referred to as a Crail. Or perhaps a Braemar. Whatever you call it, it’s rapidly become a highlandwear staple since Gordon first championed its charcoal version in the mid-noughties. We call it the Holyrood in honour of the royal residence a few doors down from our Canongate home.

The Holyrood has a curved cutaway at the front, to show off your kilt and sporran, Prince Charlie cuffs and braided cloth epaulettes. It features staghorn-effect buttons, and comes with a matching five-buttoned satin-back waistcoat. It is available in iconic charcoal and a rich peat brown. Both look particularly good with muted tartans, although you might be surprised by what else they work with. 

By combining stylised period details with contemporary tweeds, the Holyrood caters to traditionalists and non-traditionalists alike. It is a popular choice for daytime events, such as weddings and graduations. 

How To Wear It:

The appeal of the Holyrood lies in its versatility. It can be worn with any style of sporran to suit the occasion - from full fur to the simplest day leather. At GNK, we like our hose to match our Holyroods. Alternatively, you might coordinate your tie to your jacket, and match your hose to a colour in your tartan. The wide range of Holyroods and potential accessories leaves plenty of room for self-expression. 

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The Tweed

The simplest kilt jacket, the Tweed, carries a clout that that is much more than the sum of its elegantly-tailored parts. This is contemporary highlandwear at its finest, combining a modern aesthetic with luxurious heritage fabrics and quality craftsmanship. Whilst technically a daywear jacket, it is increasingly popular at semi-formal evening events.

Made exclusively to our very own GNK specifications, the Tweed comes in three luminous fabrics: Lovat Green, Midnight Ocean and the Nicolson Tweed. Woven in Hawick by Lovat Mills, each cloth is full of different colours and has amazing depth. The jacket is cut away to show off your kilt and sporran, with two staghorn-effect buttons at the front and more on the sleeves. It comes with a matching five-buttoned satin-backed waistcoat.

An investment piece, the tweed is a favourite amongst grooms and highlandwear afficionados. They’ve not been in circulation long enough to put it to the test, but this is a kilt jacket that we’d like to see handed down…

How To Wear It:

Tweeds are the go-to choice for weathered tartan fans, but they look wonderful with virtually everything. Try holding one  of these jackets against different cloths and you’ll be amazed by the unexpected colours that pop out of its dense weave. Like the Holyrood, tweeds can be styled up and down. Match your sporran to the event (full fur for evening wear, a military day sporran for a romantic stroll in the park etc) and go from there. Brogues are a popular alternative to ghillie brogues, well-suited to the Tweed’s nonchalant-luxury vibe. We like the look of a brown accessory. But nobody likes a kiltmaker with too many opinions. 

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