Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Sporran

The Sporran

What is a sporran ?

Sporran is the Scottish Gaelic word for “purse”. As its name says, a sporran is used just like a purse, without any gender connotations, unlike our common type of purse (that would usually be used by women). We can put anything that fits in it, for instance keys or money. A sporran replaces the pockets a kilt does not have.

Where do sporrans come from? 

Sporrans are the evolution of medieval pouches. They were used to store ammunitions and food in times of war. They were also used to make kilts fancier, as they were only scraps of fabric. To this day, the job of making a sporran is highly regarded in Scotland and is seen as a form of art that perpetuates traditions

The highland dress

Traditions such as the Higland dress. The highland dress is a traditional Scottish outfit. This outfit is comprised of the following elements:  the well-known kilt (or an ankle-length tartan skirt for women), the sporran, which is the most important part of the outfit after the kilt, and a tartan plaid. Today, we would think the sporran would not usually be worn on a day-to-day basis, but the truth is that the highland dress has remained an important piece of clothing to have at home for every Scottish person. It is put on for formal events such as weddings, the royal Caledonian Ball, or national events, but also to do daily work.

How to wear the sporran

       Putting on a sporran, however, is not that easy: you first have to choose what type of sporran you are going to wear and you have to know where to put it. A sporran should always be worn right under the belt, in front of the crotch and a few inches down the top of the kilt. It can be moved over to the side for more physical activities such as dancing, so as not to damage your partner’s dress. Badly putting on the sporran can be considered as rude. 

Different types of sporran

       There are many types of sporran but all of them have a few basic similarities that determine what a sporran should be. Usually, a sporran should have a body (obviously), a flap, three tassels and Celtic symbols or Celtic knots. They are made either of fur or of leather, but not all kinds of fur are allowed in the making of a sporran. A licence can be required to prove that the pouch is not made of endangered species. 100 animals have entered the list of the species whose fur cannot be used to make a sporran – otters, for example. Some Sporrans are also made with plastic, but on the fancier ones, there might be iron, silver and sometimes even jewellery, preferably garnets. Among the types of sporran, we could name the day sporran, the “simplest” one (made of leather and tassels), or the dress sporran, which is the most commonly used for formal events, or even the full mask sporran, which uses the head of the animal as the flap.


Sporrans in their many shapes are an essential to the highland dress, the traditional Scottish outfit. They are important for they play the roles of a kilt’s pockets and the making of those pouches are a real work of art.


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