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Lost your wallet? If you are in Scotland, a Sporran will do

Perhaps the costume designers for the movie, Braveheart, were right after all. The leather pouch draped across a man’s kilt protected more than one’s hip-flask, one’s daily food rations or sprig of thistle for luck. The sporran, now a decorative part of the traditional Scottish dress, once protected the vulnerable area of the body for men.

As the traditional kilt has no pockets, the sporran serves as a wallet or container for personal items even today. Made of leather or fur, sporrans differ in both appearance and purpose. Simple brown or black leather day sporrans have three leather tassels with embossed Celtic knots. The ornate texture of dress sporrans is recognizable by the chrome or silver decorative trimmings and a fur-covered face on the leather. Silver etchings of Celtic knots, a stone or a jewel, or an emblem like the person’s clan symbol are coveted. Both the day and the dress sporrans may be worn by your average Scot, but it is the military sporran that may only be worn with regimental attire. Pipers with Edinburgh’s military “tattoo” celebrations often wear flamboyant styles of the military sporran with long horsehair that moves back and forth during the marches.

Sporrans may become a relic of the past. New laws designed to protect endangered species like badgers and otters, kilt wearers may face prosecution if they do not have a license for the fur on their sporrans. Though the law applies to those animals killed after 1994, if a person cannot account for the source of the fur – even if it is a family heirloom – and produce a licence, a hefty fine and six months prison time may be levied.

The war between tradition and contemporary priorities wages all over the world to be sure, but in Scotland, a country fiercely proud of their history and heritage, the pendulum swings a little more recklessly. The sporran may be a practical substitute for a wallet for traditional Scots, but maybe the day has arrived when carrying a wallet requires a license!


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