Which Jacket is Right for Me?
The choice of which style kilt jacket to wear can be confusing to those beginning their foray into Highland dress. This article is intended as a guide to help you to decide which jacket is the best investment for you.
The first question to ask is what type of event do you see yourself wearing the jacket to most often? A black tie Highland ball? Or a Sunday afternoon at the Highland Games? Some jackets are better suited to formal occasions, and others to a more dress casual look.
For the most formal events, it was once common place for Highland gentlemen to wear doublets such as the Montrose or Sherrifmuir. These have become much less common now than they once were, and have largely been supplanted by the Prince Charlie jacket. This is the Highland dress equivalent of a tuxedo jacket, and has been very popular since the first half of the 20th century as a simple but elegant jacket for evening wear.
The Prince Charlie jacket should be worn with a three-button vest (which is typically sold along with the jacket at a unit price). Black is the most common color for this jacket. The Prince Charlie looks best when worn with a simple black bow tie. Some do wear it with a lace jabot, though strictly speaking this looks best with one of the more formal dress doublets. One really should not wear a neck tie with the Prince Charlie, as it simply does not go well with the cut of the jacket.
The Prince Charlie jacket is also easily rented, and if you do not find yourself attending that many black tie events, this may be a more economic choice for you.
Perhaps the most common form of kilt jacket is the Argyle (sometimes spelled Argyll). The Argyle jacket is made with a less formal cut, similar to a man's sportcoat, though made shorter for wear with the kilt. The Argyle jacket can be had in many different types of cloth, the choice of cloth determining whether the jacket is suitable for formal or casual wear.
An Argyle jacket made from black wool is a very versatile garment. It can be worn with a black bow tie for "black tie" affairs. It can also be worn equally well with a neck tie for a less formal look. It can be worn with or without a vest (waistcoat). It is typically worn with a five button waistcoat, but can be worn with equal flare with a three button waistcoat for more formal occasions. If one is to only acquire one kilt jacket that must serve for both formal and semi-formal functions, the black Argyle is an excellent choice.
Argyle jackets are usually available in a variety of other colors. Darker colors, such as navy blue, also lend themselves well to more dressy occasions. Argyle jackets made from lighter colored wool or tweeds are considered day wear jackets. These are more appropriate for wear at Highland Games, morning or day time functions, etc. They are the Highland dress equivalent of a blazer or sportcoat.
Depending upon the occasion, a daywear Argyle jacket can be worn with a neck tie, or with an open collar shirt. Both formal and daywear Argyle jackets can be worn either with or without a waistcoat. Waistcoats are usually made to match the jacket, though they can also be made from tartan to match the kilt, or another complimentary color.
One note about wearing any type of waistcoat with the kilt. Whenever a waistcoat, sweater or pullover is worn (in other words, anything that covers the top of the kilt), there is no need to wear a kilt belt. Forgoing the belt creates a much cleaner look, and in fact can be more comfortable.
A final note about the jacket cuffs. There are different styles of cuff to be had on any kilt jacket, and the names of these cuffs often confuse people. In general, the gauntlet cuffs are called "Argyle," the three-button patch cuffs are called "Braemar," while plain cuffs are called "Crail." (See the chart below).
These names are not universally used by all jacket manufacturers, however, which can lead to confusion. For instance, though the gauntlet cuffs are called "Argyle" and are most often seen on Argyle jackets, not every Argyle jacket must have gauntlet cuffs. The Braemar cuffs are typically seen on Prince Charlie jackets, but not universally so. Some Prince Charlie jackets are made with gauntlet, or "Argyle" cuffs. Some manufacturers will call an Argyle cut jacket an "Argyle" jacket if made with gauntlet cuffs, a "Braemar" jacket if made with Braemar cuffs, and a "Crail" jacket if made with plain cuffs.
Another manufacturer might call an Argyle style jacket with Crail (or plain) cuffs a "modern kilt jacket." One manufacturer is currently producing an Argyle jacket made from a lovely charcoal grey wool, made with Braemar cuffs and sold with a matching vest; they call this their "Crail" jacket, even though it does not have Crail cuffs.
All this is to say that names can be confusing, and one should always go by the picture rather than the name; if there is any doubt or confusion, ask about the cuff style before ordering.
Our standard black Argyle jacket is sold with a plain cuff, though other style cuffs can be ordered upon request. Argyle jackets in other colors or tweeds are all made-to-order and can be supplied with any style cuff (the gauntlet cuff will be used unless specified otherwise). Our Prince Charlie jackets are made with Braemar cuffs.
We hope the information in this article has helped in your decision of which jacket to wear. If you still have questions, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to guide you in your purchase, so that you order the jacket that is right for you. Happy kilting!