"What the heck is a sporran anyway?" An excellent question! If you don't know or have never encountered a kilt wearer you would probably have no idea what the heck a sporran is, or even how to say the word (think, spore-an, emphasis on first syllable).
The sporran is simply a belt bag, a common purse as it were, which in earlier times hung from the wearers belt, hence the self descriptive moniker. Whether Viking or serf, monk or royal seamstress, the belt bag was common European fashion accessory dating from, roughly, the Dark Ages through to the late 1700's. Why was the belt bag so common? As you might guess, no pockets, pockets were not a common feature of clothing until the 1800's.
(above) Medieval illustrations which show a common examples of a Belt bag.
This brings us to the sporran and the kilt. Since its inception, the kilt has never had pockets, hence the need for something to carry your necessities in, and for the kilt wearer that something is the sporran. At the time the kilt came into common use, the belt bag was also still in common use, so it's no surprise that they have survived to this day as a sartorial combination. In days of old the sporran might contain a portion of oats, lead shot and powder for your musket, a fish hook and line, or other life necessaries to survive life in the highlands. Today it's cell phones, wallets and car keys, and other modern necessaries.
(Above) An early 17th Century example of the sporran.
The sporran is a uniquely Scottish version of a belt bag, which has evolved from the plain and utilitarian to the sublimely elegant, with both still much in use today. Not unlike a ladies purse, the sporran is a personal choice which reflects not only the function of something practical to carry you necessities, but also the casualness or formality of the kilt wearers destination and/or personality. Generally speaking, you wouldn't wear the same sporran you hiked the Glen in to a formal dance (and you probably would not be wearing the same kilt either!). Some kilt wearers prefer a very plain sporran for most occasions. and others go for the bling with a full on Full Mask sporran with gilt hardware. Most of us though choose something in between the two for our daily kilt wearing. And like our female counterparts, the serious kilt wearer can never have too many sporran!
I can (and undoubtedly will) talk more about sporran in future blog posts. But for now I think this serves as an introduction to the sporran, and hopefully answers the age old question, "What the heck is a sporran anyway?"
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