The Beginner's Guide To The Sporran

What is a sporran I hear you ask?

Well, quite simply it is a purse. That is its translation from Gaelic. For those not too keen on the term 'purse', it is an essential piece of kit for a garment which has no pockets.

It is functional as well as decorative. In days gone by it would have been home to all sorts; coins, valuables, even oats and onions! These sporrans would mainly have been a functional item, primarily made from animal skins.

Nowadays, the sporran is more likely to house credit cards, phones & fags! With regards to materials used to make them, anything goes! Leather, fur, horse hair: even vegan friendly materials!

Sporrans fall into four categories:-

  • Day
  • Semi-Dress
  • Dress
  • Regimental

However, modern rules of dress mean that the rules aren't so strictly adhered to anymore.

Day sporrans are just that -  worn during the day. They are generally made of leather or a leather substitute and are quite plain in appearance, perhaps with an etched design for detail.

Semi-dress sporrans are usually a leather and fur mix. Seal skin is the most widely used fur for these sporrans as it is hard wearing, but rabbit or bovine is also used. The semi-dress sporran can be worn for both day and night, and is a great all rounder. It is primarily worn with an Argyll or tweed jacket, but never a Prince Charlie.

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Dress sporrans are the fancy ones! They can be worn at any time of the day but would have been traditionally worn in the evening, usually with a Prince Charlie jacket. These sporrans have a metal cantle and a fur centre. The furs used are many and varied; skunk, arctic fox, mink, musquash, goat and badger, to name but a few. There are also many faux fur options available if real fur doesn't float your boat.

Regimental sporrans are worn by the pipers and drummers of military bands, as well as ceremonial dress. They are very eye-catching and are made of horsehair. They hang down much lower than regular sporrans and are generally white with black tassels or vice versa.

Another type of sporran available, but not widely worn anymore is a full mask sporran. This style is commonly made from the head of an animal such as a badger or fox. The animals head is used for the flap and the main body of the sporran from the same pelt. These are not worn very often nowadays as they are not considered very politically correct.


Photo credits: Margaret Morrison Ltd