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Scottish Headwear

There are a couple of different styles of headwear traditionally worn in Scotland, the first being the balmoral bonnet which is shown in the photo to the right. The balmoral is the most common traditional Scottish headwear that you will see worn today.


The balmoral is a knitted soft wool cap with a flat crown that is draped over the right side of the wearer with a woolen ball or toorie decorating the center of the crown.


The balmoral resembles a beret from France, but there are several main differences. The most noticeable difference being that the beret is made by joining multiple pieces of fabric together where the balmoral is made from one knitted piece of wool.


There are also two black ribbons the hang down from the back of the balmoral which traditionally was used to size the hat to the wearers head. Today these are mainly a decorative item as modern balmoral hats are pre-sized when they are manufactured. Most people tie these ribbons into a bow at the back of the balmoral, which is the traditional way of wearing it because you had to measure the balmoral to your head and then tie the ribbons so that it would hold the correct size.


Many people insist that the ribbons have a specific meaning and that if you are single or unattached the ribbons should hang down, and if you are married or attached they should be tied in a bow. This, however, is nonsense when you think about the traditional purpose of the ribbons. If this were the case, a single person's balmoral would never stay on their heads because it would not fit them until they were married and could adjust the size of the balmoral by tieing the ribbons.


A Tam O' Shanter is another hat which is very similar to the balmoral and is often confused as being the same hat. The true tam o shanter, abbreviated as ToS by the Brittish military and often referred to simply as a tam, is a larger version of the balmoral which hangs farther down on the right side of the wearer and appears much floppier on the head than the balmoral which sits closer to the head. The tam also tends to look like a saucer sitting in an angle on the wearers head whereas the balmoral has a more sculpted shape to it.


Another traditional Scottish hat is the glengarry bonnet shown in the photo to the right, commonly referred to simply as the glengarry. The glengarry bonnet is a traditional Scots cap made of thick-milled woolen material, decorated with a toorie on top, frequently a rosette cockade on the left side, and with ribbons hanging down behind. It is normally worn as part of Scottish military or civilian Highland dress, either formal or informal, as an alternative to the Balmoral bonnet or tam o' shanter. The glengarry is designed so that it can be folded flat in half. Unlike the balmoral, the ribbons on the back of the glengarry are always worn hanging straight down the back and are never tied in a bow.


Commonly today in pipe bands throughout the world you will see the pipers wearing glengarry bonnets. Drummers in pipe bands can be seen wearing wither the glengarry or balmorals depending on their preference.


All three hats traditionally will have a Crest Badge attached to the front left side.


Balmoral Bonnet
Glengarry Bonnet
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