Civilian pipe band uniforms are loosely based on military pipe band uniforms.  The typical uniform usually consists of the following: cap/bonnet, shirt, tie, waistcoat, kilt, hose and shoes.  Each pipe band has its own tartan or wears a tartan with special significance to the group.

Unique to the Berkshire Highlanders

Cap Badge

Piper Bill Powers, one of the Berkshire Highlanders founding members, designed the band’s cap badge. The badge features the War Memorial Tower, a tapered, cylindrical stone tower that stands atop Berkshire County’s Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts. Surrounding the tower on the badge is the Gaelic motto: “Is Fion Milis Ceol.” This roughly translates as: “Music is sweet wine.”


Powers also designed the band’s tartan. He chose as the tartan’s two main colors the blue of the Berkshire skies and the green of its forested mountains. The secondary stripes include red and yellow, representing the spectacular fall foliage, and white, for the 75 inches of snow that falls here during an average winter. (Unofficially, the black stripe may represent the mood of local residents after enduring one of these winters.)

The tartan is registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans, the worldwide governing body for tartans. The record of the band’s tartan, which is named Greylock, for the mountain previously mentioned, can be found on the registry’s website. The registration number for the Greylock tartan is TS944.

Uniform Parts


The Berkshire Highlanders wear a glengarry bonnet, a traditional cap made of thick wool.  It is decorated with a toorie (pom-pon) on top and our cap badge on the left side. Ribbons hang down behind the cap.  Popular because it was collapsible and easily carried, the glengarry was adopted as undress (informal) headwear by the Scottish regiments sometime around 1850, and was worn by the entire British army from 1868 – 1897.  It is still worn today by members of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.


The exact date and place of origin of the kilt is the subject of much debate.  It is safe to say, though, that Scots have been sporting some form of the kilt for over 250 years.  Here is a passage from A Short History of the Highland regiment, printed in 1743, describing the reasoning behind the wearing of the kilt:

“…the Highlander wears broad garters under the knee, and no breeches, but his plaid belted about his waist, which hangs exactly like the folds of the Roman garment, which we see on Equestrian statues; the reason of this dress is, to make the leg firm, and to leave the sinews and joints quite free, to preserve the wearer from any thing that may heat or embarrass him and to afford him an opportunity of extending his limbs with the greatest ease…”

The Berkshire Highlanders’ kilts were made in Scotland, using about 4 yards of wool fabric, in the band’s Greylock tartan.

Band members Pat Liddle and Robin McGraw demonstrate the amount of fabric used to make a kilt.

Hose, Garters and Flashes

Designed to protect and cover the legs, the earliest kilt hose, cadadh, were made from tartan cloth, but not necessarily in the same tartan as the kilt.  Knitted hose, although available in Scotland since the 16th century, were not worn with kilts until the mid-1800s. To keep the hose from sliding down, wool or worsted ties were used, tied in a garter knot with the ends hanging down.

The Berkshire Highlanders wear white hose (a traditional color for pipers) with a special “popcorn” top. Modern elastic garters and green flashes recreate the look of the traditional garter tie.

Ghillie Brogues

A Highlander wearing kilt hose, garters, flashes and ghillie brogues.

Brogues are a type of shoe that originated in Scotland and Ireland.  Early brogues were made of untanned hide, and were perforated. This allowed the water that collected when the wearer trod through bogs to drain more easily.  This functional design has survived and can be seen in a modern version of the brogue, the wingtip.

The ghillie is one of four brogue closure styles (the other three being oxford, derby and monk).  The ghillie style has no tongue, to facilitate faster drying and long laces that wrap around the leg and tie above the ankle, to keep the tie clean and keep the shoe from getting lost in the mud.