The Gaiter Controversies

Fearing that the Anglican Communion does not have enough controversy, division and dissent, I must ask you to respond to the following questions:

Gaiters – yes or no?

Gaiters on Provosts (or Cathedral Deans) – yes or no?

Gaiters on this Provost – yes or no?

The picture on Bishop David’s blog will provide you with all the preliminary material you need in the first instance. The PhD on gaiters is here. Of course, this is not the first time we have dealt with Praepostorial Footwear.


  1. Muriel says

    Gaiters? Hmm! Many many years ago Provost Reginald Foskett of St.Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, wore gaiters and a fine figure of a man he was. But he had really seriously good ankles and legs – so shapely that women in the congregation were jealous (including his wife).

    So ankles would have to be examined first for suitability – this could be a task for the other Cathedral clergy?

    I think the Dean would suit gaiters – and I am sure so would you. Go for it!

  2. Elizabeth says

    No, definitely no. Unless you’re hillwalking and anticipate long, wet grass and/or snow.

  3. I shall only answer the third question, thrice:

    no, no, no.

    And if you were to argue that you would look stunning in gaiters now, you should prove it first by wearing a kilt.

  4. kelvin says

    That is one qualified yes depending on the ankles and two saying no. I think that the vote for the kilt is opportunistic.

    More please.

  5. Argyll clergy often wear the kilt, but not the Dean. Never. Ankles are very important, as is the relative length of the calf. I don’t think men tend to have cankles, but this would be another turn-off.
    I’d echo KB, but to every question: No, no and no.
    (The final comment is not personal, as I am personally unacquainted with your legs, but is the logical outcome of the previous negatives)

  6. kelvin says

    Chris – do you mean that the current Dean does not wear the kilt or that no dean in Argyll ever does or ever should? You say “never” with such impressive certainty.

  7. You are not Cosmo Lang. No.

  8. Kelvin, step away from the gaiters!

    No, basically.
    If this was the turn of the 20th Century then yes, but not now.

    What gave you that thought?

  9. Christina says

    I’m with Doug – are you trying to make the Church look even more outdated that it does naturally?

  10. kelvin says

    I’m interested that the negative comments seem to come from those who have probably never seen clerical gaiters worn upon real live clerical ankles. The one person with such experience voted in favour, though wanted my ankles to be examined by a medic, a physio and a professor of New Testament (all clerics) before allowing me to step out in glory.

    I have to add that I’ve had my eye on a rather fine pair of Paul Smith boots on e-bay today, so I’m not sure that I’m advocating looking outdated at all.

    Are gaiters really not the future?

    Paul Smith gaiters! Oh yes.

  11. Kelvin, it’s ‘lead us not into temptation’ either way.

    Good ankles and fine legs = distraction, lust or covetousness

    Bad ankles and chicken legs = distraction, unkind laughter or self-righteous pride (either: ‘I would never do that’ Or: ‘ah, but if I wore gaiters…’)

  12. kelvin says

    I do fear that a chilly Calvinist wind has blown up the Clyde from Mother Dunoon.

    How on earth did a question about gaiters lead to worrying lest we fall victim to lust, pride and covetousness?

    Or was it the talk of my ankles?

  13. 1. Gaiters in the appropriate time and the appropriate place.

    2. How very Derek Nimmo.

    3. If you must BUT they must be co-ordinated with the Cope of Glory.

  14. I’m sure like me you would agree, Kelvin, that the high point of Scottish Episcopalianism was in a period of about 70 years after the mid-1830s. It will therefore come as no surprise to you that the same period saw the high watermark of gaiter-wearing within the Church. Ergo there is no doubt an indissoluble connection between the wearing of the aforesaid garments and growth in catholic mission and evangelism. “Bring ’em back,” along with the rose high mass sets (and spectacles), that’s what I say!

  15. kelvin says

    I think that there is perhaps a danger that Stewart has mixed up gaiters and buskins. (Buskins are worn according to the colour of the day. Gaiters come in black or purple if you are entitled, and so far no-one commenting is so entitled).

    I’m inclined to agree broadly with David Campbell’s analysis. However, so far, I have dedicated myself merely to exploring the missiological significance of the cope.

    The more you wear the Cope of Glory on the highways and the byways (and the catwalks) of the town, the more people come to church.

    Anyone else feel that there should be a special section in the current mission review on such topics?

  16. Christina says

    I may never have seen clerical gaiters on a real-life priest, but I have seen the bowler hat and cane, and the frock coat worn to general ridicule by all and sundry. While I don’t think much of the jeans-under-alb routine either, there must be a sensible compromise somewhere?

    Unless it’s for fancy dress purposes – or on a woman perhaps?

  17. kelvin says

    Gaiters on female ankles, Christina? Of course. Feminist gaiter wearing.

    Remember, gentle reader, you saw it here first.

  18. Marion Conn says

    Hi Kelvin, i’m with the others on this, no Gaiters Please.
    For Kilts you need not only to have shapely ankles and calves, but, also knees, and where would all this end? With a frock coat and biretta. And no women in gaiters, they might end up looking like Nora Batty.

  19. Buskins are too much like sandals for my liking, and definitely not for the Cathedral.

    As for the Biretta, on when snow is lying. Given the weather today I suggest that Kelvin keeps it on standby for tomorrow morning.

    No doubt the Sacristan will ensure it is passed to you at the appropriate point (failing them, the MC might be prevailed upon).

  20. Sorry – been off for a helicopter ride (effect of all this hot air? No – that’d be a balloon). Anyway, to the Dean of Argyll: I was being certain about the current incumbent. His predecessor had no such inhibitions about kilts. Or red socks.

  21. Andrew CJ says

    One is sure that gaiters can be accomodated at the right time and the right place. Wish that more clerics wore them. I have only ever seen two individuals thus attired and thus far. On both occasion, it was a black-tie event.

    As the picture in on Bishop David’s blog shows, the gaitered individual cuts a fine figure in the Irish President’s presence. One would hope that the Bishop on whose blog the pic was would consider donning the said garment on suitable future occasions.

    In other words: gaiters, absolutely!

  22. kelvin says

    I remember, long before I was ordained, overhearing a conversation amongst certain clerics about what the most appropriate clerical attire was for Glyndebourne. I feel that gaiters should have been, in some small way, a part of that conversation.

    Am I right in thinking that it is not just gaiters that divide us? It seems to me that the correspondents of this blog are as likely to be divided upon the frock coat which Marion brings up so timeously. Horror from some, eager anticipation from others.

    It is a good job that I have the recent experience of appearing in a double page spread in an international style magazine. I feel as though that should add some clout to my opinions in just this kind of area.

    However, on the gaiter question, I’ve still not made up my mind.

  23. kelvin says

    The psalmist tells us that the Lord hath no pleasure in the strength of an horse : neither delighteth he in any man’s legs.

    However, in the light of this conversation, I feel we must ask whether the psalmist spoke a little hastily.

  24. You are infuriating. I logged on specifically to say ‘did you notice that tonight’s psalm gave the definitive answer to the gaiter controversy?’ But my journey home was rather longer than yours.

    Best sung word at evensong: tenor ‘whithereth’. No grass left standing for miles.

  25. Loopy Looe says

    Ah yes – had the Psalmist been familiar with gaiters we might have received different words of wisdom….. and I am VERY sure that the Provostorial Gaze would still have been Carefully Averted Elsewhere at that moment……..

  26. I seem to recall wrestling with a certain retired Bishop of St Andrews, D&D who also had a penchant for the gaiters. He was dreadful in processions and seemed to have forgotten that he was not the current Bishop and therefore should not be at the end of the line. However, on the subject of gaiters, I don’t think he particularly cut a dashing figure nor was he an instrument of mission. I fear he just looked like a comedy bishop.

  27. Richard says

    here in the Colonies (USA, Episcopal Church USA) I’m afraid to admit to ignorance? What are gaiters?

    And my parish has a rector who happens to be a woman. Are there equivalent garments for women?

  28. kelvin says

    There is a helpful discription here.

    So far as I am concerned, gaiters are gender-neutral.

  29. Richard says

    thank you, Kelvin, for the link.

    But am still baffled.

    It says that gaiters link to the breeches. I have never seen breeches except on the stage for Shakespeare plays and the BBC Horatio Hornblower DVDs. Who currently wears such a garment?

    It also states that the purpose of gaiters is to protect the legs either from gorse & brambles or while horseback riding. I knew that the C of E was in some ways antiquarian, but surely they do not impose upon their vicars the requirement that they make their pastoral calls on horseback!

    The more I read, the more it seems that gaiters should go the way of codpieces, fillets, corsets, and other items of apparel more appropriate for Monty Python routines than actual use.

    I mean this in a good natured and friendly way, by the way, the written word does not convey the nuances of facial expression, verbal tone, etc. This is all meant kindly and in a friendly manner.

  30. Richard says

    Kelvin, good news!

    An advertisement appeared on the left sidebar, for “Women’s Gaiters” from guaranteeing that their women’s gaiters, made from a waterproof polyester material, will keep snow out of women’s boots.

    I had not realized that C of E — or Scotland — churches were so cold as to require defense against snow.


    I’m back to thinking gaiters may be, at best, an appropriate outdoors defense against the elements but not a liturgical garment. Of course, I could be wrong.

  31. Speaking as one who has observed the Praepostorial wearing of gaiters, I am reminded of perhaps the most charismatic-with-a-small-c provost of the 20thC SEC, one Paddy Shannon of Aberdeen. He was responsible for the Pubsign, indeed known in the NE as Paddy’s Pubsign, the introduction of the Clergy Tartan, and the use of the Russian Orthodox Litany and Lord’s Prayer. His congregation thrived, as did the Cathedral’s music. He wore gaiters on every possible formal occasion, and looked splendid, even though his stocky Glaswegian appearance might best be represented in the film of his life by that of Layclerk (In a good way, Gaz, if you’re out there!)

    I think it’s to do with Style, which is either worth displaying in Italian Vanity Fair, or not.


  1. […] The Cathedral Chapter met yesterday in Castle Douglas. If this Provost is going to make a habit of such journeys, its likely that he will begin making a case for a diocesan grant for gaiters. […]

  2. […] on Friday at 12 noon in the blessed town of Oban, the Holy Spirit will reinstitute the wearing of gaiters to the Episcopate of the Scottish Episcopal […]

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