Most of the traditions discussed here are universal throughout the Scottish clan system. However, some traditions are the expressed personal views of the clan or family leader. Members of every clan or family are encouraged to follow the recommendations of their leader. Until such time as the Honourable Lord Lyon King of Arms names a Chief of Clan Baird, as of 19 August 2019 he has recognised Richard Baird of Rickarton, Ury and Lochwood as Commander and leader of Clan Baird.

Septs of Clan Baird and Hyphenated Surnames

Clan Baird includes those of the name, other similar surnames and associated surnames, often referred to as ‘septs’ of the clan. These can be alternative spellings of Baird or a family or extended family of a different surname who have in the past shown allegiance to the clan Chief and have been considered part of the family.

Alternative spellings of Baird, with the names Bard and Beard being the most common, also include Baaird, Baard, Bairde, Baort, Barde, Bardt, Barr, Barth, Bayard, Bayart, Beaird, Beart, Biard, Brd, and Byrd. The Lord Lyon may recognise many of these alternative spellings as belonging to Clan Baird, but not all. It is necessary to petition the office of the Lord Lyon to learn if a particular surname or spelling is accepted.

However, the Lord Lyon does not accept hyphenated surnames, which are considered different and separate families from Baird and the accepted septs of Baird.

Highland Code of Hospitality                                                                                            

All clanswomen and clansmen, including clan leaders, are bound by the Code of Highland Hospitality. Historically, the code required, no less, that a clanswoman or clansman, even a Clan Chief, welcome any strangers or kin into their home or castle if they sought a meal, lodging or assistance. This invitation extended to any clanswoman or clansman, even enemies. Hard but true.

The greatest disgrace and lack of honour came by either turning away a needy visitor or upon the visitor breaking the bond and trust of a host. A modern clanswoman or clansman, including a Clan Chief, is expected to make their best effort to greet fellow clanswomen and clansmen who arrive at their door unannounced, be cordial, and if time permits invite these guests into their home for a brief visit.

If feasible, visiting clanswomen and clansmen should use their best efforts to attempt to contact those they intend to visit to ensure they are available and have time to spend in fellowship. However, do not let this prevent you from visiting. We are all clanswomen and clansmen bound by the bond of kinship, and as such, family. It should never be deemed necessary or required to make an appointment to visit any clanswoman or clansman.

Clan Baird Relics and Assets

One of the primary duties of Clan Baird is to look after the preservation of our relics. It is the leader, who by appointment of the Herald (An Seanachaidh, i.e.Sennachie), delegates this task. Clan Baird assets include the insignia or symbols of the Chief or Commander, and all other archival materials, such as:

  • An Slat Bhan (The White Rod) - The An Slat Bhan, a straight white rod of patriarchal sway, represents a Clan Chief or Commander's judicial authority over their clan. It is required to be both white and straight; the colour representing purity and the straightness of justice.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

  • Claidhheamh a’ Chinnidh (The Sword of the Clan) - The Claidhheamh a’ Chinnidh anciently represented the Chie/Commanderf’s power of life and death over their clanswomen and clansmen. In modern times, the sword simply represents the Chief or Commander’s legitimate power over their clan as provided under Scots Law.


(insert photo/photos of The White Rod and The Sword of the Clan with captions)

The Clan Baird Crest Badge

A Crest and Motto are the personal property of a Scottish Armiger and appear on their warrant of matriculation bestowed upon them by the Honourable Lord Lyon King of Arms. An armiger’s Crest Badge consists of their crest resting on a wreath, which appears as a twisted rope, surrounded by a plain circlet upon which appears their motto. Only the owner of the Crest and Motto wears the Crest Badge with a plain circlet.

Anyone wishing to show allegiance to an Armiger/Commander/Chief and/or the clan they represent replaces the plain circlet with a strap and buckle and recognises that they are wearing the badge with permission of the owner.

Commander Baird has authorised the use of his Crest and Motto on a Clan Baird Crest Badge as a metal badge or cloth patch on caps, bonnets or other articles of clothing. If you wish to use the image of the Clan Baird Crest Badge for any other purpose, it is proper to request permission to do so. You can contact Clan Baird Society Worldwide and they will pass along your request to Commander Baird. As additional uses are authorised, they will appear here.


(insert images/photos of a Crest Badge with Strap and Buckle and Blazer patch with captions – I have ordered several of each with the Clan Baird imagery and will photograph them for you – before I do I will call you to discuss the best way to do so, since I am not a natural photographer)


The Feather Code

The wearing of feathers in a cap or bonnet is tradition in Scotland and likely came about in times of auld when the use of insignia on the bonnet was a useful means of identification, especially in battle. Today it is an indication of rank and status within the modern clan. It is also a matter of dispute and a matter of honour.

One who wears a feather or feathers in their bonnet publicly demonstrates they are a Scottish Armigerous Officer of their clan.

Unless explicitly authorised to wear a feather or feathers, or when worn as part of a uniform (see Highland Dress below), authorization to do is not sanctioned. Permitted uses include:

  • A Clan Chief wears three (3) feathers.

  • A Clan Chieftain, substantial Chieftain, lesser Chieftain or branch Chief may wear two (2) feathers.

  • The President of Clan Baird Society Worldwide may wear two (2) feathers.

  • Clan Scottish Armigers may wear one (1) feather.

Traditionally, Golden Eagle feathers are used and displayed tucked behind the Crest Badge on a cap or bonnet so that the pointed end of the right wing feather or feathers project above.

Artificial or other appropriate feathers are usually considered acceptable since eagle feathers are now endangered in the Scotland and the United States, as well as many other places in the world.


Highland Dress (this section would be improved with photos – see attached, although I’m sure that you have many photos of Clan Baird family members to choose from)

The kilt, and associated accessories, is not a costume, but rather proper Highland dress.

Highland dress is not restricted to the kilt. The breacan feile and peitean are also proper Highland dress. This commentary is limited to a discussion of the kilt. Please consult other authorities for the wearing of other forms of Highland dress.

Exceptions to Highland dress protocols are made for the military, pipe bands, dancers and similar groups. Such dress is considered a uniform and adherence to the protocols of the particular group is determined and enforced by the group.

There are many traditions when wearing proper Highland dress and members of Clan Baird are encouraged to investigate these traditions in more detail. Some of the items listed below are universally accepted protocols; some are the personal preference of our Commander, but many are merely observations of commonly accepted modern use. Regardless, we hope that you find them useful.

  • The kilt is proper Highland dress for men. The equivalent for women is the wearing of a sash. The wives of Chiefs or Chieftains may wear the sash pinned over the left shoulder. Women who are Chiefs in their own right and wives of colonels of Highland regiments also wear the sash over the left shoulder. All others must wear the sash pinned over the right shoulder.


The Sash can be worn with either casual or evening dress. The various forms include:

No. 1 – Style worn by clans-women. The sash is worn over the right shoulder across the breast and is secured by a pin or small brooch on the right shoulder.

No.2 – Style worn by Chieftainesses, wives of clan Chiefs and wives of colonels of Scottish regiments. The sash, which may be fuller in size, is worn over the left shoulder and secured with a brooch on the left shoulder.

No. 3 – Style worn by ladies who have married out of their clan, but who still wish to use their original clan tartan. The sash is usually longer than the No. 1 style and is worn over the right shoulder secured with a pin and fastened in a large bow on the left hip.

No. 4 – Style worn by country dancers, or where any lady desires to keep the front of the dress clear of the sash (for example, when wearing the ribband of a chivalric order, or any orders and decorations). This style is similar to the belted plaid, and is really a small arisaid. It is buttoned on at the back of the waist, or is held by a small belt and secured at the right shoulder by a pin or small brooch so that the ends fall backward from the right shoulder and swing at the back of the right arm.

(Insert sash photos here with appropriate captions identifying Styles 1-4, and any casual dress photos that we may come up with.)


When worn by women, what is a kilt for men is a kilt-skirt for women, and the protocols for wearing the kilt do not apply.

  • Tartan is usually made of wool with a twill weave and comes in several weights, with heavier weights worn in colder weather. The Baird tartan also is made in several colour schemes, often referred to as Ancient, Modern and Dress. The Baird Ancient tartan has rich, bold colours and is commonly worn for daytime and informal wear, while the Baird Modern tartan has softer and more subtle colours and is often reserved for evening or more formal wear. The Baird Dress tartan incorporates white wool and is not common and rarely worn in Scotland. However, all three of the variations are proper to wear during any occasion and you are encouraged to do so often!

  • The kilt is worn with the pleats at the back and the top fashioned just below the ribcage. The proper length of the kilt is a highly debated question, but we suggest not lower than the centre of the kneecap nor more than 25 mm (1 inch) above. Make sure that the kilt is centred on your body.                                                                                                                                                           

  • What one wears under the kilt is a matter of personal choice. Who is to know if you don’t tell them?

  • The kilt may be worn without any other required accessories such as for informal activities or when participating in Highland Games.

  • When wearing the kilt, the black-tie (tuxedo) equivalent is the Prince Charlie jacket. Accessories may be similar to those worn with a tuxedo but should always be worn with a matching waistcoat. There are also other acceptable variations for accessories when wearing the Prince Charlie jacket, but it is generally best to keep accessories simple. Other styles of jackets, both formal and informal, often include a belt in place of the waistcoat. Morning dress or white-tie equivalents can get complicated, so it is best to consult a knowledgeable tailor or the host about the particular occasion.

  • The Glengarry Cap and the use of dicing, which is a band of red, black and white ribbon under the brim on either the Glengarry Cap or the Balmoral Bonnet originated as a military style, but are generally accepted for civilian use in today’s modern Scottish culture.

  • The Balmoral Bonnet may be worn with or without the kilt and is worn pulled to the right. They come in several colours, commonly navy-blue, tan and blue-green. A dark bonnet is proper for evening, so navy blue is often preferred. The toorie (the pom-pom on top) either matches the colour of the bonnet, or in the case of the navy-blue bonnet, is sometimes red. The edge of the bonnet is bound with grosgrain ribbon, with two tails in the back, which should always be tied in a neat bow as these tails represent the ribbon on the traditional bonnet that was tied to secure it on the head. The cockade, also made with grosgrain ribbon, is on the left temple of the bonnet, and provides a place to mount your clan crest badge or a sprig of your Clan Plant Badge, which for Clan Baird is Bog Myrtle and Fir Club Moss. If you are a Scottish Armiger this is also where feathers are inserted. However, it is also proper to wear a plain cockade. The wearing of the plant badge was the traditional way of identifying your clan affiliation, before tartan and clan badges took over that role. The cockade is usually either black, signifying a Hanoverian (Protestant) affiliation, or white, signifying a Jacobite (Catholic) affiliation.

  • The primary differences between a traditional jacket and any jacket worn with a kilt is that a kilt jacket is not buttoned (although it may have the buttons) and is tailored around the bottom to be shorter to expose the sporran in front and, for most styles, not hang down too far in the back. It is usually possible to tailor most traditional jackets to accommodate the kilt. There are also several styles, materials and colours of jackets specifically designed to wear with the kilt.

  • Shirts worn with the kilt are similar to shirts worn when not wearing the kilt and should be appropriate for the occasion. An exception is the Jabot, which is sometimes worn with formal wear. The tie should be appropriate for the style of dress. Traditional ties are fine, but there are many acceptable ties that are specific to Highland dress. This is a good subject to put to your knowledgeable tailor.

  • Simple, plain leather sporrans are common for day or informal wear, while evening wear sporrans should be fur (often horse hair) with a silver cantle. Animal mask sporrans are traditionally suitable for any occasion, but today seem to be falling out of style. Make sure that your sporran, especially the opening, isn’t too small. It must carry all of the things you would normally have in your pockets. Nor should the sporran be worn too low. Five cm (2 inches) below the waist is about right. Setting the sporran chain above the kilt buckles will help hold it in place.

  • There are few rules for Kilt Hose, except that solid white is reserved for formal evening wear and then is only one option. One old tradition is that tartan hose was reserved for evening wear, but this tradition has gone by the wayside and today perfectly acceptable for all occasions, even considered a ‘smart’ look. Recommendations for the colour for Garter Flashes vary widely, but you will not go wrong by matching the tartan of your kilt, although picking up a bit of colour from your tartan with solid-colour flashes can look quite smart.  Garter Flashes are worn about a hand’s width below the centre of the kneecap with the fabric on the outside or slightly to the front of the calf. The hose is turned down to cover the tops of the flashes to expose about half of the fabric.

  • Although gillie brogues with silver buckles are traditional footwear, especially for formal occasions, any polished black dress shoe is fine. For informal occasions, any footwear you would normally wear with the style of clothing is appropriate.                                                                                                            

  • Belts worn with the kilt should be wide; up to 75 mm (3 inches), and have rectangular buckles. Formal evening belts should be black with silver buckles. For informal occasions belts and buckles can be appropriate for the style of clothing.

  • A Sgian Dhbu is not a weapon, but rather a utility knife. Its modern use was adopted during the proscription following Culloden when weapons were forbidden to the Highlanders. You are properly dressed without a sgian dhbu, so it is not essential to make it a necessity. It is properly worn in a sheath tucked into the top of your kilt hose on your right leg with just enough of the hilt of the knife showing to allow you to retrieve it. 25 mm (1 inch) is usually enough. Dirks are usually reserved for evening wear, although it is not improper to wear them during the day, provided you intend to publicise that you are intentionally armed. Weapons other than Dirks are not part of regular Highland dress but may be appropriate for certain occasions or as part of a uniform. It is best to consult both the law and an expert if you chose to wear them.

  • Kilt Pins are optional and intended to provide just enough weight to keep the kilt from ‘dancing in the breeze’. It is not used to pin the layers of the kilt together as it would ruin the hang of the kilt. Pin it in the right-hand corner of the kilt; about 10 cm (4 inches) from the bottom and 5 cm (2 inches) from the side is about right. Use of the kilt pin dates from a suggestion by Queen Victoria, when during an inspection of the troops a gust of wind provided an immodest moment. Other jewellery worn with Highland dress includes watches, cuff-links, tie clips, shirt studs, plaid broaches and jabot pins.

  • Stones are often incorporated into sgian dhbu’s, belt buckles, jewellery and similar items and are often either cairngorm or amethyst, quartz minerals considered ‘semi-precious’ gemstones. Cairngorm is yellow or brown and is named for one of the peaks in the Grampian Mountains in Banffshire. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Scotland’s Gem’. Amethyst is violet in colour, but has no particular attachment to Scotland, indicating that other precious and semi-precious stones are perfectly acceptable. The use of silver or silver trim as embellishments for formal occasions is also common.

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Clan Baird Office:

Stonehaven, Kincardineshire

Scotland, UK, AB39 3SU

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