How to Wear a Sgian Dubh

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The sgian dubh—pronounced "skein doo"—is small knife that is part of modern Scottish regalia. The name literally means "black knife," although there is debate as to whether this name refers to the black bog oak that was commonly used to make the handle or if it refers to the fact that the knife was usually hidden, particularly under the armpit. When a traveler would stop at a home as a guest, he would move the sgian dubh to his sock, where it was clearly visible, as a gesture of trust toward his host. In modern times, the sgian dubh is regularly worn in the sock.

Pull on your kilt hose and fold the tops down so that the top edge is just below the knee.

Hold the sgian dubh with the crest facing outward. Since the modern sgian dubh is typically ceremonial, a clan crest is usually affixed to the sheath or handle. If there is no crest, turn the most comfortable side toward the leg.

Slide the sgian dubh between the kilt hose and the calf on the right side of your body. If you are left-handed, use the left side. The sgian dubh should be about halfway between the back and the outside of your thigh. It should be covered so that only half the handle is visible, but this can be adjusted so it does not interfere with leg movement.

Tips & Warnings

  • A sgian dubh is considered a knife and a weapon by some laws, even if it is purely ceremonial and the blade is dulled. Do not try to take a sgian dubh onto an airplane or carry it in a place where concealed weapons are outlawed. Check your local and state laws to know which restrictions might apply to you.

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