Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>neo-traditional Irish
Subject: leprechaun
Culture: Irish diaspora
Setting: St. Patrick's Day

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)


* Harrold/Legg 1978 p63 (describing Irish dance costume)
"Green is the most popular colour for both kilts and dresses as it reflects the green of Ireland as well as St. Patrick's emblem, the shamrock ....  [T]he man's plaid [is] fastened on the shoulder by a Tara brooch.  According to the dance, the shoes may be either soft of a specially made hard shoe."

* Curran 2000 p32
"Although the image of the 'wee man' on Irish or Irish-related products is fairly consistent -- a jolly little man all dressed in green (to symbolise the greeness and lushness of Ireland) -- folkloric accounts of the leprechaun vary greatly.
​    "[...]  [A]ll accounts agree that the leprechaun is usually an untidy and dishevelled being.  His clothing, reflecting the rather haphazard dress of the nineteenth-century Irish peasantry, is not at all stylish.  There is none of the co-ordination of freshly-laundered green clothes that appears in stereotyped pictures of him.  Instead, he will probably wear an old green (or bottle-blue) dress coat, red breeches buckled at the knee, thick wollen stockings and a wide-brimmed hat, generally slightly askew.  Sometimes he will wear an old 'claw-hammer' coat (an old type of formal dress coat which sports a forked tail, typically worn by what was once known as the 'down-at-heel gentry').  If he wears a shirt, it will be dirty and worn, tucked untidily into his broad belt to give him an unkempt appearance.  The overall sartorial impression is either that of the 'reduced Catholic former aristocracy' during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when leprechaun mythology began to develop in Ireland, or that of the itinerant working classes which proliferated throughout the countryside during the same period -- 'not rich enough to be comfortable, not poor enough to be destitute.'"

* Book of Irish weirdness 1995 p261-2 (DR McAnally, Jr., "The leprechawn" p259-69)
"In different county districts ... the dress ... varies.  The Lougheryman wears the uniform of some British military regiments, a red coat and white breeches, but instead of a cap, he wears a broad-brimmed, high, pointed hat, and after doing some trick more than usually mischievous, his favorite position is to poise himself on the extreme point of his hat, standing at the top of a wall or on a house, feet in the air, then laugh heartily and disappear.  The Lurigadawne wears an antique slashed jacket of red, with peaks all round and a jockey cap, also sporting a sword, which he uses as a magic wand.  The Luricawne is a fat, pursy little fellow whose jolly round face rivals in redness the cutaway jacket he wears, that always has seven rows of seven buttons in each row, though of what use they are has never been determined, since his jacket is never buttoned, nor, indeed, can it be, but falls away from a shirt invariably as white as the snow.  When in full dress he wears a helmet several sizes too large for him, but, in general, prudently discards this article of headgear as having a tendency to render him conspicuous in a country where helmets are obsolete, and wraps his head in a handkerchief that he ties over his ears.
​    "The Cluricawne of Monaghan is a little dandy, being gorgeously arrayed in a swallow-tailed evening coat of red with green vest, white breeches, black stockings, and shoes that 'fur the shine av 'em 'ud shame a lookin'-glass.'  His hat is a long cone without a brim, and is usually set jauntily on one side of his curly head.  When greatly provoked, he will sometimes take vengeance by suddenly ducking and poking the sharp point of his hat into the eye of the offender.  Such conduct is, however, exceptional, as he commonly contents himself with soundly abusing those at whom he has taken offence, the objects of his anger hearing his voice but seeing nothing of his person."

* Omelianuk/Allen 1999 p50
"[T]here is little reason to wear green on St. Patrick's Day" ...


* Barth 1977 p55
"The shillelagh is the old Irish word for a short, stout, oak club or cudgel.  As a symbol of the Irish, it has a place in St. Patrick's Day.
    "Shillelagh was the name of a famous oak forest that once stood in County Wicklow.  A club or cudgel cut from one of the oaks was known as a 'sprig of shillelagh.'  Later, the name was given to any cudgel made of oak.​  A man in Dublin once said that the Irish of early times must have lived 'under the greenwood tree.'  As proof, he pointed out that an Irishman would not walk or wander without a shillelagh.  Away from home, he would beg, borrow, or steal one.  In a game of hurling, he played with a shillelagh.  At a fair or market, he wouldn't buy or sell without the stout oak stick in his hand."  

Eagleton 1999 p154-155
"SHILLELAGH  A village in County Wicklow.  Not a traditional Irish cudgel.  There's no ancient Irish weapon of that name, whatever the tourist shops may claim.  The village of Shillelagh, a well-forested spot, used to produce oak walking sticks which were sometimes used for fighting; but the blackthorn cudgel sold today as a shillelagh has no tradition behind it at all.  Shillelaghs are as fraudulent as the belief that the Irish are a particularly belligerent lot."

 * Barth 1977 p57
"In the United States and in Ireland, in the nineteenth or twentieth century, a kind of stage Irishman was born.  Dressed in the style of the Irish countryside, he sang Irish airs, swinging a shillelagh to add flourish.
    ​"...  Today, tourists bring back mock shillelaghs made of blackthorn bound with green ribbons as souvenirs of the Emerald Isle.  In St. Patrick's Day parades, officials in top hats often carry blackthorn walking sticks.  Children on the sidelines, some of them only toddlers, clutch toy shillelaghs made of green plastic.  All are symbols of the staunch spirit of the Irish."