Clash of the Tartans

There are two ways to wear tartan. If you are living a punk renaissance, listen to the Distillers, have crafted yourself a cerise Mohawk and while away Saturday afternoons at Camden lock tartan can go a long way towards completing your look.

Alternatively, tartan can be worn to adopt a regal mantle, such as Kate Middleton going for a walk on a February evening, or Lord Grantham at a Ghillies bash. The regal look continues to heave off the catwalks for this winter. Anyone paying attention may have a ready stash of tartan from the last few years where tartan sat beside rich baroque patterns and winter florals.

If you are in need of a tartan injection, this winter fabrics have become colder, with blue and greens featuring across Marc Jacobs, Missoni, Badgley Mishka and Karen Walker.


Register Your Own Tartan

Did you know that the Scots have legislated for each piece of tartan to be trademarked? The Scottish Register of Tartans website was established by the Scottish Register of Tartans Act (2008). Tartans are no longer limited to Scottish clans: hotels and biker gangs are some of the tartan designers recently registered with the board. You can also register your own tartan as long as it complies with their recommendations!

  • Disciples of Christ Motorcycle Ministry
  • The Turnberry Hotel in Scotland (under the ownership of Donald Trump, Diary of Dionysus are still waiting to hear if Trump International in Doonbeg has its own tartan)

Whilst the bright colours denote clan membership in Scotland, there is no such thing as family tartan in Ireland.

Balmoral Tartan and Us

We have the Victorians and Georgians to thank for transitioning tartan from the hips of the rebellious Scots into cosy little fabrics to keep our tonsils warm in the winter.

Kate Middleton wearing a DC Dalgliesh Strathearn tartan silk scarf

Tartan was banned by an act of the British parliament in 1746, but nearly a century later weaver William Wilson and Sons of Bannockburn, near Stirling, reinvented the fabled clan cloths for the Victorian consumer. After the death of her beloved Albert, Queen Victoria whiled away bitter winters wrapped in tartan blankets beside Balmoral’s fires. The modern love of tartan was born.

The unorthodox use of tartan by Vivienne Westwood and Malcom McLaren in the 1970s, was then seen as the expression of discontent against modern society. In this way tartan, worn unconventionally, became an anti-establishment symbol and part of the punk uniform.