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Three examples of Scottish tartan.

Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven cloth, now they are used in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland. Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns. (Tartan is also known as plaid in North America, but in Scotland, a plaid is a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder or a blanket.)

Tartan is made with alternating bands of coloured (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. The weft is woven in a simple twill, two over - two under the warp, advancing one thread each pass. This forms visible diagonal lines where different colours cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett.

The Dress Act of 1746 attempted to bring the warrior clans under government control by banning the tartan and other aspects of Gaelic culture. When the law was repealed in 1782, it was no longer ordinary Highland dress, but was adopted instead as the symbolic national dress of Scotland.

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the highland tartans were associated with regions or districts, rather than by any specific clan. This was due to the fact that tartan designs were produced by local weavers for local tastes and would tend to make use of the natural dyes available in that area. The patterns were simply different regional checked-cloth patterns, where of the tartans most to one's liking - in the same way as people nowadays choose what colours and patterns they prefer in their clothing. Thus, it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that specific tartans became associated with Scottish clans or Scottish families, or simply institutions who are (or wish to be seen as) associated in some way with a Scottish heritage.[1]

It is generally stated that the most popular tartans today are the Black Watch (also known as Campbell, Grant Hunting, Universal, Government) and Royal Stewart.[2] Today tartan is no longer limited to textiles but is used on non-woven mediums, such as paper, plastics, packaging, and wall coverings.[3]


Etymology and terminology

Soldiers from a Highland Regiment circa 1744. The private is wearing a belted plaid.

The English word tartan is derived from the French tiretain. This French word is likely derived from the verb tirer in reference to woven cloth (as opposed to knitted cloth).[note 1] Today tartan usually refers to coloured patterns, though originally a tartan did not have to be made up of any pattern at all. As late as the 1830s tartan was sometimes described as "plain coloured ... without pattern".[5] Patterned cloth from the Gaelic speaking Scottish Highlands was called breacan, meaning many colours. Over time the meanings of tartan and breacan were combined to describe certain type of pattern on a certain type of cloth. Today tartan is generally used to describe a pattern, and it is not limited to only textiles.[5] Today the term plaid is commonly used to describe what is actually tartan.[6] Both terms however, originally had separate meanings. The word plaid is derived from the Scottish Gaelic plaide, meaning "blanket".[7] Originally plaid was first used to describe the rectangular, blanket-like garment, sometimes made up of tartan, that preceded the modern kilt (see: belted plaid). In time, plaid was used to describe blankets themselves.[6] The pattern of a tartan is called a sett. The sett is made up of a series of woven threads which cross at right angles.[5]


Diagram A, the warp
Diagram B, the weft.
Diagram C, the tartan. The combining of the warp and weft.

Each thread in the warp crosses each thread in the weft at right angles. When a thread in the warp crosses a thread in the weft of the same colour, it produces a solid colour on the tartan. If a thread crosses another of a different colour, it produces a mixture of the two colours in equal proportion. Thus, a sett of two base colours produces one mixture, for a total of three different colours. The total number of colours, including mixtures, increases out of proportion to the number of base colours. So, a sett of six base colours produces fifteen mixtures, for a total of twenty-two different colours. This means that the more stripes and colours used, the more blurred and subdued the tartan's pattern becomes.[5][8]

The sequence of threads, known as the sett, starts at an edge and either repeats or reverses on what are called pivot points. In diagram A, the sett reverses at the first pivot, then repeats, then reverses at the next pivot, and will carry on in this manner horizontally. In diagram B, the sett reverses and repeats in the same way as the warp, and also carries on in the same manner vertically. The diagrams left illustrate the construction of a "symmetrical" tartan. However, on an "asymmetrical" tartan, the sett does not reverse at the pivots, it just repeats at the pivots. Also, some tartans (very few) do not have the exact same sett for the warp and weft. This means the warp and weft will have alternate thread counts.

Tartan is recorded by counting the threads of each colour that appear in the sett.[note 2] The thread count not only describes the width of the stripes on a sett, but also the colours used. For example, the thread count "K4 R24 K24 Y4" corresponds to 4 black threads, 24 red threads, 24 black threads, 4 yellow threads.[9] The first and last threads of the thread count are the pivot points.[3] Though thread counts are indeed quite specific, they can to be modified in certain circumstances, depending on the desired size of the tartan. For example, the sett of a tartan (about 6 inches) may be too large to fit upon the face of a neck tie. In this case the thread count has to be reduced in proportion (about 3 inches).[9]

Colour: shades and meaning

The shades of colour in tartan can be altered to produce variations of the same tartan. The resulting variations are termed: modern, ancient, and muted. These terms refer to colour only. Modern represents a tartan that is coloured using chemical dye, as opposed to natural dye. In the mid-19th century natural dyes began to be replaced by chemical dyes which were easier to use and were more economic for the booming tartan industry. Chemical dyes tended to produce a very strong, dark colour compared to the natural dyes. In modern colours, setts made up of blue, black and green tend be obscured. Ancient refers to a lighter shade of tartan. These shades are meant to represent the colours that would result from fabric aging over time. Muted refers to tartan which is shade between modern and ancient. This type of tartan is very modern, dating only from the early 1970s. This shade is said to be the closest match to the shades attained by natural dyes used before the mid-19th century.[10]

The idea that the various colours used in tartan have a specific meaning is purely a modern one. One such myth is that red tartans were "battle tartans", designed so they would not show blood. Many recently created tartans, such as Canadian provincial and territorial tartans and American state tartans, are designed with certain symbolic meaning for the colours used. For example the colour green sometimes symbolises prairies or forests, blue can symbolise lakes and rivers, and the colour yellow is sometimes used to symbolise various crops.[2]


The earliest image of Scottish soldiers wearing tartan, from a woodcut dating from 1631.[11][note 3]


Today tartan may be mostly associated with Scotland, however the earliest evidence of tartan is found far afield from the British Isles. According to the textile historian E. J. W. Barber, the Hallstatt culture, which is linked with ancient Celtic populations and flourished between 100 BC to 400 BC, produced tartan-like textiles. Some of them were recently discovered, remarkably preserved in Salzburg, Austria.[4] Also, textile analysis of fabric from Indo-European Tocharian graves in Western China has shown it to be similar to the Iron Age Hallstatt culture of central Europe.[12] Tartan-like leggings were found on the "Cherchen Man", a 3, 000 year-old mummy, found in the Taklamakan Desert in western China (see Tarim mummies).[13] Similar finds have been found in central Europe and Scandinavia.[5] The earliest documented tartan in Britain, known as the Falkirk tartan, dates from the 3rd century AD. It was uncovered at Falkirk in Stirlingshire, Scotland, about 400 metres north-west of the Antonine Wall. The fragment was stuffed into the mouth of the earthenware pot containing almost 2, 000 Roman coins. The Falkirk tartan is simple check design, of natural light and dark wool. Early forms of tartan such as this are thought to have been invented in pre-Roman times, and would have been popular among the inhabitants of the northern Roman provinces.[14][15]

John Campbell of the Bank, 1749. The present official Clan Campbell tartans are blue, green and black based.[16]

Tartan, as we know it today, is not thought to have existed in Scotland before the 16th century. By the late 16th century there are numerous references to striped or checkered plaids. It isn't until the late 17th or early 18th century that any kind uniformity in tartan is thought to have occurred.[17] Martin Martin, in his A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland published in 1703, wrote that Scottish tartans could be used to distinguish the inhabitants of different regions. He expressly wrote that the inhabitants of various islands and the mainland of the highlands were not all dressed alike, but that the setts and colours of the various tartans varied from isle to isle.[note 4] As he does not mention the use of a special pattern by each family, it would appear that such a distinction is a modern one, and taken from the ancient custom of a tartan for each district, the family or clan in each district originally the most numerous in each part, eventually adopting as their distinctive clan tartan, the tartan of such district.

For many centuries, the patterns were loosely associated with the weavers of a particular area, though it was common for highlanders to wear a number of different tartans at the same time. A 1587 charter granted to Hector Maclean of Duart requires feu duty on land paid as 60 ells of cloth of white, black and green colours. A witness of the 1689 Battle of Killiecrankie describes "McDonnell's men in their triple stripes". From 1725 the government force of the Highland Independent Companies introduced a standardised tartan chosen to avoid association with any particular clan, and this was formalised when they became the Black Watch regiment in 1739.

The world's first colour photograph, made by the Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell in 1861, was of a tartan ribbon.[19]

The most effective fighters for Jacobitism were the supporting Scottish clans, leading to an association of tartans with the Jacobite cause. Efforts to pacify the Highlands led to the 1746 Dress Act banning tartans with exemptions for the military and the gentry. Soon after the Act was repealed in 1782 Highland Societies of landowners were promoting "the general use of the ancient Highland dress". William Wilson & Sons of Bannockburn became the foremost weaving manufacturer around 1770 as suppliers of tartan to the military. Wilson corresponded with his agents in the highlands to get information and samples of cloth from the clan districts to enable him to reproduce "perfectly genuine patterns" and recorded over 200 setts by 1822, many of which were tentatively named. The Cockburn Collection of named samples made by Wilsons was put together between 1810 and 1820 and is now in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. At this time many setts were simply numbered, or given fanciful names such as the "Robin Hood" tartan.

By the 19th century the Highland romantic revival inspired by James Macpherson's Ossian poems and the writings of Walter Scott led to wider interest, with clubs like the Celtic Society of Edinburgh welcoming Lowlanders. The pageantry invented for the 1822 visit of King George IV to Scotland brought a sudden demand for tartan cloth and made it the national dress of the whole of Scotland rather than just the highlands and islands, with the invention of many new clan-specific tartans to suit.

Royal patronage and the tartan craze

Wilkie's idealised depiction of George IV, in full Highland dress, during the visit to Scotland in 1822.[note 5]

The popularity of tartan was greatly increased by the royal visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822. George IV was the first reigning monarch to visit Scotland in 171 years.[21] The festivities surrounding the event were originated by Sir Walter Scott who founded the Celtic Society of Edinburgh in 1820. Scott and Celtic Society members urged Scots to attend festivities "all plaided and plumed in their tartan array".[22] One contemporary writer sarcastically described the pomp that surrounded the celebrations as "Sir Walter's Celtified Pagentry".[22][23]

Following the Royal visit several books which documented tartans added to the craze. James Logan's romanticised work The Scottish Gael, published in 1831, was one such publication which led the Scottish tartan industry to invent clan tartans.[24] The first publication showing plates of clan tartans was the Vestiarium Scoticum published in 1842.[25] The Vestiarium was the work of two brothers: John Sobieski and Charles Allen Hay. The brothers, who called themselves John Sobieski Stolberg Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart, first appeared in Scotland in 1822. The two claimed to be grandsons of Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his wife Princess Louise of Stolberg, and consequence later became known as the "Sobieski Stuarts". The Sobieski Stuarts claimed that the Vestiarium was based upon a copy of an ancient manuscript on clan tartans—a manuscript which they never managed to produce.[26] The Vestiarium was followed by equally dubious The Costume of the Clans, two years later.[24] The romantic enthusiasm that Logan and the Sobieski Stuarts generated with their publications led the way other tartan books in the 19th century.[22][25]

Just twenty years after her uncle's visit to Scotland, Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha made their first trip to the Scottish Highlands. The queen and prince bought Balmoral Castle in 1848 and hired a local architect to re-model the estate in "Scots Baronial" style. Prince Albert personally took care of the interior design, where he made great use of tartan. He utilised the red Royal Stewart and the green Hunting Stewart tartans for carpets, while using the Dress Stewart for curtains and upholstery. The queen designed the Victoria, and the prince was the designer of the Balmoral tartan which still is used today as a royal tartan. Victoria and Albert spent a considerable amount of time at their estate, and in doing so hosted many "Highland" activities. Victoria was attended by pipers and her children were attired in Highland dress. Prince Albert himself loved watching the Highland games.[27][note 6] Ironically as the craze swept over Scotland, the Highland population suffered grievously from the Highland Clearances, when thousands of Gaelic speaking Scots from the Highlands and Isles were evicted by landlords (in many cases the very men who would have been their own clan chiefs) to make room for sheep.[22]

Clan tartans

David Moriers's An incident in the rebellion of 1745. The eight featured highlanders in the painting wear over twenty different tartans.[29]

It is generally regarded that "clan tartans" date no earlier than the beginning of the 19th century. It is maintained by many that clan tartans were not in use at the time of the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The method of identifying friend from foe was not through tartans but by the colour of ribbon worn upon the bonnet.[note 7][note 8] David Morier's well-known painting of the Highland charge at the Battle of Culloden shows the clansman wearing various tartans. The setts painted all differ from one another and very few of the those painted show any resemblance to today's clan tartans.[32] Contemporary portraits show that although tartan is of an early date, the pattern worn depended not on the wearer's clan, but upon his or her location, or personal taste. The idea of groups of men wearing the same tartan is thought to originate from the military units in the 18th century. Evidence suggests that in 1725 the Independent Highland Companies may have worn a uniform tartan.[32]

"Ye principal clovris of ye clanne Stewart" which appeared in the Sobieski Stuarts's forgery Vestiarium Scoticum of 1842.[33]

The naming and registration of official clan tartans began on April 8, 1815, when the Highland Society of London (founded 1778) resolved that all the clan chiefs each "be respectfully solicited to furnish the Society with as Much of the Tartan of his Lordship's Clan as will serve to Show the Pattern and to Authenticate the Same by Attaching Thereunto a Card bearing the Impression of his Lordship's Arms." Many had no idea of what their tartan might be, but were keen to comply and to provide authentic signed and sealed samples. Alexander Macdonald, 2nd Baron Macdonald of Sleat was so far removed from his Highland heritage that he wrote to the Society: "Being really ignorant of what is exactly The Macdonald Tartan, I request you will have the goodness to exert every Means in your power to Obtain a perfectly genuine Pattern, Such as Will Warrant me in Authenticating it with my Arms."

Today tartan and "clan tartan" is an important part of a Scottish clan. Almost all Scottish clans have several tartans attributed to their name. Several clans have "official" tartans. Although it is possible for anyone to create a tartan and name it any name they wish, the only person with the authority to make a clan's tartan "official" is the chief.[note 9] In some cases, following such recognition from the clan chief, the clan tartan is recorded and registered by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. Once approved by the Lord Lyon, after recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Tartan, the clan tartan is then recorded in the Lyon Court Books.[32] In at least one instance a clan tartan appears in the heraldry of a clan chief and is considered by the Lord Lyon as the "proper" tartan of the clan.[note 10]

Other tartans

The Black Watch tartan, also known as the "Government sett", or the Campbell tartan. The tartan was used, and is in current use, by several military units throughout the Commonwealth.[35]

In addition to clan tartans, there are many tartans created especially for individuals, families, districts, institutions, and corporations. There are even specific commemorative tartans for various events and certain ethnic groups.[note 11] Tartan has had a long history with the military and today many military units—particularly those within the Commonwealth—utilise tartan in their dress uniforms.

There are many regional tartans, officially recognised by governments bodies. In Canada most provinces and territories have an official tartan.[37] Canada, itself has an unofficial national tartan.[38] Several Canadian counties and municipalities also have official tartans.[note 12] Many of the states of the United States of America also have official tartans. In Scotland at least two local government councils have official tartans.[41]

Tartan is sometimes differentiated from another with the same name by the label dress or hunting. Dress tartans are based on the earasaid tartans worn by Highland women in the 17th and 18th centuries.[note 13] Dress tartans tend to be made by replacing a prominent colour with the colour white. They are commonly used today in Highland dancing. Hunting tartans are also a Victorian conception.[43][note 14] These tartans tend to be made up of subdued colours, such as dark blues and greens. Despite the name, hunting tartans have very little to do with actual hunting.[6] Mourning tartans, though quite rare, are associated with death and funerals. They are usually designed using combinations of black and white.[45]

Tartan has also been used by corporations in advertising campaigns. British Airways used a tartan design as part of its ethnic tailfin re-branding. This design, Benyhone (from Scottish Gaelic: "Mountain of the birds") was one of the most widely used designs, being applied to 27 aircraft of the BA fleet.[citation needed] The "Burberry Check", first designed in early 1920s, is an instantly recognisable tartan, known around the world.[46]

Clever Victorian entrepreneurs not only created new tartans, but new tartan objects called tartanware. Tartan was incorporated into an assortment of common household objects such as snuffboxes, jewellery cases, tableware, sewing accessories, and desk items. Tourists visiting the Scottish Highlands came home with it, and Scottish-based businesses sent tartanware out as gifts to customers. Some of the more popular tartans were the Stewart, McDonald, McGregor, McDuff, MacBeth and Prince Charlie.[47] Today tartanware is widely collected in England and Scotland.[48]

Tartan in fashion

A German punk wearing a piece of the Royal Stewart tartan, 1984.

In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, tartan-clad garments featured in fashion catalogues. By then, tartan had shifted from being mainly a component of men's clothing to become an important part of women's fashion. In consequence of its association with the British aristocracy and military, tartan developed an air of dignity and exclusivity. Because of this, tartan has made reappearances in the world of fashion several times. For instance, tartan made a resurgence in its use in Punk fashion. In the late 1970s punk music was a way for youth in the British Isles to voice their discontent with the ruling class. The unorthodox use of tartan, which had long been associated with authority and gentility, was then seen as the expression of discontent against modern society. In this way tartan, worn unconventionally, became an anti-establishment symbol.[49][50]

Not always a fashion symbol signifying rebellion or anti-authoritarianism, plaid has been more recently adopted by members of the hipster fashion scene. While not used as a statement of any specific belief or idea like others who have adopted the pattern, plaid has become undeniably linked with the subculture's fashion.[51] This mainly stems from the motif in the hipster scene of thrift store shopping, where plaid shirts are often in abundance.

Tartan registration

Coat of arms of the now defunct Scottish Tartans Society.

It has been estimated that there are about 7,000 different tartans with around 150 new designs being created every year.[52] Up until recently there had been no central, or "official" tartan registry. In the absence of an official register, several un-authoritative groups located in Scotland, Canada and the USA documented and recorded tartan.[53] In the 1960s, a Scottish society called the Scottish Tartans Society was created to record and preserve all known tartan designs.[54] The society's register, the Register of All Publicly Known Tartans, contains about 2,700 different designs of tartan.[55] The society however ran into financial troubles in about the year 2000, and is now defunct.[56] Former members of the society then formed two new Scottish-based organisations—the Scottish Tartans Authority (STA) and the Scottish Tartans World Register (STWR). Both of these societies based their database upon the Register of All Publicly Known Tartans. The STA's database consists of about 3,500 tartans, while the STWR's is made up of about 3,000 different designs.[55] Both organisations are registered Scottish charities and record new tartans (for a fee) on request.[57][58]

The Scottish Register of Tartans is Scotland's official tartan register. The Register is maintained and administrated by the National Archives of Scotland based in Edinburgh.[59] The aim of the Register is to provide a definitive and accessible resource to promote and preserve tartan. It also aims to be the definitive source for the registration of new tartans. The register itself is made up of the existing registers of the STA and the STWR and new registrations from February 5, 2009, and on. On the Register's website users can register new tartans, search for and request the threadcounts of existing tartans and receive notifications of newly registered tartans.[60][61]

The 'right' or 'entitlement' to tartan

Many people only own tartan with which they feel associated, be it through a clan, family, surname, or military unit. Others choose their tartan only out of personal taste. Since the Victorian era, 'authorities' on tartan have claimed that there is an etiquette to wearing tartan, specifically tartan attributed to clans or families. This concept of the 'entitlement' to certain tartans has led to the term of universal tartan, or free tartan, which describes tartan which, in the opinion of some, can be worn by anyone. Traditional examples of such are the Black Watch (also known as Government, Universal, and Campbell), Caledonian, Hunting Stewart, and Jacobite tartans.[62] In the same line of opinion, some tartan attributed to the British Royal Family are claimed by some to be 'off limits' to non-royals.[63] Even so, there are no rules on who can, or cannot, wear a particular tartan. Note that some modern tartans are protected by trade mark law, and the trade mark proprietor can, in certain circumstances, prevent others from selling that tartan.[2] An example of one such tartan is the Burberry Check.[note 15]

Many books on Scottish clans list such rules and guidelines.[2] One such opinion is that people not bearing a clan surname, or surname claimed as a sept of a clan, should not wear the tartan of their mother's clan.[66] This opinion is enforced by the fact that in the Scottish clan system, the Lord Lyon states that membership to a clan technically passes through the surname. This means that children who bear their father's surname belong to the father's clan (if any), and that children who bear their mother's surname (her maiden name) belong to their mother's clan (if any).[67] Also, the Lord Lyon states that a clan tartan should only be worn by those who profess allegiance to that clan's chief.[68] Some clan societies even claim that certain tartans are the personal property of a chief or chieftain, and in some cases they allow their clansfolk 'permission' to wear a tartan.[note 16] According to the Scottish Tartans Authority—which is closely associated with the Scottish tartan industry—the Balmoral tartan should not be worn by anyone who is not part of the British Royal Family. Even so, some weavers outside of the United Kingdom ignore the "longstanding convention" of the British Royal Family's 'right' to this tartan. The society also claims that non-royals who wear this tartan are treated with "great disdain" by the Scottish tartan industry.[70][note 17] Generally though, a more liberal attitude is taken by those in the business of selling tartan, stressing that anyone may wear any tartan they like (besides the Balmoral of course). In the end though, there are no rules on who can or can not wear a certain tartan.

See also


  1. ^ It has also been sugested that tartan may be derived from the cognate in the modern Scottish Gaelic tarsainn,[4] meaning "across".
  2. ^ Early collectors of tartan recorded setts by measuring the width of each stripe in one eighths of an inch.[9]
  3. ^ The Highlanders depicted were sometimes mistakenly described as Irish "Irrelander oder Irren". It is thought that the soldiers depicted were part of Mackay's Regiment which served under Gustavus Adolphus in Stettin (present day Szczecin, Poland). The men are depicted in dress varying from belted plaid, draped plaids and tartan breeches with tartan hose.[11]
  4. ^ Martin Martin wrote: "each each Isle differs from the other in thir fancy of making Plaids, as to the Stripes in Breadth and Colours. this Humour is as different thro the main Land of the Highlands, in so-far that they who have seen these Places are able, at the first view of a Man's Plaid to guess the Place of his Residence..."[18]
  5. ^ Sir David Wilkie's portrait of George IV depicts the king much slimmer than he actually was. Wilkie covered up the fact the king's kilt was too short—sitting well above the knees—and also left out the fact the king wore pink tights to hide his bare legs.[20]
  6. ^ Queen Victoria wrote of her time in Scotland: "Yes; and I feel a sort of reverance in going over these scenes in this most beutaful country, which I am proud to call my own, where there was such devoted loyalty to the family of my ancestors - for Stuart blood is in my veins, and I am now their representative, and the people as devoted and loyal to me as they were that unhappy race".[28]
  7. ^ James Ray who served in the government forces at the Battle of Culloden, wrote in 1752: "In their flight I came up with a pretty young Highlander, who called out to me, Hold your Hand, I'm a Cambell. On which I asked him, Where's your Bonnet ? He reply'd, Somebody have snatched it off my Head. I only mention this to shew how we distinguished our loyal Clans from the Rebels ; they being dress'd and equip'd all in one Way, except the Bonnet ; ours having a red or yellow Cross of Cloath or Ribbon ; theirs a white Cockade".[30]
  8. ^ Kass McGann, citing A Journal of the Expedition of Prince Charles Edward in 1745, by a Highland Officer which states: "We M’Donalds were much preplex’d, in the event of ane ingagement, how to distinguish ourselves from our bretheren and nighbours the M’Donalds of Sky, seeing we were both Highlanders and both wore heather in our bonnets, only our white cockades made some distinction", claims that this further supports the thought that the idea of clan tartans is a late invention.[31]
  9. ^ Although there are many tartans attributed to the Campbells, and many tartans named Campbell, there are only four tartans recognised by the current chief as Clan Campbell tartans: Campbell (aka Black Watch), Campbell of Breadalbane, Campbell of Cawdor, and Campbell of Loudoun.[16]
  10. ^ The crest of the chief of Clan MacLennan is A demi-piper all Proper, garbed in the proper tartan of the Clan Maclennan.[34] Note the highland MacLennans use the same tartan as the lowland Logans. Clan Logan is currently without a chief.
  11. ^ For example tartans have been created for and Chinese, Jewish and Sikh communities.[36] See also: Jewish tartan.
  12. ^ For example Bruce County has an official tartan.[39] An example of a Canadian municipality with an official tartan is that of Beauport, Quebec City.[40]
  13. ^ The Scottish Gaelic earasaid refers to a shawl—in this case a tartan shawl—worn by women.[42]
  14. ^ Even so, the 16th century historian, George Buchanan wrote: "They delight in variegated garments, especially striped, and their favorite colours are purple and blue. Their ancestors wore plaids of many different colours and numbers still retain this custom, but the majority, now, in their dress, prefer a dark brown, imitating nearly the leaves of heather; than when lying upon the heath in the day, they may not be discovered by the appearance of their clothes".[44]
  15. ^ In 2003 Burberry demanded members of the tartan industry to stop trading a certain Camel Thompson tartan.[64] Burberry claimed this tartan, which dates from 1906, was confusingly similar to their Burberry Check and that it thus infringed their registered trade mark.[64][65]
  16. ^ For example, the Clan Cameron Association website states that the Cameron of Lochiel tartan "is the personal tartan of the Chief and his immediate family; as a rule it should not be worn by clansfolk".[69]
  17. ^ The only non-royal permitted by the Royal Family to wear the Balmoral tartan is the Queen's personal piper.[71] The official website of the British Monarchy claims the tartan is not available for purchase.[72]


  1. ^ M.A. Newsome, 'The Scottish Tartans Museum': The Scottish Tartans Museum
  2. ^ a b c d MacDonald 1995: p. 48.
  3. ^ a b - tartan design software
  4. ^ a b Banks; de la Chapelle 2007: p. 57.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Submission From James D Scarlett" (pdf). The Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 12 October 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  7. ^ MacBain 1911: p. 277. See also: Merriam-Webster 2003: p. 947.
  8. ^ Banks; de la Chapelle 2007: p. 61.
  9. ^ a b c "What's a Threadcount". Scottish Tartans Authority. Retrieved 16 October 2008. 
  10. ^ MacDonald, Peter Eslea. "The Use of Colour in Tartan". Scottish Tartans Authority. Retrieved 22 October 2008. 
  11. ^ a b Banks; de la Chapelle 2007: p. 63.
  12. ^ Fortson 2004: p. 352.
  13. ^ Coonan, Clifford (28 August 2006). "A meeting of civilisations: The mystery of China's celtic mummies". The Independent. Retrieved 11 October 2008. 
  14. ^ "Tartan - Shepherd/Falkirk". Scottish Tartans World Register. Retrieved 8 October 2008. 
  15. ^ "Search Results (falkirk tartan)". National Museums of Scotland. Retrieved 8 October 2008. 
  16. ^ a b "Which are the authentic Campbell tartans?". Retrieved 9 October 2008. 
  17. ^ Banks; de la Chapelle 2007: pp. 66-67.
  18. ^ Banks; de la Chapelle 2007: pp. 65-66. Banks and de la Chapelle cite this quotation from Scarlett, James D. Tartan, The Highland Textile, p. 12.
  19. ^ Jacobson et al. 2000: p. 228.
  20. ^ "An incident during the visit of George IV to Edinburgh, 1822". National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 23 October 2008. 
  21. ^ Moncreiffe of that Ilk 1967: p. 24.
  22. ^ a b c d Magnusson 2003: pp. 653-654.
  23. ^ Duncan 2007: pp. 7-8.
  24. ^ a b Banks; de la Chapelle 2007: pp. 106-108.
  25. ^ a b MacDonald, Peter. "A Short History of Tartan". Retrieved 7 October 2008. 
  26. ^ Wilton, Brian. "History of Tartan". Scottish Tartans Authority. Retrieved 6 October 2008. 
  27. ^ Banks; de la Chapelle 2007: pp. 108-109.
  28. ^ Victoria 1885: p. 173.
  29. ^ Banks; de la Chapelle 2007: 84.
  30. ^ Ray 1752: p. 344.
  31. ^ McGann, Kass (2003). "The Evolution of the Kilt -- The Question of Clan Tartans". Retrieved 6 October 2008. 
  32. ^ a b c Campbell of Airds (2000), pp. 259-261.
  33. ^ Stewart; Thompson 1980: pp. 26-27
  34. ^ Way of Plean; Squire 2000: p. 214.
  35. ^, Retrieved on August 11, 2007
  36. ^ Schwartzapfel, Beth (17 July 2008). "Sound the Bagpipes: Scots Design Jewish Tartan". The Forward. Retrieved 10 May 2009. 
  37. ^ "The Government of Canada Invites Canadians to Celebrate Tartan Day". Canadian Heritage. 5 April 2008. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  38. ^ "Tartans". Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  39. ^ "The Tartan". Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  40. ^ "Tartan - Ville de Beauport". Scottish Tartans World Register. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  41. ^ "Check out our new tartan". The Scotsman. 17 September 2008. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  42. ^ MacBain 1911: p. 151.
  43. ^ "Hunting Tartans". Retrieved 20 October 2008. 
  44. ^ Banks; de la Chapelle 2007: p. 68. Banks and de la Chapelle cite this quotation from Grant, I. F.; Cheape, Hugh Periods in Highland History. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 8.
  45. ^ "Mourning Tartans". Retrieved 20 October 2008. 
  46. ^ Haig 2004: p. 143.
  47. ^ Banks; de la Chapelle 2007: pp. 21-22.
  48. ^ "19th-century Scottish kitch is today's collectible: Collecting tartanware". Retrieved 25 October 2008. 
  49. ^ Banks; de la Chapelle 2007: p. 26-27.
  50. ^ Ash; Wright 1988: p. 63.
  51. ^ Douglas Haddow (2008-07-29). "Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization". Adbusters. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 
  52. ^ "Holyrood supports tartan register". BBC News Online. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  53. ^ "Consultation on the Creation of A Register of Tartan" (pdf). The Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 9 September 2008. 
  54. ^ "Scottish Tartans Society". Scottish Tartans World Register. Retrieved 7 September 2008. 
  55. ^ a b Newsome, Matthew A.C. "What’s the “official” word about tartans?". Retrieved 9 September 2008. 
  56. ^ "Scottish Register of Tartans Bill" (pdf). The Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 8 September 2008. 
  57. ^ "About us". Scottish Tartans Authority. Retrieved 12 September 2008. 
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  59. ^ "About Us". Scottish Register of Tartans. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  60. ^ "Home". Scottish Register of Tartans. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  61. ^ "Guidance". Scottish Register of Tartans. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  62. ^ "Universal Tartans". Retrieved 18 October 2008. 
  63. ^ "Royal Tartans". Retrieved 18 October 2008. 
  64. ^ a b McDougall, Liam (18 May 2003). "Fashion giant Burberry tries to kill off traditional tartan rival". Retrieved 7 May 2009.  Note that this article was originally published in the Sunday Herald.
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External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TARTAN (from F. tiretaine, " linsie-wolsie," Sp. tiritana, a kind of woollen cloth, perhaps so called from its thinness and lightness, cf. Sp. tiritar, to tremble with cold), a worsted cloth woven with alternate stripes or bands of coloured warp and weft, so as to form a chequered pattern in which the colours alternate in "sets" of definite width and sequence. The weaving of particoloured and striped cloth cannot be claimed as peculiar to any special race or country, for indeed such checks are the simplest ornamental form into which dyed yarns can be combined in the loom. But the term tartan is specially applied to the variegated cloth used for the principal portions of the distinctive costume of the Highlanders of Scotland. For this costume, and the tartan of which it is composed, great antiquity is claimed, and it is asserted that the numerous clans into which the Highland population were divided had each from time to time a special tartan by which it was distinguished. After the rebellion of 1745 various acts of parliament were passed for disarming the Scottish Highlanders and for prohibiting the use of the Highland dress in Scotland, under severe penalties. These acts remained nominally in force till 1782, when they were formally repealed, and since that time clan tartan has, with varying fluctuations of fashion, been a popular article of dress, by no means confined in its use to Scotland alone; and many new and imaginary "sets" have been invented by manufacturers, with the result of introducing confusion in the heraldry of tartans, and of throwing doubt on the reality of the distinctive "sets" which at one time undoubtedly were more or less recognized as the badge of various clans.

Undoubtedly the term tartan was known, and the material was woven, "of one or two colours for the poor and more varied for the rich:' as early as the middle of the 15th century. In the accounts of John, bishop of Glasgow, treasurer to King James III., in 1471, there occurs, with other mention of the material, the following: -" Ane elne and ane halve of blue Tartane to lyne his gowne of cloth of Gold."It is here obvious that the term is not restricted to particoloured chequered textures. In 1538 accounts were incurred for a Highland dress for King James V. on the occasion of a hunting excursion in the Highlands, in which there are charges for" variant cullorit velvet,"for" ane schort Heland coit,"and for" Heland tartane to be hose to the kinge's grace."Bishop John Lesley, in his De origine, moribus, et rebus gestis Scotorum, published in 1578, says of the ancient and still-used dress of the Highlanders and Islanders," all, both noble and common people, wore mantles of one sort (except that the nobles preferred those of several colours).' George Buchanan, in his Rerum Scoticarum historia (1582), as translated by Monypenny (1612), says of the Highlanders, "They delight in marled clothes, specially that have any long stripes of sundry colours; they love chiefly purple and blue. Their predecessors used short mantles or plaids of divers colours sundry ways divided; and amongst some the same custom is observed to this day." A hint of clan tartan distinctions is given by Martin Martin in his Western Isles of Scotland (1703), which work also contains a minute description of the dress of the Highlanders and the manufacture of tartan. "Every isle," he observes, "differs from each other in their fancy of making plaids, as to the stripes in breadth and colours. This humour is as different through the mainland of the Highlands, in so far that they who have seen those places are able at the first view of a man's plaid to guess the place of his residence." The following lines give a brief description of the colours of the tartans of the principal clans. The kilt-tartan colour is given in each case; the plaid-tartans vary in slight particulars.

Campbell of Breadalbane, light green, crossed with darker green, the stripes broad with narrow edging of yellow. Campbell of Argyll, light green crossed with dark green, narrow independent cross lines of white. Cameron, brick-red with broad chequered cross of same colour, edged white. and with broad centre of ground colour, two independent cross lines of green. Forbes, yellow green, crossed with broad dark-green lines, centred black, independent cross lines yellow. Fraser, red ground, main cross lines red with deeper red centre edged with blue, independent cross lines blue. Gordon, dark blue-green ground, with broad cross lines of lighter green, narrow centre line yellow. Graeme, light green ground, crossed with darker green in small chequer, independent cross lines dark green. Grant, scarlet, with broad black-edged scarlet crossings, black independent cross lines. Macdonald of Glengarry and Keppoch, red, with open broad blue cross lines, and two independent blue crossings. Macdonald of Glencoe, green with broad dark-green crossing, the whole covered with fine red lines. Macdonald of Clanranald, light green with broad dark-green crossing, covered with fine red lines. Macgregor, scarlet, with narrow scarlet cross lines, edged and centred blue, widely spaced. Mackintosh, red with blue-edged and centred crossings of red, and independent blue cross lines. Mackenzie, blue-green, broad crossing of same colour with darker edges, independent cross lines, alternately red and white, over the main crossings. Macleod, green, with darkgreen crossings, over crossings, every other square, a red line. Macpherson, pale grey, four darker grey bars at crossings, the whole covered with red double independent lines. Munro, red with broad green stripe and narrow lines forming a check of black and yellow. Murray, green, close crossings of darker green, independent lines red. Stewart, scarlet, deep coloured crossings with scarlet centre, fine widely spaced dark independent lines.

See W. and A. Smith, Tartans of the Clans of Scotland (1850); J. Sobieski Stuart, Vestiarium Scoticum (1842); R. R. M`Ian, Clans of the Scottish Highlands (1845-46); J. Grant, Tartans of the Clans of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1885).

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Tartar >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also tartan





Proper noun




  1. The commander-in-chief of ancient Assyria.
    • 1611, And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. — 2 Kings 18:17 (Authorised Version)
    • 1611, In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it — Isaiah 20:1 (Authorised Version)


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

an Assyrian word, meaning "the commander-in-chief." (1.) One of Sennacherib's messengers to Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:17). (2.) One of Sargon's generals (Isa. 20:1).

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)

Simple English

Three examples of Scottish tartan.

Tartan is a pattern that has criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in many different colors.

Other pages

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The English Wiktionary has a dictionary definition (meanings of a word) for:
  • Tartan Day, a day set aside for the celebration of the Scottish influence on North America, Australia and New Zealand, but not celebrated in Scotland itself. It is the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath.
  • Tartanry

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