From the times of the early Celts through to the traditions of the modern Highland regiments, the kilt, plaid and tartan have constituted an unmistakable costume for the Scottish and Irish. The term plaid originally referred to a blanket or length of cloth, the traditional kilt being that cloth wrapped around the wearer and belted. It is historically associated with Highlanders. They would have selected a tartan by availability. The design of cross-sectional lines would have been dictated by the weaver, the colors by available dyes. In the nineteenth century, a distinctive change took place whereby the tartan was assigned a name. The official clan tartans where selected and registered setting the precedent for todays categorizing of the cloth. The dress today remains attractive, distinctive, colorful and martial.
As described by the Scottish Tartans Museum, "Though clan tartans are the most well known, tartans can represent many different things. Some tartans represent families, towns, district, corporations, individuals, events -- you name it! What makes a tartan "official" or "authentic" is not age or antiquity, but whether it has the approval of the governing body of what that tartan represents. If a clan chief, or a state's legislature, or the CEO of a company says this is the official tartan, it is so, whether the tartan is two or two hundred years old. A clan tartan is one that represents your clan. It is not necessarily the tartan that your ancestors would have worn hundreds of years ago. Highlanders traditionally would have selected any tartan they likes from the available sources. You are still free to do the same! However, it is a fact that tartans today have meaning, and when you wear a tartan you are identifying yourself with what that tartan represents, be it a clan, district, or what have you.
Most [people] today would of course select a tartan that they feel identifies with some part of your heritage. While if there is a tartan for your surname, that would be an obvious choice, there is nothing wrong with wearing a tartan for another branch of your family. Commercial suppliers today typically produce a range of some 500 - 700 tartan designs, enough to satisfy most of the requests for tartan patterns. However, there are well over 7000 unique tartans on record." 1.
Setting out to find the best tartan for you is not always simple. For each clan there are several sub-categories. Hunting, dress, ancient, modern are just some examples. We are happy to assist you find the perfect match. A good resource is, http://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/search.aspx. Please be aware that some of our items are only available if the cloth merits a high threadcount to ensure durability and quality. So, pick a starting point and contact us today, we will work hard to find the perfect fit.
Remember, this is a wee sampling of the Scottish Tartans
Tartan swatches provided by Strathmoore Woollen Co.
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