A tartan is a specific
that often signifies a particular Scottish clan in the modern era. The pattern
is made with pre-dyed threads woven to form alternating stripes. The resulting
blocks of color repeat vertically and horizontally in a pattern of squares
Kilts almost always have tartans. Tartan
is also known as
plaid in North America.
have been used in Scottish weaving for centuries. For many centuries, the
patterns were associated with the weavers of a particular area. The naming
and registration of official clan tartans did not begin until the Highland
romantic revival of the 19th century was fostered by Walter Scott and spurred
by the pageantry he invented for the visit of King George IV of Great Britain
The tartan of a Scottish clan is a sequence of colors and shades unique
to the material, authorised by the clan society for use by members of that
clan for kilts, ties, and other garments and decorations. Every clan with
a society, has at least one distinct tartan. While "heraldic"
in the sense of being visual representation of blood relation, they are
not "Scottish heraldry", strictly speaking. In Scotland, heraldry
is protected under the law by the court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms,
and there are penalties for bearing an unauthorised Coat of arms. On the
other hand, there is no blanket legal prohibition against wearing the "wrong"
tartan. It is considered proper to wear a clan tartan if the wearer is associated
with the clan by name, by blood or by legal adoption.
In addition to the clan tartans, tradition reserves some patterns for
use by Scottish Highland military units of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth
Those associated with the British Royal Family use the Royal Stewart
tartan regardless of whether they are affiliated by blood to the Stewart
clan. This is because of the Royal Family's Stewart ancestry through James
VI of Scotland.
However tartan is pretty inclusive. There are tartans for military forces
like the Royal Canadian Air Force, commercial companies, special interest
groups like Amnesty International, cities, football clubs, commemorations
and regions of the world where people of the Scottish Diaspora live. As
a result most people, whether of Scottish ancestry or not, can find some
tartan which is significant for them. There are also general fashion tartans
for those who do not care about the significance.