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Tartan Plaid kilts fashion heritage of Scotland

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Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland. Scottish kilts almost always have tartan

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.

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.

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. 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.

When tartan was proscribed by law, the Government or Black Watch pattern was the only legally one. This was used by the regiments raised within Scotland, forming the basis of the regimental tartans.


The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) is an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The regiment was created as part of the Childers Reforms in 1881, when the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot (The Black Watch) was amalgamated with the 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment of Foot.

It was known as The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) from 1881 to 1931 and The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) from 1931 to 2006. Part of the Scottish Division, it was the senior regiment of Highlanders.

All of Canada's provinces and territories, except for Nunavut, have regional tartans, as do many other regional divisions in Canada. Tartans were first brought to Canada by Scottish settlers; the first province to adopt one officially was Nova Scotia in 1956 (when registered at the Court of the Lord Lyon; adopted by law in 1963), and the most recent province was Ontario, in 2000.


Except for the tartan of Quebec, all of the provincial and territorial tartans are officially recognized and registered in the books of the Court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms of Scotland. The tartan for Canada as a whole is known as the maple leaf tartan and became an official national symbol in 2011.

The maple leaf tartan was designed in 1964 by David Weiser to commemorate the new Canadian flag and declared an official national emblem of Canada in 2011. The four colours reflect the colours of the maple leaf as it changes through the seasons—green in the spring, gold in the early autumn, red at the first frost, and brown after falling. Its International Tartan Index number is 2034.




The beautiful Maple Leaf tartan is a mix of autumn red, forest green, light browns and dark browns. Samples and fabric in light and heavy weight wool cloth can be purchased on this page.
By the early 1800s, it was realised that the knowledge of tartans before the  45 was being lost and, simultaneously, there was a romantic movement concerning Scotland's past. This lead to institutional and individual efforts to preserve tartan designs. Tartans were reconstructed from portraits, collected on pilgrimages, demanded from clan chiefs and recovered from weaver's notes.


Tartans became a backdrop. The weaving and tailoring industries were especially boosted by the visit to Edinburgh of George IV in 1822 and by Sir Walter
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.

The oldest known piece of tartan is one that was found buried in the ground near Falkirk. It was found in a pot filled with over 1900 silver Roman coins and is thought to be about 1700 years old. It is quite different from many of the colourful tartans that we all know today. Its believed that it was made from the undyed wool - dark brown and light browny/green - of the Soay sheep which once inhabited Scotland and which still can be found on the island of St. Kilda.

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