Clan Tartan

Does your family name have its own clan tartan?

If you go back in Scottish history you will find that tartan was originally associated with different regions or districts, rather than with clans.

It seems that each of the Western Isles would have had its own tartan, which distinguished it from that of its neighbouring islands.

And similarly the inhabitants of each region or district of the Scottish Highlands would have been wearing different tartans.

For many centuries the pattern of the tartan, and the colours used were loosely associated with the weavers of the district, and it was common for Highlanders to wear a number of different tartans at the same time.

The clan association with tartan evolved from the ancient custom of district tartans, with the biggest clans from each district adopting them as their distinctive clan tartan.

The wearing of all tartan was of course banned in Scotland after the battle of Culloden, in an attempt to pacify the Highlands.

By this time tartan was being associated with the Jacobite cause, as the most effective fighters for Jacobitism were the Scottish clans.

The "Dress Act" of 1746 outlawed the wearing of all tartan, with the exceptions of the military and the Scottish gentry.

Soon after the act was repealed in 1782, newly formed Highland Societies were promoting the general use of the ancient Highland Dress, and this spawned the beginning of clans association with tartan.

The Highland romantic revival, inspired by the writings of Sir Walter Scott, was in full swing by the early 19th century .

This led to a wider interest in Highland Dress, and the pageantry surrounding the State visit to Scotland, by King George IV in 1822 brought a huge demand for tartan, and saw Highland Dress being adopted as the National Dress of Scotland.

Registration of official clan tartans began on April 8 1815, when the Highland Society of London invited all Scottish clan Chiefs to submit a sample of their tartan, for inclusion in their register.

Nowadays many clans have more than one tartan, variations include, ancient, modern and hunting.

And one of the most frequently asked questions that I hear, "must you be a clan member in order to wear their tartan"?

The simple answer to that question is no, you may wear any tartan you wish, there are no laws or rules governing the wearing of tartan, even though many traditionalists would have you believe otherwise.

If you would like any further information on a specific tartan, then drop me a line using the "Contact Us" page, and I will do my best to answer your questions.

Return from Clan Tartan to Scottish Clans Page

Return from Clan Tartan to Your Kilt Home Page