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  1. #1
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    Ethics and courtesies of branching into other tartans?

    Years ago, my first post on this forum was asking if I could wear the tartan of my late step-grandmother who was a lovably proud Scot and a pillar in the community. With much patience, it was laid out that I could. Five years later, I'm looking to upgrade that old USA Kilts Casual with a higher end one. It was a subtle but fulfilling feeling to wear her tartan, it really was. In fact, due to an odd twist of fate, some friends and I are looking to run the clan tent at a local games. I spend every weekend of summer kilted at the Faire, with as tasteful accessories as I can manage without going too far culturally or historically. Packing up after a Tartan Ball this weekend, there was a sad sigh knowing I won't have an occasion until next summer.

    On a whim...I wanted to branch out just a little. I picked up the American fashion tartan solely because I wanted to occasionally mix up my outfits at Faire and concerts, without resorting to a black or solid colored kilt. I grew to love swapping between the kilts and trying out new outfit colors, accessory options, and even am looking into headwear which I never thought I'd cross. My semi-modern Faire outfits now use the American kilt, while my blue and green clan tartan gets proper earth tones and humbler historical touches. But after a summer picking between the two kilts...Here's where I see a slippery slope ahead of me.

    At Faire and at the Ball this weekend, I've gotten good at guessing common tartans. But sometimes, I just catch myself staring because the pattern is so striking or in a color I'd never thought of. I've had a couple times where I wander my kilt maker's site looking at ONLY the fashion tartans, going off of color or contrast alone. Offhand, I keep wanting a blue pattern of some kind. This is where I have to catch myself. Am I wearing a kilt with heritage, or am I picking tartans like I'd pick a tee shirt color? I spent months bugging forums for 'permission' to wear Farquharson and even wrote to organizations about it, now here I am wanting tartans by looks alone.

    I need some wisdom on this. It is not in my nature to wear a pattern I could not relate strongly with and claim connection to, the clans are safe from my antics. But for branching off into fashion tartans, is there a point where I'm thinking too lightly of the history and heritage? If I do crave variety, are there safer options such as choosing the Masonic tartan as a card-carrying member of that organization? When is it an acceptable jaunt to wear another pattern, and when should 'my' tartan take center stage?

  2. #2
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    I can't speak for the US but most Scots, who have a kilt, stick to their clan tartan and even if they have more than one kilt will still stick to their clan tartan, however most will only wear their kilts on special occasions. Some, without specific clan affiliation, will wear a universal tartan of which there are many.
    As I wear a kilt every day, I keep my clan kilts for special or semi special occasions, (mainly because they would be expensive to replace and my wife prefers feels that if I wore them too regularly, they cease to be special) and wear universal ones the rest of the time. Since I am now based outside of Scotland, few people are interested one way or another as to whether it is a clan or universal tartan and when asked what the tartan is, I often have to check to see what I have chosen that day, but comments are not all that frequent but nearly always complimentary. Got a couple of cat-whistles recently, but you have to feel sorry for someone who cat-whistles a 70+ year old bloke.
    If you are going to do it, do it in a kilt!

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  4. #3
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    Honestly no one can answer this for. No one here, or anywhere, regardless of what their opinion is can say yes or no to that.

    So you pick up a kilt in clan X tartan. A member of that clan questions you about it at some event. Your answer is.. some random guy on the internet said it was okay?

    Do what you want, just know some people won't like it. If it a club, military, university etc, maybe stay away. Those types of things are generally, so long as they are the official recognized version for those who have earned the right to wear them. Be it by being a paid, serving, graduating, etc. And as above regardless of one member of that group saying sure go ahead... unless they have the right to represent that group and make broad pronouncements... it's just another random person.

    My own take, is of course my own.

    Frank
    Drink to the fame of it -- The Tartan!
    Murdoch Maclean

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  6. #4
    Join Date
    24th September 04
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    There is the thinking - that as the vast majority of Tartan designs are not Clan specific, and that as the designing and naming of Tartans is not ancient, set down in stone thing, but a more recent concept - that Tartan designs have always been more about the fashion world side of things - as with any other fashion item anyone should be able to choose and wear any design they wish.

    Today there are between 10,000 and 11,000 designs listed with The Scottish Tartans Authority. Most of the on-line Tartan design programs have thousands more that have not been listed. There are designs named for the Scottish Highland Clans. There are designs named for the Scottish Lowland families. There are designs for geographical areas and regions. There are designs for clubs and social groups. There are designs for companies and organizations. There are designs simply because the person who designed it, just wanted to try their hand at design. There are designs because a weaving mill figured out a way to do it.

    Many today hold to the concept that there are really only three governing factors about which Tartan someone can, or should, wear -

    1) Pick a design that you feel a connection to. That connection may be familial, club, group, organization, current area, ancestral region, your background or personal history, or even "I like the colors".

    2) Know the name and a little behind the design you have chosen. Someone will ask.

    3) Wear it with pride.

    If anyone tries to tell you that you can ONLY wear your "Clan" tartan, or that you cannot wear a particular Tartan, then I'm afraid that I would respond with - "Show me where that Rule is written."
    We each have our own reason for choosing which design we wear. It is very personal and very meaningful to each of us.
    And yes, while there are some Tartan snobs out there, but there are no Tartan Cops.

    Wearing Tartan instantly tells the world - This is who I am, this is where my people come from, this is how I got to where I am today. If you chose a design that, to you, shows these things you can't go wrong.

    As my father's family came to N. America in the early 1800's, and one of my grandfathers listed on a census form, that his father was born in Scotland, the facts of where in Scotland or the why of his immigration have been lost, I do not wear a Scottish Highland Clan Tartan.
    I have many kilts as I am a kiltmaker and wear a kilt everyday. I wear the X Marks Tartan as this forum is as close as I can get to feeling an affiliation to 'Clan'. I wear the USMC Dress Blue Tartan as I served in the Marine Corps. I wear the Victoria, City of Gardens Tartan as that is my adopted city. I wear the Company Adventurers Tartan (The original name of the Hudson's Bay Co.) as you cannot think of Canada (my adopted country) without thinking of "The Bay" and the Scots who made up the vast majority of the Company. I wear the Black Watch Tartan in the weathered colorway as I love the soft, muted look. I wear the Isle of Skye Tartan as the colors are drop-dead gorgeous. I wear the Highland Granite Tartan as it was made by Barbara Tewksbury. (It is perhaps the very first kilt made, from the first of the monochrome gray Tartan designs.)
    Last edited by Steve Ashton; 22nd October 19 at 04:26 PM.
    Steve Ashton
    Forum Owner

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  8. #5
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    The concept of clan tartans came about in the early 1800s during the romantic revival period where all things Scottish were popular. Prior to Culloden in 1746, Highlanders wore a wide array of tartans, very few of which held any real significance. In essence, they were fashion tartans, chosen for their looks and not much else. So yes, feel free to pick any fashion tartan and wear it if you like it. It's an ancient Highland custom.

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  10. #6
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    I'll wear any tartan I fancy. As tobus said all tartans are fashion tartans in a sense.

    I have yet to have kilts made of all the tartan on the shelf in the kilt cloest, but there is reproduction 1790 McDuff and 42nd coarse kilt Black Watch, both I bought for their old look. There is also Scrimgeor, which i probably spelled wrongly, a bright yellow that i particularly like because reminds me of Kansas sunflowers. I ordered it through Freedom Kilts, and Steve said it was so bright he had to shield his eyes when he opend the box.

    Of course I wear Dalrymple, my mother's family name. The Dalrymples are prominent low landers and have had great influence on the corse of Scottish history. However being lowlanders there isn't a truly old tartan associated with the name. What we have is a new creation based on a portrait showing one of the family wearing a tartan shawl..

    I like Eternity, a true fashion tartan, because it is just plain classy. Ilse of Sky because it is beautiful, and Chattahooche because my dear old Benning School for Boys is located on the banks of the Chattahoochee river. Finally, Holyrood Golden Jubilee, which to my eye is one of the most beautiful tartans.

    The only rule I abide by is to wear what I like as long as i can wear it well. If for whatever reason you feel self conscious wearing a particular tartan then it is wrong for you. The same is true of kilt wearing as well.
    Benning School for Boys
    97th Company
    OC 5-68

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  12. #7
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    Surely you have to like your tartan

    I would like to endorse the points made above by Steve Ashton and add to it that nothing would induce me to wear a tartan which is not pleasing to my eye. I've said elsewhere that I believe a lot of the old tartan-clan-affiliation-sept list stuff is pious nonsense and as a Scot living in Scotland I'll wear those tartans and only those tartans which take my fancy - and - in this day and age I simply refuse to take seriously anyone who says I must wear such-and-such a tartan because of dictates which are almost entirely fictional.

    There are those, of course, who choose to restrict themselves to those tartans which they believe they are entitled to wear and I would have to say I respect that approach for them - but I'd rather not have it imposed on me and on the many Scots I know who simply don't accept its validity.

    Having said that, I should add that I'd never wear a tartan on which I believed there was a genuine restriction in law or by copyright.

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  14. #8
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    I agree with the above. I have several tartans, none of which are my name or clan affiliation. I did design and register a tartan for my own name (see my avatar - STR #10077), but havent had a kilt made yet. I am not opposed to wearing any tartan that I like, nor am I opposed to you wearing any that you like. Just know what the name is, and wear it with pride.

    The only exception for me is, I will not wear one of the US military tartans. I did not serve, so I do not feel that I have the right.

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  16. #9
    JohnnyO is offline Oops, it seems this member needs to update their email address
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    Whilst I chose to seek permission from the Clan Chief to wear Sinclair tartan as the name was lost through marriage a couple of generations ago, this was purely a personal quirk.
    As a Scot, living in Scotland, I'd agree with views previously expressed. Please do enjoy wearing whatever tartan pleases you, with respect and delight.
    The only exceptions I'd make, for myself, are specific tartans designed for specific groups such as Regimental or Corps where I had not served.

    Bring Forrit the Tartan.

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  18. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Highwayman View Post
    If I do crave variety, are there safer options such as choosing the Masonic tartan as a card-carrying member of that organization?
    Go for it! The Freemasons' Universal Tartan has very nice blue and royal purple, which is certainly a handsome and interesting choice. https://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/ta...tails?ref=1279

    Note that nothing in the GL of Utah website (the originator of the tartan) or the entry in the register of tartans says that the Freemason Universal tartan is restricted to Masons only. One could make the argument that it's like wearing a Masonic ring: Master Masons only (wives of Masons get a pass), but nothing anywhere I've read actually says that. Seeing as you are (or claim to be) a Mason, this point is moot for you; I'm simply making it for others who read about this tartan.
    Last edited by imbrius; 23rd October 19 at 05:36 AM. Reason: Correcting name of tartan
    Clans: Armstrong and Guthrie on Father's side.
    Other heritage: Mostly German and some Polish on Mother's side.
    Kilts: One five-yard semi-traditional in Armstrong Ancient 13oz from Lochcarron

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