Five Things You Didn't Know About Tartan
1. There doesn’t have to only be one.
Tartan dates back to 3000 BC and in Scotland fourth century AD. Each area had their own tartan weaves and colors so specific tartans (like a trusty Blackwatch or Buchanan) were more so based on location than clan. A more genteel way to show your local pride than the Biggie/East Side vs. Tupac/West Side squabble if you ask us.
2. More security than Linus’ blanket
Before the 16th century male Highland dress consisted of a shirt and large swath of plaid that went over one shoulder and was belted around the waist. At night clansmen could remove the tartan to sleep in, or use as camouflage while crouching down in the moors. Thereby creating fodder for every painful Scottish-themed harlequin romance littering your local (or remaining) bookstore.
3. It was an illegal substance
After the Scots crushing defeat by the British, the Proscription Act of 1745 banned tartan for 37 years in Highland dress because it stood as a symbol of national pride. The act merely served as a catalyst to motivate the Scots to trace their familial history back to their original clans, locations and associated tartan. It was comparable to banning the American flag and secretly swathing yourself in it.
4. It’s utilitarian
The lowliest peasant to the King himself wore tartan. What started off as sheer comfort and laziness (who wouldn’t want to throw on a handsome blanket and call it a day?) grew to “denote nobility, dignity, and a sense of style and taste.” See also: the best outfit ever.
4. It’s couture
Everyone from Vivienne Westwood to Alexander McQueen and Thom Browne has graced the runways with its dramatic checks and balances. Even your Aunt Mildred got the memo.
5. The movies Highlander & Braveheart did not depict accurate tartan ensembles
Connor McLeod’s clan would have preferred more muted plaids, imitating the leaves of heather for more of a “surprise, we’re here to kill you” element. And William Wallace would have completely gone without and worn a simple, unchecked cloak covering a suit of armor.
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