Around the world, there are a lot of myths and urban legends that have surrounded tartan, the kilt, and Scotland. One of my favourites is that in Scotland you cannot tell the difference between men and women’s toilet signs! (And by the way this is false! Our toilet signs are much the same as any other country). Here are three of the most common myths surrounding Scottish Culture.
- Tartan was invented in Scotland
Many people think that tartan was invented in Scotland because this is the place that is most associated with tartan! Then, there are many people who think that tartan originated in Ireland, and then the Irish brought tartan over to the British Isles with them. This is also a myth. The first evidence in tartan was in fact discovered far from Ireland and Scotland. One of the oldest records of tartan-like fabric was found preserved on a 3,000 year old mummy also called a “Cherchen Man”, found in the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, northwestern China. There is also evidence of tartan-like fabric that was produced by the Hallstat culture that flourished in Central Europe in around 6 B.C. Modern tartan as we know today did not really begin to evolve until the 17th or 18th centuries. This is when uniformity in tartan began and people began to distinguish each other by the tartans they wore.
- You can only wear the tartan your last name matches
This is false!! Many people like to wear a tartan that they feel they have some genetic connection to. But there are no rules that require you to have the same name to wear a certain tartan. A few decades ago many tartans started to be woven that had no familial connection. Isle of Skye tartan was first registered in 1992. This is a regional tartan, but people of all walks of life wear this beautiful tartan for its purple and green hues. There are many tartans now, such as Scotland Forever, Hebridean Granite, and Scottish Thistle that have no regional, or familial connection allowing anyone around the world to wear these tartans. But if you’re surname is Forbes, but you really like the MacFarlane Tartan then, by all means, follow your heart and wear that tartan!
- Only a true Scotsman wears nothing under his kilt
This myth is maybe both true and false. Many men do wear nothing under their kilt – assuming that they own said kilt! But there are a lot of men who do not. Sometimes it is too cold, sometimes they will be wearing a kilt for a long time, and sometimes they are hiring the kilt. In all situations, there are men who will, in fact, wear something under their kilt. This does not make them a “false” Scotsman. Each to their own I say! And if you do want to wear something under your kilt, then that doesn’t make you any less a true Scotsman than the next man.
Did you think that tartan originated in Scotland? Or maybe you think that every man should wear nothing under his kilt? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!