For generations, tartan has been symbolic of Scotland. There are thousands of clan tartans, district tartans, royal tartans, modern tartans, and so on. These have all developed through years of tradition, years of fashion, and years of commercialisation. Tartans can be designed for events, like the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2014 Ryder Cup. Tartans are also designed for those that have emigrated across the world but still identify themselves as Scottish, like the Patriot Tartan. Tartans have also been designed for the military, for Royals, and each state and territory within the United States and Canada, and for many more reasons. But how, out of all these tartans, do we pick one? And how does one triumph over another?
Across the world today there are two notable tartans that are found everywhere. The Royal Stewart and Black Watch Tartans. Now, the Royal Stewart Tartan was first woven for the royal “House of Stewart”, the royal family in the 14th century. Because the tartan was woven specifically for the royal family, many people believe that it should be worn by the Royal family only. Others believe that since we are all subjects of the royal family we are all permitted to wear this tartan. Much like when clan members wear the same tartan as their clan chief. There are even some who believe that only men in the Royal family can wear this tartan as a kilt, but the rest of the public is free to wear this tartan in any other form. Either way, the formality of this tartan has been muddled through the years and has become one of the most widespread tartans in the world. It is extremely popular within the fashion world, first making a bang in 1970’s rock, and has now become a staple in every day fashion from men’s pyjamas, to baby’s headbands. Today, this tartan is worn by pipers, rugby fans, toddlers, men, women, and people from all walks of life. Some have the opinion that if someone can’t find their own tartan, or they don’t have one, then they are to wear the Royal Stewart Tartan. As always there are others who believe if someone can’t find their tartan they are to wear the Black Watch Tartan.
The Black Watch Tartan was first woven for the famous 42nd Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch), the premier Highland Regiment. This regiment was first put together to keep peace within the Highlands and have a long record of military service to this nation. The history of the tartan selected as the Black Watch tartan is a fuzzy one. There is no definite proof of where it came from or why it was chosen. Generally, it is thought that since three of the six independent companies that made up the Black Watch regiment were Campbell’s, so the Campbell Clan tartan was chosen as the Black Watch Tartan.
This tartan, in modern times, has become what we call a “generic tartan” or “universal tartan”. Much like the Royal Stewart Tartan, it was once associated with an official group of people, but over the years they have become so popular that they are regarded as these generic/universal tartans. People across the world wear them in all forms, from jackets, skirts, and scarves, to shoes, kilts, and tartan trews. Black Watch has probably become so popular because the blacks, blues, and greens, are so dark and muted, while still possessing a pattern. It is the subtle choice for wearing a tartan, where as the Royal Stewart Tartan is loud and Scottish and proud. Either way, they are both beautiful parts of Scottish-ness that will forever be embedded in the fashion world.