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A dive into tartans history!

Our Instagram followers may have seen one of our recent stories on the brief history of tartan. The fabric has a truly elaborate and interesting past leading to its enduring popularity today. Let us expand on this a bit more more! :) 

Tartan is predominantly associated with Scottish culture. Its roots began in Scotland, in time expanding its influence into other parts of the world, endearing itself to popular culture and fashion. Did you know that there are more than 4000 unique tartans?

According to various studies, tartan has been worn in Scotland since the third century A.D. Original tartan was made from wool and coloured using natural dies sourced from plants, roots or berries. The fabric had been a piece of everyday clothing worn by those living in the Scottish Highlands. The tartan design, colours and pattern, signified the family/clan to which an individual belonged.

In fact, the very first tartans are said to have been much simpler in their design than what we see today. They would include a composition of simple checks, combining a few colours. However, with time and the evolution of chemical dies, weavers would employ more elaborate compositions, creating vivid patterns. Thus, one tartan would evolve with time, as each generation would further add a pattern or colour to the previous.

An interesting fact - the first time a royal wore a tartan piece is said to have been by King James III in the 15th century. With time other royals also wore pieces of tartan for hunting in the Highlands or for marriage ceremonies. However, throughout the decades a conflict between the Scottish and English influenced heightened emotions over Scottish lands often resulting in military confrontations. In 1746, after one of the biggest battles (Battle of Culloden), a conflict between the Scottish and English had reached one of its peaks. As tartan had been deeply associated with Scottishness, the fabric had been banned by Parliament. This had severely affected Highlanders and all those who had worn the fabric as part of their national identity. By the end of the 18th century, the fabric had almost died out, as many of the older patterns had been destroyed or had rotted. However, in 1822 George IV paid a visit to Edinburgh, where he suggested that people who attended official functions could wear tartans affiliated with their ancestry. Many of the original patterns had been reinvented by the tailors of that time. 

The history of tartan is full of interesting events that have led to its current popularity. Everything from the way it has been weaved and coloured, to the various existing patterns influenced the wide array of designs that we can still make use of today in the most stylish renditions. As we now know, tartan is not only a piece of national identity but also a staple fashion piece. Thanks to pop culture this garment enjoys incredible popularity, with leading fashion houses sourcing this pattern for decades. From summer to winter collections, tartan has infiltrated catwalks, luxury cars, aircraft tails, collections and era’s, from rock’n roll to glam. 

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