Returning once more to the ever-popular topic of tartan we now consider a few more modern designs, such as tartans which have been created to commemorate special events or raise awareness of a certain topic, and also regional tartans which have been adopted in areas with a strong Scottish diaspora community.
When creating a new tartan, the only restrictions on design are that it must not copy a tartan which already exists, in name, design, or intention. Therefore many designs have been registered which reference a wide number of concepts such as love and loyalty, or Scottish symbols such as the lion rampant, stag, or thistle. There are tartans celebrating whiskey, haggis, even Irn Bru and shortbread! Many of these are of course corporate tartans, designed and registered to promote a certain product or company. However others are registered as so-called “fashion” tartans, and though only one mill may have permission to weave the fabric, it can be sold to anyone for private use in garments and other textile goods.
One such new design is the World Peace Tartan, a beautiful blue and purple design which is very contemporary and which has been growing in popularity for the last few years thanks to its versatility for male and female wearers, and for its positive and hopeful message. The World Peace Tartan was created to promote a global message of peace, and the striking light blue in the design is representative of the presence, hope and potential of the United Nations organisation. The role Scotland plays in promoting world peace is represented through the Scottish thistle, with lines of purple and green. The red and black in the design have been chosen to remind us of the realities of war and violence, and finally the white running throughout the pattern symbolises peace and light, and reinforces the need for a new culture of peace among humanity.
As we can see from the globally relevant World Peace tartan, not only Scottish concerns are represented in modern tartans, with tartans aimed at the Scottish diaspora becoming more and more attractive and popular, echoing the modern tradition of providing regional tartans for those of Scottish birth but without family tartans. This is also a common practice in Ireland, where family name tartans are unknown and men wishing to wear the kilt, or cilt, will instead choose a tartan affiliated to their county of birth.
Likewise, America, Canada and many other countries with Celtic immigrant populations now have their own national and regional tartans, some of these very popular indeed. The Canadian Maple Leaf tartan for example was designed in 1964 and became so well loved that it was finally adopted as the nation’s official tartan in 2011. With its wonderful shades representing the varying tones of the maple tree’s leaves; green in the spring, gold in the early autumn, red at the first frost, and brown after falling, it is a common choice for Canadian citizens over and above the tartan for each province they could also choose.
By comparison, the United States America tartan is not quite so well-known; however this is unsurprising – as there are so many more United States tartans to choose from! Americans, whether of Scottish extraction or not, can choose from further regional choices celebrating the individual states, to vocational tartans such as the Leatherneck or Seabees designs, which honour the U.S. Marines Corps and the U.S. Navy respectively. Again in these cases, the tartans are not (yet!?) officially recognised by the U.S. military but through very popular usage have come to be strongly associated with it, and it is commonly accepted that only those with a strong connection, either current or ex-service people or their close family who wish to wear the tartan as a mark of respect, should display these tartans. With tartans now registered which celebrate jobs from fire-fighters, to paediatricians, to travel agents, or acknowledge personal interests such as sports and music, there truly is a design for everybody out there and any person interested in tartan and kilt wearing will be sure to find a design that speaks to them and they can feel a connection with, regardless of whether their own heritage if Scottish or not!
With such a wealth to choose from, it can be intimidating to decide which tartan you should settle on when purchasing a kilt or other tartan garment. For most people, a family tartan will be the first and foremost when thinking of investing in an important garment, such as an 8 yard kilt or a tartan wedding dress. However, there will always be opportunities to add a touch of Scottish pride or tartan flair to an outfit even when you don’t want to wear full Highland regalia. For these times a nice tie or waistcoat featuring the regional tartan celebrating your home, or commemorating a special holiday, a college or university tartan remembering your alma mater, or a fun design to show off your interest in a certain football team might be just the thing!
Let us know in the comments if you have found a non-clan tartan that holds a special place in your heart!