Diversity in Tartan

Despite its heavy association with Scotland and the rest of the UK, tartan as a concept actually began out of Asia and Europe. Many variations have came about in part due to fast fashion; taking the pattern that is traditionally woven in wool and weaving it into all sorts of new fabrics, until it is the fashion staple we all know today seen all across the world.

However, along with people who have commissioned their own personal tartans, there are designers out there changing the landscape of tartan. Designers such as Parminder Kaur Kooner, who after visiting Scotland and seeing the Highland Games in 1979, was in awe of the array of kilts worn by all, young and old.

After some research, Parminder learned that each tartan typically represents a clan and their heritage. With this she returned to London with an idea to create a tartan to represent Khalsa Sikhs. It would be 30 years in the making, as in 2015 Parminder met with Brian Wilton MBE, considered the “tartan ambassador”, to discuss the possibility of creating the Khalsa tartan.

The Khalsa tartan consists of these colours; blue, black, yellow orange and white. The five narrow blue bands represent the Five Ks, Five Beloved Piyaarey and five Takhts. Apart from the narrow lines, all color bands comprise ten threads or multiples of ten to celebrate ten Sikh Gurus. The small yellow square symbolizes Guru Granth Sahib Ji (living Guru) and Darbar Sahib, The Golden Temple in Amritsar. The surrounding four orange squares symbolizes the Chaar Sahibzadey – the four sons of the 10th Sikh Guru, The Saint and Soldier Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the creator of Khalsa in 1699. The squares also represent the four entrances of Darbar Sahib, symbolizing openness of humanity.

We at Houston’s are proud to be the chosen kiltmakers for Khalsa tartan. We had the honour of Parminder and her family visiting us in our store in Paisley, to discuss Khalsa tartan jackets! Bespoke tartans are a means of representation, a means of inclusion, and a way of showing pride for one’s culture. We are honoured to be a part of that process for Khalsa Tartan.


Kilts: From Highland Dress to Fashion Week

The world has changed significantly in a short space of time. Our technological advancement’s within the past decade or so have led to the internet becoming a world-wide platform. This not only affected things like fashions that the kids were following, but also evoked a lot of social and political revolution.

Tartan, in one way or another, has always been associated with revolution. In the 18th century, the Jacobite’s wore it as a sign of allegiance to the Stuarts; in the 1970’s, punks “ripped up tartan shirts and adapted kilts as an anti-establishment message”. Japanese school girls have also adapted a style known as Kogal, in which they wear loose socks, microskirts (often featuring tartan), as well as having dyed hair. In modern times, the tartan rebellion is associated more often with ideas of gender non-conformity, individuality and freedom of expression.

In the world of fashion, those who are well established and respected are the ones who push the boundaries of what is acceptable, and if we the public take to it, it becomes a trend. Glasgow born Charles Jeffrey, who has been worn by artists such as Harry Styles and Tilda Swinton, is said to have taken influence from the punk subculture with regards to his designs, and is regarded on a similar level to Alexander McQueen. Designers Chopova Lowena are known for tearing up traditional textiles only to re-stich them in a new and unique way. They have dual British-Bulgarian heritage and their aim is to “Usher in a system of ethical consumption with a focus on appreciating skill, craft, time and consideration for impact on the environment”.

So, subcultures such as the punks have created an alternate association for the kilt and tartan; leading to clothes that were once heavily gendered becoming available for anyone wishing to express themselves, whether that’s stylistically or personally. The kilt has been significant in modern fashion expression due in part to its gender-fluidity. Times have changed and at Houston’s we will dress you to look your best, no matter what you’ll be wearing.


Royal Tartans – Tartan Fit for a Queen (Or King!)

The British Royal family have had long ties with the traditional cloth of Scotland and a great affinity towards tartan. This link didn’t just start with the current monarch, but can be traced back hundreds of years!

The Dress Act of 1746 under George II brought a ban on kilts and all aspects of highland wear except for uses in the military. Any individual in breach of this act would imprisoned for 6 months for their first offence, and on their second they would be sent to overseas work camps. When the act was repealed it proved to kick-start the popularity in tartan – both with the general public and royalty.

The Royal Stewart and Royal Balmoral Tartans

George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822 propelled the kilt into the forefront of everyone’s minds. Whilst his would have been far dressier than the traditional highlander kilt, the concept became sensationalised and romanticised. This started the real love affair with the royals and tartan.

King George IV in a Kilt Outfit on his visit to Scotland

Queen Victoria continued the link with tartan during her reign, often dressing her children in Kilts. Prince Albert, Victoria’s husband, was a keen tartan designer and attributed as the creator of the (Royal) Balmoral tartan – a tartan to be worn exclusively by the royals and specially selected parties. (The Queen’s personal piper is one of the selected few allowed to be dressed in the tartan.)

The Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles are all keen wearers of Tartan

Queen Elizabeth is also a keen supporter of tartan, often seen wearing the cloth at Highland games or on visits to Scotland. Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales is also often spotted in a Highland outift on public occasions.

The British Royal family and Tartan have always gone hand in hand. As Queen Elizabeth II breaks the record for longest serving monarch, we hope the link continues for many years to come!



Scottish Wedding Traditions

Many cultures and religions have traditions that are performed during wedding ceremonies and receptions, for example Jewish cultural tradition is to smash a glass under one’s foot once the vows have been said. This is to remind the couple that marriage has highs and lows, and to stick by each other through the peaks and troughs of life.

The Scottish tradition of hand-fasting dates back to medieval times, and is also thought to have came from Celtic and Pagan rituals. Gaelic scholar Martin Martin describes hand fasting as an ancient custom of the Isles where “a man would take a maid as his wife for the space of a year without marrying her, and if she pleased him all the while, he married her at the end of the year and legitimised her children, and if he didn’t love her, he returned her to her parents”. Not exactly the stuff of Hollywood rom-coms!

By the 18th century, the Church of Scotland no longer recognised unions formed by consent and consummation, even though civil authorities did. So the way around this was to perform the ceremonies in public. This was until 1939 when Scottish marriage laws were reformed and hand-fasting was no longer recognised.

Modern interpretations of hand-fasting are ones of love and the binding of two souls. It has seen a revival over the years due in part to more and more couples wanting to personalise aspects of their wedding and make it unique to them. It was also featured in the Stark wedding of Game of Thrones, further romantising this ancient practice.

Burn's Night Made In Scotland

The Life of Robert Burns

Robert Burns was a Scottish Poet (although he collected and produced far more songs than poems) from the 18th century who is now world renowned, and whose work has inspired other artists around the globe throughout the years. Auld Lang Syne is arguably his most prominent work, as it is sang across the globe to celebrate New Year’s Eve as the bells are tolling.

Besides Auld Lang Syne, Burns’ most prominent works include My love is like a red red rose, Tam o’ Shanter and Comin’ Thro’ the Rye. Burns is considered a pre-romantics poet due to his appreciation of nature, exploration of human emotions and his individuality.

Burns night is celebrated on the poets birthday, 25th January 1759, and was initially started as a form of memorial held by close friends, where a fine meal was shared, speeches were made in honor of the poet, and his pieces were performed. Traditionally the meal served would be the Scottish staple of haggis, neeps and tatties.

Haggis, neeps and tatties. Traditionally ate on holidays such as Burns night or St Andrew’s Day.

On 3rd of April 1786 Burns submitted his work to a publisher in Kilmarnock in order to fund him moving to Jamaica to become a bookkeeper on a plantation (in other words, an overseer of slaves). They were published on the 14th of April and his success was immediate as he was soon known around the country, cancelling his Jamaica trip. This success lead to the influence he has had on countries outside of Britain, such as the USA, and even Canada.

Burns died young, only 37. His global reach can be seen through the tributes that were made to him across the world. His birthplace in Alloway, Dumfries, has been transformed by the National Trust for Scotland to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, consisting of the very cottage he lived and grew up in, as well as handwritten manuscripts and other pieces of his work. A replica of the Burns cottage can be found in Atlanta, Georgia, belonging to the Burns Club Atlanta. His reach truly stretched beyond what he could have ever imagined.

Made In Scotland

A celebration of Scottish Music

Music is an important part of culture all over the world, and Scotland is no different!

Whether it’s traditional Scottish music or the modern music scene across various Scottish cities, there’s something for everyone. 

Traditional Scottish Music

Let’s start in chronological order, with the traditional music of Scotland. As with many forms of music, it started as a means of passing the time whilst doing labour intensive tasks. In Scotland, before the industrial age, this would have been work such as farming or clothes making; a “waulking” song was a call and response song that would be sang whilst ‘walking’ the tweed. These were often sang in Gaelic.

Video demonstrating a traditional waulking song

The most well known staple of Scottish music is of course, the bagpipes. Believe it or not, the origin of bagpipes did not actually begin in Scotland. According to which historian you ask, you may get a variety of different answers – some believing they were first found in Ancient Egypt, whilst others say Ireland. Either way, Scotland has most definitely adopted the instrument as their own. 

Bagpipe music was traditionally used throughout the military and in pipe bands, but has morphed to become part of folk dance music (often played at ceilidhs), and then in it’s most modern form – it is the instrument of bands like the “Red Hot Chilli Pipers.” Of course, many people also choose to have a piper play at their wedding. 

Bagpipes are not the only form of traditional music in Scotland. Other instruments that were often played included the fiddle,accordion, pipes and chanters,guitar and clarsach (a Scottish harp).

Modern Scottish Music

As the times change, so does music. Scotland has been home to many successful and famous musicians on top of having a great local scene. Some of Scotland’s most famous artists include the likes of Lewis Capaldi, Annie Lennox, the Proclaimers, Calvin Harris, Paolo Nutini and many more – all of which we have included in our ultimate Scottish playlist.  All of these artists branch across many genres and showcase Scotland’s diverse musical landscape. Whether you are native to Scotland or not, we guarantee you there will be something on this playlist that’ll make you say “ I didn’t know they were Scottish!” Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favourite tune to add to your wedding playlist!


Tartan Wedding Accessories – Ring Cushions, Ladies Garters and More!

At Houston’s, we can take care of every little tartan detail at your wedding. We can provide bespoke, handmade tartan extras for your wedding. Attention to detail is key on your special day, so let Houston’s take care of bringing tartan to your wedding!

Tartan Ring Cushions

These handmade ring cushions add a touch of tartan to your ceremony. They can be made to match the tartan of the groom’s kilt, keeping with the colour scheme of the wedding. Ring Cushions come with either 1 or 2 ribbon ties, with the choice of tartan or silk ribbon.

Ring Cushions can be made in any Tartan!

On request, your Ring Cushion can be embroidered with the Bride and Groom’s initials, love hearts or a range of other messages in a variety of available font styles.

 Tartan Ladies Garters

Custom made ladies garters are also available from Houston’s. They can be made in any tartan, matching the tartan of the groom’s kilt, or in the family name of the bride. Ladies garters are a beautiful keep sake for a bride to be on the best day of her life. This can be her something new! All garters come with a white bow with pearl detail and are made to order, ensuring the perfect fit.

Tartan Shoulder Plaid

The perfect accessory to make the groom stand out against the rest of the wedding party – a shoulder plaid, matching the tartan of the groom’s kilt, can add prestige to his highland outfit. More about the shoulder plaid’s origins from the Great Kilt can be read about in our Previous Blog post.

The Plaid can serve many functions after wearing. The groom can wear the plaid for the ceremony and for the photographs after the ceremony. In the evening he can remove the plaid, using it as a table cover under the wedding cake, or on the top table as a table runner. The perfect way to add to the tartan theme of your wedding!

Other Tartan Accessories (Available on Request)

We can create order Tartan extras to order, from Ties, Bow-Ties and Hand Ties to Table Cover, Tablet Computer Cover and more!


Chalk Design and Weave

Commissioned by Stephen Chalk and his family for his 50th birthday, we designed and weaved this unique custom tartan for a memorable birthday.

Commissioned by Stephen Chalk and his family for his 50th birthday, we designed and weaved this unique custom tartan for a memorable birthday.

What an excellent birthday present!

This design was one of the most technical tartans Houstons have ever designed, with fire orange and Lurex woven through the weft to match his motorbike! A truly personalised experience.

We hope the family can enjoy this tartan for generations to come…
Stephen pictured with Ewan Mcdonald, 4th generation to run Houston Kiltmakers and skilled kiltmaker.

This tartan, being completely custom, was over a year in the design phase. The tailored experience doesn’t end there, however, as when deciding to make kilts out of this tartan there is an array of options with regards to weights, jacket options and even bespoke tweed jackets! This truly is a stunning tartan and the kilts will turn out great.


Bespoke Tweed wedding Jackets

If you’re wanting each part of your kilt outfit to be special and unique to you, we offer bespoke jackets from Houston Kiltmakers, established 1909. Ewan and his team are  making some of the best kilt outfits in the world.

Totally bespoke we prefer to take six months to a year to make.

We can have an initial design meet and get cloths, linings and embroidery aside and measure you closer to your wedding date.

We will help you every step of the way create a unique wedding outfit   

With customized features 

So you look your best on your wedding day

Email [email protected] for bespoke one of a kind outfits.


Jacket Linings

Lining Ideas

Tell us your preferences in regards to colours, fabrics and patterns in order to find the best tweed to bring all elements of your outfit together. We have standard linings of which the price is included with your the rest of your outfit purchase.

For our £50 linings there are lots of colours to choose from and some really nice tones such as sailor blue; which ties in very nicely with muted tartans woven in the UK.
Our £90 luxury linings – some two tones, excellent quality with unique depth. Woven by Dugdale bros Huddersfield.
We also have our £160 stunning paisley pattern lining. Featuring some beautiful paisley and two tone paisley that will set your jacket apart from the rest.

Note; you can have your jacket and waistcoat with different linings. Personal touches such as tartan trim , initials, wedding date or address embroidered onto a piece of your tartan inside the jacket are all ways to make it extra special.
We will always help you to pick a lining that sets off your outfit thanks to our expert knowledge.