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Tartan Variations – Ancient, Modern, Hunting, Dress or Weathered?

If you use our Tartan Finder to search for your family Tartan, you might notice that your name returns several Tartans, each with a slightly different range of colours used in the design. There are a selection of colour variations used in the Tartan industry, and this article will explain the differences between each one.Tartan Kilts on Display

The 5 main variations in Tartan styles are Ancient, Modern, Hunting, Dress and Weathered (sometimes referred to as Withered or Muted). Within these groups you can also have a mixing of some of the style, for example a Ancient Hunting Robertson Tartan, or a Modern Dress Gordon Tartan. (Though you can’t get an Ancient-Modern Tartan combination!)

Ancient Tartan

Tartan’s with the prefix ‘Ancient’ are not necessarily older than other Tartans, it simply refers to the colour palette used in the design. The colours are often softer and lighter to what you would see in a ‘Modern’ Tartan design. These colours are choosen to have a closer link to the historical colours of Tartans in years gone by – produced with the natural dyes available. The colours are pastel-like, creating a softer feel, and giving the look of material that is worn beyond its years.

Modern Lamont with Ancient Lamont Tartan Comparison
Here you can see the Ancient and Modern Lamont Tartans. Note that the Sett of the Tartan is the Same, but the colours used in the Ancient Version are lighter/pastel.

Modern Tartan

As with ‘Ancient’ Tartan’s, the name ‘Modern’ relates to the colours used in the Tartan, not the date of the design. Ancient and Modern design’s tend to share the same sett, the change is in the colour palette used. While ‘Ancient’ Tartan use lighter softer colours, ‘Modern’ Tartans use stronger, darker colours.

Hunting Tartan

Hunting Tartans traditionally were worn when the wearer was on a hunt. To tie in with this, the colours usual are suited to match with the woodland background linked with a hunt – Greens and browns being the strongest colour here.

MacPhail, MacRae, MacGregor and MacFarlane Hunting Tartans
Hunting Tartans - MacFarlane Hunting Modern, MacGregor Hunting Ancient, MacPhail Hunting Ancient and MacRae Hunting Modern Tartans

Dress Tartan

It is often easy to identify Dress Tartan’s with the abundance of white thread used to make up the design (An exception to this is the Dress MacLeod Tartan, which uses yellow thread instead of the normal white). These designs are most popular with Highland Dancing Kilts, though they can also been worn to give a brighter looking Tartan Kilt. Dress Gordon is perhaps the most recongizable Tartan in this range as it has been incorporated into many popular fashion items such as scarves and jacket linings.

Dress Gordon, MacDonald, Gillies and MacLeod Tartans
Modern Dress MacDonald, Ancient Dress Gillies, Modern Dress Gordon and Ancient Dress MacLeod Tartans. Note that the MacLeod Dress Tartan Uses Yellow instead of White

Weathered Tartan

Tartans of the Weathered Styling use a colour palette to reflect the name – tones that are faded, giving a look of the Kilt being aged by exposure to inclement weather. In years gone by the Great Kilt worn by the Scots would have endured the harsh Scottish Weather and terrain. The Great Kilt would be used to protect the wearer from the elements, and would gain a worn and aged look from this. (Weather Tartans are also sometimes referred to as ‘Withered’ or ‘Muted’, depending on what Mill that Cloth is produced from.)

Watson, Sutherland, Murray of Atholl and MacLaren
A range of Weathered (Withered) Tartan - Watson, Sutherland, Murray of Atholl and MacLaren. You can see the Browns and Weather-Beaten Colours used here.

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While there are many different varieties of Tartan to choose from, at the end of the day it is down to preference what Tartan you decide upon. There is no right or wrong Tartan for any occasion – as long as the wearer likes it! Search now for all your families Tartans with our Tartan Finder!

 

 

 

 

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Choosing an Authentic Scottish Tartan

The first step in choosing your Highland wear outfit is to choose your tartan. Here at Houston’s we can inform you of the correct tartan for your crest or family name. You can also find tartans, crest histories and video clips explaining everything you need to know as well as a 60 page buy brochure with kilt packs, accessories, order details & measurements, with questions and answers on-line at our Web Site: www.kiltmakers.com Scotland has many district, town and clan tartans as well as National tartans for example the Scottish National, Flower of Scotland, Braveheart, Spirit of Scotland, Scotland the Brave, Isle of Skye, Millennium tartan, Monarch of the Glen, Spirit of Bannockburn and our own designs, ‘St Mirren’ ‘Scottish Heather’ and ‘Bute Heather’ collection, Irish Districts, Irish National, Irish Blood, Welsh National, Cornish National, Canadian and some American, like New York and American National designed by Houstons. The beauty of these tartans is that anyone can wear them with pride. Most Scottish clans have their own tartan, if not you will find that they are affiliated to a clan which does.

 

THE “RIGHT” TO WEAR A TARTAN

 

“Often over the years one has heard people explaining they have the right or that they are entitled to wear this or that tartan…. in fact no such right , in any legal sense , exists for them or anyone else ….the only considerations which govern the wearing of a particular set are usage and good taste”

Quote from Scottish Tartans Authority director Brian Wilton

So the answer to the question “what tartan am I entitled to wear? Is — “any tartan you fancy”

To make life easy to pick a tartan at Houston’s we have over 100 tartan books , the only kilt shop in the world where you can see every commercial produced tartan, and have the facility to weave any tartan if a stitch count exists from our records… We have collated over 600 tartans any one can wear in 8 swatch books in colour bunch to make viewing tartans a lot easier for our customers. At Houston Traditional Kiltmakers we get customers visiting our shop from all parts of Scotland, the U.K., Europe and the rest of the world. Our professional staff will advise on tartans you can wear from a choice of around 14,000 different tartans.

If its nae Scottish, its nae good!

If you are considering buying a highland outfit, no matter what you choose the most important thing is to make sure you are buying authentic Scottish products! The highland wear industry has suffered with the increase of cheap imported goods from overseas. Highland wear is significant in Scotland and those who wear it often speak of how wearing a kilt evokes feelings of pride and Scottish Patriotism. Wearing a kilt makes you feel quintessentially Scottish and this is emphasised by the authenticity of having a kilt made in Scotland by a traditional kilt maker. Wearing a kilt makes you look and feel a million dollars. You can spend as much or as little as you wish on a bespoke kilt pack depending on your budget, but whatever amount you decide to spend, spend it on the real MacCoy! A kilt is a man’s old faithful friend; most men will own only one in their life. It will last you a lifetime, and can be passed down through the generations as an heir loom. A kilt is truly a garment that will last you a life time, but remember… if it’s nae Scottish, it’s NAE GOOD!