Before the Sex Pistols and other members of the Punk Rock movement were busy dissing the queen, dying of heroin overdoses and otherwise causing mid-70s mayhem - and wearing Vivienne Westwood plaids while doing so - rabblerousers in 17th century Scotland were already proudly sporting tartan. Tartan derives from the French tiretain, from tirer, a verb referencing the fact that a cloth was woven rather than knitted. The famous Black Watch tartan was introduced in the first half of the 18th century and designed specifically to not be associated with any one clan, other than the Black Watch regiment wearing it. (image)
It was in the 19th century that tartan became popular beyond the Scottish borders, in part because of the writings of Sir Walter Scott - author of books like Rob Roy and Ivanhoe - as well as the pageantry involved when King George IV (right) visited Scotland in 1822. The accompanying pomp and circumstance involved much wearing of the tartan, catapulting it up the sartorial foodchain to become the national dress of the whole country, not just the Highlands and Islands. (image)
The burning question, of course, with a tartan is this: how does it differ from a plaid? Plaid technically means the item of clothing, like a shawl or a length of fabric, while the colorful gridded design adorning the clothing or material is the tartan. In practice, however, the two terms tend to get used pretty interchangeably.
For Fall 2014, Rozae Nichols showed a hallucinogenic, lysergic take on tartans for Clover Canyon. Less about clan warfare, Nichols's girl is one of the tripped-out inhabitants of a unified global village. Her tartan (below) is a hippie-dippie whirlwind of hysteric lime greens, stained glass window inspirations, plus some fairies, unicorns and even an illuminated manuscript of the Gospels dating from ca. 800 AD called the Book of Kells. Accessories would be key here - especially an edgy 'do and badass footwear to make the look work and avoid looking too droopy.
Here's one way you could rock it:
Get the look: boots - Dr Martens Phina; bag - 3.1 Phillip Lim, bracelet - Valentino Rock Stud, perfume - by Killian, headband - Eugenia Kim, sunglasses - Le Specs - all Net-a-Porter.com
Here is the podcast I recorded about plaids, tartans & the Apocalytical tribe. Enjoy!
Clover Canyon plaid runway look (Fall 2014)
history of tartan (Scottish Tartans Museum)
Vivienne Westwood puts climate change on the runway (scroll down to second pic)
Music: Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech.com