How to Wear Tartan If You’re Not Scottish


The Scottish tartan evokes feelings of tradition, of ancestry. The Scottish tartan is often representative of bloodline, heraldry that identifies one family to another. If you’re not a Scot, you can choose from a wide array of universal tartans that are appropriate for everyone.

What If I Am Not Of Scottish Heritage? We have you covered with universal tartans.

Silver Package Prince Charlie Formal Kilt Rental

Tartan is a distinctive pattern and carries a sense of pride. The pattern gives the wearers a feeling of belonging and unique individuality.

Some non-Scots wonder if they will offend those with Scottish heritage should they choose to wear a kilt. Or, some Scottish folks may not be able to find a tartan belonging to their family name. Maybe you prefer a tartan pattern from a specific region or even another clan. 

The question isn’t whether these folks should wear tartan. Of course they should! Tartan is such a fantastic thing and it should be worn by all. But how do you wear it without engaging in inappropriate appropriation?

A lot of this puzzle comes down to the pattern of the tartan. Some plaids are related to particular clans and should only be worn by their specific descendants. 

Luckily, these tartans are incredibly far and few between, and limited to strictly royal names only, like the Balmoral. Conversely, there are many options for the non-Scot kilt enthusiast–or anyone who fancies a particular tartan. They are called universal tartans.

What About The Stewart Tartans?

Stewart Royal tartan

The Royal Stewart, initially designed in 1800, was intended to denote what the name insinuates, THE Royal tartan. However, due to many British Isles residents wishing to show their loyalty, it became commercialized and well-loved by all. 

Its distinctive and bold colors are primarily a bright red and hunter green, making it recognizable worldwide. Found not only in kilts but in all manner of clothes and furnishings, the Royal Stewart tartan is displayed with pride and can be worn by all without any offense.

When the Royal Stewart was popularized and commercialized, it became accepted as a universal tartan. The Royal Family responded to this shift by requisitioning an original and exclusive tartan. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, had the Balmoral created in 1853. Only the Royal Family can wear this tartan, so unless you have royal blood, steer clear of this one.

The Stewart line has produced another tartan standard for all to wear. While still maintaining the traditional red and green, white is a more predominant color in the Dress Stewart. Much like the Royal Stewart, the Dress Stewart is frequently used for school uniform patterns and Christmastime. Wearing it in your kilt wouldn’t offend whatsoever. 

What About Military Tartans?

US Military Tartans
US Military Tartans

For those who do not have a claim to a specific familial tartan, another plaid stands famous for all. The Black Watch tartan has a military history, dating back to at least 1725. This universal tartan’s dark blue and green are complementary and easily worn by most people. Women also enjoy wearing neutral and pleasant tones and are commonly found in clothing and other items.

If you are or have been a member of the United States armed forces, we offer some outstanding options to represent your service with pride here. Yes, even the various US military branches carry their very own tartans!

Are There Tartans For Specific Places?

Pride of Scotland tartan stole

In recent years tartans such as the Pride of Scotland, Scotland Forever, and the Glasgow tartans have come about. These tartans represent pride in a region rather than a clan. Anyone who shares an appreciation for a particular place can enjoy its tartan. 

Are There Clans Who Are Open To Anyone Wearing Their Tartans?

MacLeod Hunting Poly/Viscose Tartan Scarf

Many clans have shared their tartans with the world, allowing anyone to use them. These universal tartans are so popular that anyone who enjoys the pattern may wear the tartan with pride. 

Families like the Lindsays, Macleods, and the previously mentioned Stewarts share their tartans with all. These tartans are often seen in school uniforms, kilts, and all manner of other clothing.

What About Fictional Tartans? They Are Okay, Right?

People wearing scarves made with Outlander inspired tartan

Sometimes fact, history, and fiction mingle, as in the critically acclaimed Outlander series. The two main clans featured in the popular Starz show, the Mackenzies, and the Frasers, were not exclusively fiction works. The Outlander tartans were created specifically for the show, but were inspired by the traditional Fraser and MacKenzie patterns.

In reality, these clans existed as loyal Jacobites and engaged in several battles featured in the show in our real Scottish history. Their tartans have been very popular, and we encourage you to enjoy wearing them. Outlander tartans can be found right here on the Celtic Croft. 

How Do I Behave In Tartan?

Assorted Tartan Craft Bag

It’s important to note: while wearing a universal tartan is always acceptable, your behavior needs to match your dress. 

The tartan denotes tradition unmatched by any other patterned fabric available. Its wearers must exhibit appropriate reverence when choosing to wear tartan, especially related to the region’s clothing like kilts. 

This feeling of Scottish pride, even for those who are not of Scottish descent, holds especially true if you wear a tartan of a well-respected family or clan. Misbehaving while representing a family or a well-loved region in their tartan is disrespectful. 

The Overall Verdict

David Birkman Marine Corps Tartan KIlt

At the end of the day, if a tartan pattern catches your eye, it’s likely perfectly acceptable for you to wear it. 

If you are of Scottish heritage and have your family tartan, wear it! Can’t find your family tartan? Choose a universal tartan and wear it! If you’re a non-Scot who loves beautiful universal patterns, wear it!

With our wide variety of tartans available, finding your perfect tartan should be a fun and exciting endeavor!

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