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How seriously are tartan & regimental stripe patterns taken in the UK?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
How seriously do people take tartan and regimental/school/club tie patterns in the UK? How readily do people recognize the various designs?

In the United States of course people wear them but no one takes them at all seriously. (In my limited experience, anyway.) Emblematic ties still suggest at least a vague interest in whatever is being depicted if not actual association, and members of the local Caledonian societies will wear their family tartans, but that's about the extent of it.
post #2 of 27
It depends entirely on what you are going to wear, and who is likely to see it. I suspect that most people in Britain now wouldn't recognise any ties except for any organisations that they actually belong to. I shouldn't think 90% of brits actually belong/have belonged to institutions that hand out widely recognised ties. I've had a fair exposure to a people that have, and I can't claim I would recognise many other than the couple I own well enough to haul someone up for wearing one because they had no right to. Much more likely I would be proved wrong and look churlish. I wouldn't worry much about it unless you are going to be spending a lot of time with forces/public school/oxbridge/sporting types. No doubt nearly any stripy tie might be close to someone's proprietary stripes. Don't wear something if you definitely know it represents an organisation you aren't part of. That would be extremely rude, especially if you knew you could easily run into a genuine member. Wearing an SAS tie to a remembrance service would be unwise and improper. If you don't know of any organisation a stripe might belong to, wear it in good faith, and apologise for your ignorance if anyone picks you up on it/
post #3 of 27
As an American exchange officer in the Australian Army, whilst in the mess, an Aussie officer took the strongest exception to me wearing the tie of the Australian Army Staff College. Turned out ok when I explained that I was graduate of the British Army Staff College, which has the same tie.
post #4 of 27
This goes for the American P.O.V., so not directly addressing your question.

As an occasional kilt-wearer myself, I will tell you that the Kilt-Community is very sensitive to tartan lineage and authenticity. However, the general consensus is that you can wear pretty much whatever you like, provided you are prepared to explain and can justify it.

For example, I am of very little Scottish descent. However, I have a great deal more Nordic heritage. There are actually a great many Scottish tartans which may be worn by a Norseman. The Sinclair tartan, for example, may be worn by a Norwegian descendant because of the close ties between Clan Sinclair and the Norwegian invaders during the Scottish/Norwegian war in 1263. There was sort of an "adoption" of all Norseman into Clan Sinclair during a truce.

Little known (and less accepted) theory is that the "kilt" is actually descended from a Nordic skirted garment call a "Kjalt". The north of Scotland was often invaded and well populated by the Vikings. There are still regions of norway which product tartan patterns which date back far further than Scottish tartans.

Now, a member of Clan Sinclair may challenge my legitimacy to wear the tartan. But with this little history lesson on my side, I think we can all come to an agreement that it's acceptable and enjoy a pint together.
post #5 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThinkandDrive View Post
This goes for the American P.O.V., so not directly addressing your question.

As an occasional kilt-wearer myself, I will tell you that the Kilt-Community is very sensitive to tartan lineage and authenticity. However, the general consensus is that you can wear pretty much whatever you like, provided you are prepared to explain and can justify it.

For example, I am of very little Scottish descent. However, I have a great deal more Nordic heritage. There are actually a great many Scottish tartans which may be worn by a Norseman. The Sinclair tartan, for example, may be worn by a Norwegian descendant because of the close ties between Clan Sinclair and the Norwegian invaders during the Scottish/Norwegian war in 1263. There was sort of an "adoption" of all Norseman into Clan Sinclair during a truce.

Little known (and less accepted) theory is that the "kilt" is actually descended from a Nordic skirted garment call a "Kjalt". The north of Scotland was often invaded and well populated by the Vikings. There are still regions of norway which product tartan patterns which date back far further than Scottish tartans.

Now, a member of Clan Sinclair may challenge my legitimacy to wear the tartan. But with this little history lesson on my side, I think we can all come to an agreement that it's acceptable and enjoy a pint together.

Actually, there's a pretty good case to make that a Polish fellow made all this clan tartan stuff up.

What is now Scotland has been invaded by various Scandinavian groups since at least 800 or so AD. The founder of one of the oldest and most powerful clans, Clan Donald, was born about that time and was 1/2 Viking. Heck, they even had their own kingdom for a few centuries and the "Lord of the Isles" is still a term seen today. "By Land, By Sea" is still the Donald clan motto.

When it comes to kilts, I say where whatever you want. I am willing to bet that a sizeable portion of people in kilts at any Highland Games do not even have a drop of blood that could be called "Scottish" in them. It's nice/cool if you actually have some blood ties to your kilt's tartan, but most of it is bullshit IMO. Like I said, that Polish guy is to blame.
post #6 of 27
There was no "Polish guy." The whole endeavor was the work of two English forgers and charlatans, John Carter Allen and Charles Manning Allen, who respectively styled themselves "John Sobieski Stuart" and "Charles Edward Stuart" and claimed to be grandsons of Bonnie Prince Charlie. They had gone about for some years claiming to have found ancient manuscripts depicting the true clan tartans of Scotland. Sir Walter Scott, a couple of years before his death, fingered them as phonies. Eventually, they published in 1842 a work "Vestiarum Scoticum," which purported to show the clan tartans, and so all the malarky started. As one commentator remarked, to have gone around the Highlands in the wild old days in a tartan proclaiming your clan affiliation would have been likely to have gotten you a dirk blade through the ribs!
post #7 of 27
The UK is so politically correct and self-loathing that I would assume you'd be mocked for wearing a tartan of any sort.
post #8 of 27
What are you talking about?
post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLibourel View Post
There was no "Polish guy." The whole endeavor was the work of two English forgers and charlatans, John Carter Allen and Charles Manning Allen, who respectively styled themselves "John Sobieski Stuart" and "Charles Edward Stuart" and claimed to be grandsons of Bonnie Prince Charlie. They had gone about for some years claiming to have found ancient manuscripts depicting the true clan tartans of Scotland. Sir Walter Scott, a couple of years before his death, fingered them as phonies. Eventually, they published in 1842 a work "Vestiarum Scoticum," which purported to show the clan tartans, and so all the malarky started. As one commentator remarked, to have gone around the Highlands in the wild old days in a tartan proclaiming your clan affiliation would have been likely to have gotten you a dirk blade through the ribs!

Thank you for the correction. I don't know what I was thinking this afternoon, but for some reason I thought Sobieski was their last names and they were Polish. Outside of their national origin, they are the ones to blame for all this "clan tartan" stuff. IMO, it all came about because Queen Victoria basically thought it was "cool" to be Scottish.

The doodlesack must have been drowning out my thinking
post #10 of 27
It should be noted that you don't need to be Scottish to wear a tartan. They have official tartans for states, countries, clubs, etc. During the Scottish Games in California, many people wear the official California tartan.
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by katon View Post
How seriously do people take tartan and regimental/school/club tie patterns in the UK? How readily do people recognize the various designs?

In the United States of course people wear them but no one takes them at all seriously. (In my limited experience, anyway.) Emblematic ties still suggest at least a vague interest in whatever is being depicted if not actual association, and members of the local Caledonian societies will wear their family tartans, but that's about the extent of it.
It would depend. I think it would be more pretentious to wear a military tartan than a random clan tartan, but I don't know for sure. I'll have to ask my Scots cousins.
post #12 of 27
It's true that many kilt-wearers are overly sensitive to alleged transgressions from the "authentic" manner of wearing it.

For example, it is said that when you wear a kilt you shouldn't wear any other item of tartan in that outfit; and there will always be some loudmouth at a ball or whatever ready to upbraid you for pairing it with a tartan tie.

On the other hand, especially in Scotland, people have been stretching the limits too far in the direction of not caring- it's now common to see guys wearing their kilt with Timberland-style desert boots. I think this was started by the Tartan Army (the Scottish football fans) wearing them to matches for reasons of comfort.

As for which tartan is which, it's nice to wear one associated with your clan or family if at all possible, but within these are variations in colour and pattern so often that a tartan e.g a "Colquhoun" can look totally different from another "Colquhoun" (ancient version versus modern version for example).

To be able to recognise every variation you would need to be a true connoisseur - which is why the loudmouths tend to stick to complaining about bowties, correct kilt length (just below the knee) etc.
post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiecollector View Post
The UK is so politically correct and self-loathing that I would assume you'd be mocked for wearing a tartan of any sort.

No you wouldn't.
post #14 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bohdathone View Post
To be able to recognise every variation you would need to be a true connoisseur - which is why the loudmouths tend to stick to complaining about bowties, correct kilt length (just below the knee) etc.

I agree, things seem to be overly dogmatic. (The correct kilt length, btw, is from the top of the kneecap to the middle of the knee cap. Knee needs to be showing!) I can live with just about everything except for two transgressions too brutal to stand.

1) Please people, pleats in the back.
2) These are not rapper jeans, they are kilts. Kilts are worn above your navel.

I have seen people argue over officer dirks (who cares, affectation of Victorian officers to my knowledge, the real deal was usually hidden), how much handle of your sgian dubh should be showing, whether you need crenelated hose tops with your black tie or not, should hose color in the evening be monochromatic or tartan, etc, etc.

IMO, avoid the egregious, have a pint or a dram, STFU, and have a good time
post #15 of 27
They take them seriously. I once saw some American at Gleneagles in Scotland who was wearing a Royal Artillery tie admonished in a "humorous" fashion by a fellow guest. Humorous=sarcastic. This is a minefield there's no need to walk into.
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