Understanding Your Family Tartan

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Many of our loyal customers will know about our Scottish roots here at Slater Menswear. Our first ever store was opened in Glasgow which is now our largest loaction and home to our head office. Although we’ve expanded our reach all across the UK, we’ve particularly increased our presence in Scotland throughout the years, now having stores in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling, Ayr and Inverness.

It’s our Scottish heritage and love for the country that allows us to sell ourselves as the best in the business when it comes to traditional highland wear and we’re confident that our customers would agree.

We don’t just know what looks good when it comes to sporting authentic Scottish attire, we also know a thing or two about the history of tartan.

Many people don’t know that the tartan you wear is often associated with your family background and heritage, so today we’re going to be giving you some advice on finding your family tartan and answering some common kilt related questions!

“Do I Have to Wear a Specific Tartan?”

The answer to the common question of “do I have to wear my family tartan” is quite simply no. You can wear whatever tartan you want (there are a couple of exceptions to that rule), so whether you want to sport a different family’s tartan or simply choose by colour and not history, that is absolutely fine, some people just like to wear the tartan that is traditional in their family.

You also don’t have to stick to just one tartan for every occasion. You can mix it up as much or as little as you want, so if you want just one kilt or a whole collection, that is also fine.

“Can Anyone Wear Balmoral Tartan?”

If you’re not familiar with Balmoral tartan, you may be more familiar with Balmoral Castle, a royal estate in Scotland, known for being a particular favourite with the Queen.

The reason the two are associated is that Balmoral tartan is strictly reserved for the British royal family to wear, which is why it is highly unlikely you’ll find any kilt or tartan retailers selling it as this fabric is usually handcrafted into attire for the likes of Prince Charles who has been seen sporting kilts regularly during his visits to Scotland.

So, the answer to whether anyone can wear balmoral tartan is, unfortunately, a no, it’s exclusive to the Royals.

“How Do I Find My Family Tartan?”

There are hundreds of tartan directories out there, such as the one from the Kilt Society which can help you find the tartan to fit your family heritage.

The best place to start when using a tartan directory is with your surname as this is usually what your tartan will be associated with. For example, the last name ‘McGowen’ is associated with tartans such as the ‘MacEwan Ancient’ and ‘MacEwan Modern’, while the last name ‘McGregor’ is related to tartans such as ‘MacCordquodale Ancient’ and ‘MacGregor Clan Ancient”.

If you can’t find any tartans related to your last name, it’s worth taking some time to do some research into your ancestry and find out a little more about tartans your family have worn in the past or different surnames in your family tree that may be associated directly with a tartan.

If you can’t find any tartans associated directly with your family, there are plenty of generic or ‘universal tartans’ that can be worn by anyone.

“Who Can Wear the Tartans Available at Slater Menswear?”

We have a whole range of kilts available for hire at Slater Menswear in a vast selection of different tartans, so here’s a quick guide to choosing the right one from our range:

Hunting Stewart: Anyone who doesn’t have a tartan associated to their family can wear this

Dress Gordon: Associated with over 100 surnames, including Abergeldie, Barrie, Gairdner, Lawrie and Yeap

Modern Robertson: Robertson tartan relates to the Clan Robertson, originally led by a man called Donnchadh Reamhar and this clan covers land from Struan in the Highlands

Irish National: Designed as a symbol of Gaelic tradition, this tartan is for Irish kilt wearers

Modern Douglas: Clan Douglas tartans are historically for people with last names including Agnew, Bell, Blackadder, Cavers, Dickson, Foster and more. The Clan Douglas lands include Galloway, Angus and Lanarkshire

Flower of Scotland: Designed for anyone to wear, particularly people who aren’t associated with a tartan

Black Watch: This tartan is considered in the same bracket as the Flower of Scotland, referred to as a ‘universal tartan’ that can be worn by anyone

Welsh National: Designed to strengthen Wales’ bond with the Celtic communities, the Welsh National tartan is designed for residents of Wales

Royal Stewart: Another universal tartan that can be worn by anyone not associated with a specific tartan

Scottish National: This tartan is also considered a generic tartan that can be worn by any Scot that isn’t associated to a tartan

Summer Spirit: A Slater Menswear exclusive tartan, designed to suit everyone

Highland Sky: Another Slater Menswear exclusive tartan that can be worn by any man

Spirit of Bannockburn: A universal premium tartan for anyone to wear

Black Spirit: An alternative to the classic bold checked tartan for any man

Grey Spirit: A darker and simpler tartan choice for any man

Help for Heroes: Made in the colours of the British Armed Forces and launched at Edinburgh Castle on the 2nd March, the Help for Heroes tartan can be worn by anyone wanting to support the forces

Scottish Spirit: A generic tartan for any man

We’ve tried to keep our range of tartans open, so whether you want to follow family heritage or not, you’ll find the right tartan for you at Slater Menswear.

We don’t think it matters what your surname, family heritage or nationality are, kilts are a seriously stylish choice for a special occasion and every man should get the chance to sport one!

Be sure to check out our highland wear department to find the perfect items and accessories to accompany your kilt for your big day!

Are you proud of your traditional tartan? Let us know your kilt of choice on Twitter or Instagram!


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