The Origin of Tartans and Plaids
Published on November 28, 2012
“Tartan” and “plaid” are commonly used interchangeably as a means to describe the distinctive woven check pattern that originated in Scotland centuries ago. Although historically the names have differentiated meanings as all tartans are a form of plaid, but not all plaids are considered a tartan. Traditionally, tartans were used as a way to signify membership of a particular Highland clan and over the course of its three hundred year history, has expanded to represent Scottish organizations and even sport clubs. Emerging during the 16th century, women of the the clan would weave 3-6 yard tartan garments for the men which were incorporated into important elements of traditional Highlander Dress – the kilt and additional fabric to be draped over the shoulder. The pleated cloth that is worn over the left shoulder of the wearer and under the opposite arm is known as a “plaid” in Scotland. For areas outside of Scotland, fabrics that resemble tartans that consist of checked patterns of all types but lack a specific Scottish association are notably referred to as plaid. These patterns are often woven in a greater variety of geometric designs and color. Scotland has perfected the art of woolen weaving for centuries and both plaid and tartan patterns represent a rich history of tradition. Shop our winter scarves in a variety of tartan and plaid patterns.