How to wear tartan in style

Tartan isn't just for the Hogmanay ceilidh. With a little thought about how to wear tartan, you can use this colourful fabric design for stylish evening wear and cut a Highland dash. Just don't be tempted to overdo the Caledonian flavour. All those checks and stripes could get a little loud.

Dos and don'ts for tartan lovers

The dos and don't of how to wear tartan basically amount to trying to look chic while managing to avoid looking like you've just stepped off the set of Braveheart.

  • For men, a tartan shirt can fit right in with the current trends for folk music and working clothes, getting away from the designer-label hipster look. Go for thick and rugged looking garments. Don't be tempted by tartan trousers unless you want to look like Rupert Bear.
  • Don't bother with kitsch accessories like sporrans or daggers stuck into your sock. They just look silly, and cause all sorts of awkward questions at airport security. The ginger "Jimmy wig" is absolutely forbidden.
  • Mini-kilts are fun and playful. Worn in winter, in combination with black tights and boots, they are perfect for whizzing around an ice-rink.
  • Tartan is great for accessorising. A scarf or handbag in colourful tartan is the perfect complement to a plain outfit, adding a splash of colour.
  • When shopping for tartan in Highland shops, look for 100% wool items. These are warmer, will last longer and retain their colour.
  • Don't tell everybody about the history of your family tartan and your clan. You will just sound like an American tourist.

Designer tartans

Designers from Vivian Westwood to Ralph Lauren have all fallen in love with tartan at various times. Those who really know how to wear tartan though are aware that is is not about the fripperies of passing fashion, but a noble fabric with a rich history. Go for quality, restraint and authenticity.

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