Clan & Family Tartans

A Clan Tartan is the regular sett (pattern) of the clan or family.

The idea of Clan Tartans received an enormous boost when Sir Walter Scott suggested, for the visit of George IV, "let every man wear his tartan". The identification of clans with tartan patterns became a dogma of great success and, by various means, by the end of the 19th century all the recognised clans had their tartans, be they Highland or Lowland.

The favoured techniques for the design of new clan tartans was a variation of major existing designs like Black Watch, Caledonia or MacDonald, though some valuable innovations also came about in the 19th century. The process created a vast range of designs that established tartan as a medium for re-presenting Scotland's rich heritage.

All clans do not have a variety of tartans. The idea of having different tartans for different purposes and a different time of day (dress and hunting) is comparatively modern and Victorian in origin. The idea was naturally taken up by a trade interested in selling two or more kilts.

The firm of William Wilson & Son of Bannockburn were the largest, if not the only large concern making tartan in the latter half of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. It is interesting to note that in their 'Key Pattern Book' of 1839, they list only one hunting and no dress tartans. The lone hunting tartan is the Hunting Stewart, which is now regarded as neither hunting or Stewart, but a universal tartan.