Along with the kilt and bagpipes the tartan
is the most recognized Scottish symbol and the
most popular. As can be seen everyday it is used and worn by people all over the world.
Many people believe that all tartans are associated with clans, but that is not true. Beside
clan and family tartans there are tartans for organizations, geographical areas, nations, historic
events, individuals, sports teams, corporations, universities, and a host of others. For example,
many U.S. states and Canadian provinces have their own tartans. The U.S. Army, Navy,
Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard each has a tartan. There are tartans for the
United States, Wales, Ireland, Ulster, Australia, New Zealand and even the Netherlands
and Germany. There is a tartan to commemorate Princess Diana, another for the Battle of
Culloden and one for the American Bicentennial. Notre Dame and the Virginia Military
Institute are two of a number of American colleges and universities with their own tartans.
Then there are several universal or Scottish tartans such as the Black Watch (or "Government"),
the Caledonia, the Hunting Stewart (which is not a Clan Stewart tartan), the Flower of Scotland,
and the Scottish National.
There are over 3,700 tartans recorded with the Scottish Tartans Authority with more being
created and recorded all the time. It's almost certain that even if you are not of Scottish ancestry
you will be able to find a tartan that you can identify with.
The Scottish Tartans Authority was formed in 1996 by leading Scottish weavers and tartan
retailers. It is a registered Scottish charity with the major objective of promoting a deeper
knowledge of Scottish Tartans, their origins, manufacture, use, history and development.
Scotland has no official government agency that registers tartans. The Scottish Tartans
Authority's web site is a great place for Scottish information, with a search engine for
finding tartans, although the tartan display is somewhat small. The web site's address is:
“Hunting” or “Dress”Clans (and families) frequently have more than one official tartan, some of which are
described according to the purpose for which they are named: Clan tartans are patterns
(or "setts") for general use by clans people.
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