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Categories of Tartan

Each tartan in the Tartan search facility is allocated a category and the following is a brief explanation. To make life easier for visitors to the search system we use a bracketed suffix for each tartan name but frequently the space allocated for the tartan name is insufficient to include the full category and so you may well see shortened versions - text-speak almost! Where you see a ? after the suffix, that  indicates that the allocated category may be in doubt.

Clan Tartans. The vast majority of (Clan) tartans are available for anyone to weave, buy and wear. . . BUT . . . not all such tartans are actually available off-the-shelf from weavers. Many of them are for small clans/families where demand is insufficient to justify anyone holding a stock. Such tartans may have to specially woven. To check, just ask any of our retail members featured in the 'Where can I Buy?" directory. If you're a Business Member then check in the "Where can I Source" directory.

Name Tartans. (Name) tartans are new designs by individuals usually for themselves and anyone else of the same name or its spelling variations. You're extremely unlikely to find anyone with a stock holding of such tartans and they'll need to be specially woven. You should also bear in mind that there is very little chance of there being any historical provenance to such tartans or connections with your branch of that family name. In time however, and with sufficient usage, such tartans may become accepted as Clan/Family tartans.

District Tartans. Tartans with (District) after the name are for geographical areas ranging from small dwellings, to towns, cities, counties, states, provinces, regions and countries! In practical terms they are available for anyone to wear although most people will wear such because of a personal connection with that area. They're often used when individuals can find no relevant tartan to wear from any of the other categories. A limited number of traditional and popular ones are usually available off-the-shelf but some will need to be woven or sourced from the copyright holder in the area concerned.

Personal Tartans. Any tartans with (Personal) after the name are just that . . . personal and private tartans for the use of the named individual and are not available for wear or use by anyone else. So please . . . don't waste your time - or anyone else's - trying to track down the owner to seek permission. Even if you see them being offered by some vendors, don't believe them!

Fashion Tartans. Similarly - any tartans with (Fashion) after the name are not available for general use unless the notes specifically say so. They belong or have belonged to a commercial company who own the copyright.  If a tartan has your surname, then the chances are it's just coincidence and its choice was a marketing decision.

Corporate Tartans. The same applies to (Corporate) tartans - they belong to business organisations or distinct groupings of people with specific interests and are very definitely not available to members of the public.

Military. Self explanatory.

Universal tartans. There are a small number of tartans marked (Universal) and these are for use by anyone - usually those who can't identify any other tartan which they feel entitled to wear. Such tartans include the Black Watch, Royal Stewart, Hunting Stewart to name just a few.

Artefact. Where a thread count has been obtained from a fragment of cloth or an article of clothing. There is no point in trying to find a supplier of this (or the next 'Portrait' category) since they will not be available off-the-shelf. You can of course have any tartans in this category specially woven for you - see our relevant section.

Portrait.  Where a thread count has been obtained from a portrait or photograph.





© Scottish Tartans Authority
Scottish Tartans Authority (Scottish limited company no. 162386), c/o J & H Mitchell, 51 Atholl Road, Pitlochry, PH16 5BU
Scottish Charity Number SCO24310

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