The versatility of an iconic fabric











I have always had a secret love affair with Tartan. The complexity and the sheer Britishness (OK Scottish) of it always filled me with a sense of pride. What really drew me to the pattern was the amount of variation that tartan could have. That, and how good the fabric looks with my hair colour. Each distinct pattern could have multiple meanings and associations. It was said that red tartans were battle tartans, so you couldn’t see the blood in battle. Families or regions also boasted their own style and pattern.


Unfortunately for me, there is no ‘Goldfinger’ tartan…yet. Anyway, as tartan was usually associated with the upper classes and the military, it was seen as an exclusive fabric. The popularity of tartan grew in the Victorian and Edwardian eras and was used in both men and women’s fashion. Due to its association with the ruling classes, the youth of the 1970s and 1980s appropriated tartan as a symbol of the punk era. That’s where we get the amazing images of guys and girls with giant Mohawks, tartan clothing and leather, which to me, is always a great way to use style to give a big middle finger to those you don’t like. Tartan is such a versatile fabric, it can be a staple in anyone’s closet.


So it was now my turn to try a little tartan of my own. I have a few tartan items in my closet, but one of my versatile favourites is a pair of red tartan trousers from ASOS that fit like an absolute dream. The cotton fabric makes it heavy enough to wear in early spring or late autumn, but it’s not too heavy. Now, with tartan, you can style it any way you like. That’s the beauty of it. 


I decided to give this look a bit of an edge. I paired the trousers with a black shirt from Kooples, which was just heavy enough to wear in 10-degree weather. I wanted to show off the fabric and try not to detract. For me, the less clothing the better :P . I was tempted to go the complete opposite direction and wear a green velvet smoking jacket, which for me, is the other end of the spectrum with tartan. But I dove into my ‘punk-esque’ style head first. Pairing the trousers and black shirt with black shoes from Sebago brought the outfit together. 


But again, with tartan, you can dress it up or down – there’s no need to follow a pattern. It really is one of the most versatile fabrics out there. And what else is more iconic British than tartan, well red phone boxes obviously – haha.