If you don't know much about Scottish history and tradition you would be forgiven in thinking that kilt patterns were purely aesthetic.
In actual fact, a traditional kilt pattern is extremely symbolic and carries with it great significance.
What Does A Kilt Pattern Actually Mean?
Hundreds of years ago the kilt was worn exclusively by the highlanders of Scotland. In the mountains there were many different clans made up of different families. Each of these clans had a different tartan which distinguished them from neighbouring and rival clans. These tartans were extremely important in establishing the identity of another clansman.
Over time the kilt evolved and was adopted, first by the 'lowlanders', and then throughout the world. As it has evolved, some tartans have died out and some new kilt patterns created. Some are still inscribed with years of tradition and family heritage whilst others have been created to keep up with modern fashions and trends.
Which Kilt Pattern Should You Wear?
There is still a tradition amongst Scots of wearing your ancestral family kilt pattern. If you are Tartan Finder and have a strong line of Scottish blood in your family it is very likely that you will be able to trace it back to a particular clan or family tartan. You can use the internet to search for your family tartan, but remember, use variations in spelling as family names often evolve over many generations.
Another important consideration when searching for your ancestral kilt pattern is whether your family was a 'sept'. 'Septs' were families which were associated with a particular clan due to their allegiance on the battlefield. This military allegiance also meant that these families would wear the same tartan.
Are There Other Options?
Obviously, not everyone can lay claim to a particular kilt pattern. There are also many people who probably do have an ancestral tartan who choose not to wear it. For people who simply want to buy a kilt which will look good on special occasions there are plenty of tartans which can be worn by anyone.
In reality, the vast majority of people who wear kilts are actually wearing one of these universal tartans. The most popular kilt patterns are the Royal Stewart, the Blackwatch, the Modern Green Douglas and the Spirit of Scotland.
Don't get too worried about choosing the 'correct' tartan. Really, the 'correct' tartan for you is the one you feel most comfortable wearing.