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Trend Guide: Tartan

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Mention of the word tartan and our thoughts automatically turn to Mel Gibson playing the Scottish hero William Wallace in the 90’s cinema classic Braveheart. Somehow our minds seem programmed to instantly think of men in kilts with broad Scottish accents running amok, smeared as they are in the blue and white face-paint synonymous with the colours of their bonny Scotland.

Yet delve past the male bravado and we also think of tartan and its historical lineage not only in terms of the battles of war but the sub-cultures of fashion.

Punks took tartan to their heart during the 1970’s turning the fabric of Scotland into an anarchic fashion statement with jackets and trousers resplendent with rips and safety pins as part of their style ensemble. Kurt Cobain and the grunge scene adopted the famous check pattern as part of their musical malaise while designers including Vivienne Westwood, Valentino, McQueen and Givenchy have all featured the famous cloth in their collections.

tartan 001

This winter has seen tartan once again explode on to the market although this time, instead of being part of some rebellious sub-culture, it has stepped foot very much in to the mainstream; you will struggle to find an item of menswear that has not been covered in this intrinsic pattern this year. From suits to shoes, jackets to t-shirts, trousers to scarves, bags, socks and hats, like Wallace and his hordes marauding over misty fields, there is simply no escaping tartan this year.

tartan 002

Yet in much the same way I wrote about print and the fact it’s neglected by so many men due to its perceived adventurous nature, tartan falls foul to much the same way of thinking from men afraid to break from the comfort of their fashion norms.

The beauty of the tartan though is it goes with so many of our wardrobe staples. Team up a navy and green check suit with a burgundy shirt (or t-shirt for the more contemporary feel); ward off the ills of winter with a white, red and green check scarf tucked tightly under the confines of your black bomber jacket or throw on a trusted tartan shirt with jeans or chinos for that every day feel.

tartan 003

Far from being exclusive to certain styles or trends, tartan is a diverse all rounder that will sit nicely with any number of outfits and occasions; it doesn’t matter if you are off to a meeting with the board or heading out with the lads, there really is no reason why any man cannot wear this wonderful fabric.

Here are a few ways in which to incorporate tartan in to you personal style.

Check Mate: The tartan suit is very much in vogue with brands as diverse as Valentino and Topman paying homage to the check in recent years. You can keep this look subtle by employing darker checks such as green and navy and teaming it up with a shirt in the same colour or be uber trendy and wear a roll neck sweater underneath – I’d suggest a dark green or burgundy. You do not want to overload this look with tartan so keep your shoes and accessories simple by using block colours.

green skinny jacketgreen skinny trousersgrey rollneck jumper

leather oxford brogesdark red socksgucci card holder

Street: Sweaters, t-shirts, caps and bomber jackets are all very much part of the street style scene at present and all of them come emblazoned in a multitude of tartan checks. Get yourself a pair of black skinny jeans and work your outfit around this simple palette. Red and black are perfect fashion foils so keep to these colours and you can’t go wrong.

plaid bomber jacketskinny leg jeanscrew neck tee

nike vent trainersred contrast holdallfive panel cap

Modern Muso: Denim jackets, just like tartan checks are going to be huge this season so why not be ahead of the curve and team them up. Add a simple white t-shirt underneath an open check shirt, pull on some washed out jeans and throw on a pair of black boots (another key trend in 2014) and you have just merged the Sex Pistols and Nirvana in one fell swoop.

denim patchwork jacketdip dye tartanhanro neck tee

light acid jeanshomme dublin bootsblack braces

Best of the Rest: Accessories are often neglected when it comes to putting together our outfits but this season tartan has been assured a seat atop the tartan head table. Nothing has been left off the list this season with bags, socks, ties and even boxer shorts all covered in tartan so even if you don’t want to be too audacious but still want to get involved in the tartan trend this is the ideal place to start.

swallow blend scarfneon silk tiegreen tartan socks

tartan creeper broguesdesigner leather satcheltrunks red tartan

CONCLUSION:  Forget about William Wallace, forget about the highland games, in fact forget about men in kilts full stop, tartan has arrived on the 21st Century fashion scene and will be integral to any gents wardrobe for 2014.

There is so much you can do with this fabric there really is no excuse as to why you cannot wear it. No one is telling you to go all out and where the tartan suit – although I shall be – just grab yourself a small piece of the action and don a tartan scarf if that’s what you prefer.

One not of caution, simply pulling on the check shirt you wear every single weekend out with the lads does not count as tartan, that is simply a faux version that would have all Scots, Wallace included, up in arms.

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Robbie Canale
Robbie Canale

Robbie Canale is a freelance writer and stylist with a passion for football and fashion, two genres he knows should never go together! He has contributed to publications including Harper's Bazaar Arabia, GQ Dubai and Pickles football magazine.

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