Burns Night Nearing, Tartan Trending

The 25th January is Burns night, a celebration commemorating what would have been the 259th birthday of Scotland’s literary legend, Robert Burns. If you thought feasting the night away and drunkenly belting out Auld Lang Syne arm in arm with someone you met a few minutes before were activities exclusive to New Year’s Eve, think again! And if like us you’re suffering from a severe case of the January blues, then a little Celtic conviviality is a tried and tested cure.

Robert Burns: portrait of Robert Burns as a young man
Portrait of Robert Burns (1759-1796), Scottish poet and composer, Engraving

Robert Burns – Metro  

 Putting the Burns in sideburns, Robert channels Balenciaga’s normcore look in a striped grandad shirt, layered over a frilled undershirt for some Victorian verve in this nuanced nineteenth-century ensemble.

Though we’ll be passing up on the Haggis (we’re sure it’s delicious, but this is definitely one – perhaps the only – occasion we’re grateful for that New Year’s diet we’ve been so selectively adhering to), Burn’s night is the perfect excuse to suit up the Scottish way by putting a tartan twist on your cold-weather looks. Tartan is a uniquely inviting pattern, evocative of homeliness and warmth. It’s probably the pattern of your coziest blanket, it beckons you to spend lazy Winter days indoors bingeing on Netflix – though of course you won’t be chilling when you’re wrapped in your warmest tartan.

But as well as being warming, tartan is also highly wearable. The pattern has a long history in the Scottish Highlands, where it has been used to denote regional belonging for centuries. Taran was banned by the Dress Act of 1746, which was used to suppress clan uprisings. When the law was repealed in 1782, tartan became a symbol for Scottish identity. As the original protest print, it’s fitting that tartan is making a comeback at a time when protest dressing has reached its most radical proportions. This Winter classic pervaded the A/W18 Menswear shows at London and Milan this year; we take our cue from the catwalk and suggest how you can style tartan this season.

Balenciaga AW18 model wears two-tone red tartan and plain black bomber, black trousers with yellow fabric belt, model carries black and yellow-striped bag.
Balenciaga – A/W 2018 – Vice 

Balenciaga currently reigns supreme in both high fashion and streetwear, and part of its winning strategy has been Demna Gvasalia’s way of incorporating elements that nod to various brands and cultures into his catwalk looks. Tartan has been spliced throughout his A/W18 looks in the form of panelling. We suggest following suit in statement shirts and dresses from Junya Watanabe, or introducing tartan in the form of bags shoes, or scarves.

Balenciaga AW18 (1) model wears multi-tiered sweater with panels in light blue, navy, grey, leopard, and yellow tartan; worn with distressed blue jeans.

Balenciaga – A/W 2018 – Vice


Bobby Abley AW18

Bobby Abley – A/W 2018 – Vogue

Tartan trousers are a nice way to put a stylish Scottish slant on your workwear, but are also a great way to help your lower half stand out in a bold, single-colour ensemble, as demonstrated by Bobby Abley during the London collections. We love the punk-chic zip detailing on these flared flannel pants from Open Ceremony, and we think these slim-fitting, office-ready trousers from Off-White would look great as part of a smart, monochrome outfit.

Bobby Abley AW18 (2) model wears cartoon Tweety themed, furry yellow jumper, paired with yellow tartan trousers and beige walking boots.

Bobby Abley – A/W 2018 – Vogue


Vivienne Westwood AW18 model wears button-up blue tartan dress, with contrasting tartan apron.

Vivienne Westwood – A/W 2018 – Business of Fashion

Vivienne Westwood and Charles Jeffrey are living proof that when it comes to this punk pattern, sometimes it’s best to be bold. The Glaswegian designer even has his own unique version of the pattern, which he put to good use in head-to-toe tartan looks for A/W18. Both designers remind us of the importance of pattern and cut when it comes to dressing to impress. We’ll be emulating them in daring dresses from Junya Wantanabe for Comme des Garcons, Maison Margiela , and the grand dame herself.

Charles Jeffrey AW18 (1) model wears tartan skirt, shirt, and beret in a red on blue on black colourway

Charles Jeffrey – A/W 2018 – Vogue


Palm Angels AW18 (1)

Palm Angels – A/W 2018 Menswear – Vogue 

The spirit of punk was equally as strong at Palm Angels in Milan, doubtlessly one of the most exciting and adventurous collections shown there. The looks prove that a little (well-placed) tartan goes a long way when matched with as bold accessories. We’ve got our eye on this wool mini skirt by Christopher Kane and this top by Johanna Ortiz. Though relatively small, these stand-out garments are sure to add a sprinkling of Scottish snaz to any outfit.


Fendi AW18 (1) model wears yellow and white check overcoat with light brown trousers and brown check jumper, accessorised with matching brown check shoulder bag.

Fendi – A/W 2018 – Vogue 

For a more staid approach to this Scottish staple, forgo tartan in favour of its more soft-spoken cousins, check and plaid, as seen on heavy woolen outerwear at Fendi in Milan. A great way to add a smart touch to knitwear, this pattern looks as good on a dress as it does on a classic flannel shirt.


Gosha Rubchinskiy AW18 model wears contrasting shirt in classic burberry check and oversized burberry check, matched with dark joggers and burberry print loafers.

Gosha Rubchinskiy – A/W 2018 Menswear – Business of Fashion 

Finally, it would be remiss to talk about tartan without making mention of classic British brand, Burberry, originator of perhaps the most recognisable check pattern in fashion. Though denigrated since the early noughties as the preferred print of chavs and hooligans, Burberry check has been rejuvenated lately thanks to high-profile collaborations with superstar designer, Gosha Rubchinskiy. Now is definitely a good time to invest in a timeless Burberry trench, but for something a bit special we recommend this Burberry bomber or this cashmere-blend coat in classic red tartan. Special mention also goes to this tartan trench in a green and white colourway.


Article Written By: Desmond Huthwaite

Featured Image Charles Jeffrey – A/W 2018 – Vogue 


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