Though tartan may immediately call to mind the image of a Scotsman wearing a kilt, the fabric actually has a larger and remarkably rich history. In “Tartan: Romancing the Plaid,” Jeffrey Banks and Doria de La Chapelle explore and interpret this history. Banks goes so far as to investigate the psychology of plaid — he describes in his book, for instance, a post-9/11 surge in plaid.


Tartan can make  dull outfits more interesting. (

Tartan can make dull outfits more interesting. (

On a basic level, tartan is a pattern of intersecting, multicolored lines. However, by changing the size of the checks and the colors, plaid can become a very flexible fabric. A tartan with large checks and loud colors is very different from tartan with small checks and soft colors; consequently, tartan can be incorporated into many styles.


In the 1970s, punks appropriated tartan for their own fashion. It was a pattern associated with a subcultural movement. Today, tartan has worked its way into mainstream fashion and can be worn on both casual and formal occasions.


Tartan can be a great way to easily add pattern and color to your style. Simply pulling on a tartan shift, for instance, can break up basic, block-color schemes.


Both tartan’s heritage and practicality make the fabric a critical staple of men’s fashion.


Do you own any tartan? Let me know below, or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness