Last week my phone reminded me that I had an event scheduled for Saturday, which I did not remember at all. The 18th New York Annual Tartan Day Parade. Obviously I couldn’t miss it. I always loved tartan and apparently the grand marshal of this year was going to be none other than Sam Heughan … I mean, Sam Heughan!
Curiosity and enthusiasm to the hand I went to the parade, I watched the show, I was intoxicated with fabulous Scottish accent and I avoided drinking scotch despite having been offered repeatedly.
Apparently in 1998 the U.S. Senate declared April 6th National Tartan Day in recognition of the contribution of the sScottish community to the country over the years. A year later, in New York, with two pipes and a small but enthusiastic group, the first New York Tartan Day Parade marched from the British consulate to the UN starting a decidedly unique and absolutely fantastic tradition. (To me every reason is good to celebrate, that’s why I love NY!)
I took the parade as an occasion to read up a bit about the subject finding that the Tartan, for the uninitiated the pattern with horizontal and vertical lines intertwined in different colors, after being banished from the Dress Act of 1746 with the intention of bringing all clan warriors under government control, was later adopted as a symbolic national dress of Scotland 40 years later when the law was disbanned.
Many will know that there are several types of tartan and depending on the colors you can associate them to certain families, orders or institutions but this is nothing but a recent human invention due to chemical way to color the fabric, initially the distinction was only geographic, due to the different colors found in nature in the different areas of the country. Apparently today there are about 7,000 recognized different types of tartan and every year the number increases.
As I have always look at it as a relatively elegant pattern, related to wealthy British collegials, (I love preppy style) tartan has actually gained popularity thanks to ’70s British punk. Going from a model of ancient aristocracy and austerity to a symbol of the discontent of the modern times and opposition to authority, tartan was reinterpreted and brought back in fashion often over the years by various designers, first of all the queen of punk Vivienne Westwood.
As specified on the official website of the parade there are now so many activities associated with the National Tartan Day that “ it has become Tartan Week, with a definition of “week” as anything, so far, from 7-21 days “ , so I’m here enjoying the aftermath of the parade waiting impatiently for the return of the tartan, ’cause it will come back, it always returns, as a good highlander.
(At the top one of my favorite shots of all time, of course, from an idea of the wonderful Grace Coddington in 1991, the magical camera of Arthur Elgort, with amazing Linda Evangelista and the genius of Oscar de la Renta).