How to style your tartan pants - From the Sex Pistols to Clueless here's our favourite plaid outfits

By Jacob Pumphrey.

Ever wondered what Skinheads, Vivienne Westwood and Mel Gibson’s bare butt all have in common? We dissect some of our favourite moments in Tartan Fashion to help you figure out how you should be wearing your Tartan Plaid Pants Outfit.

(And if you want to hit retail therapy straight away - I swear I'm not offended - here's the way to our mens tartan pants and womens tartan pants.)

Tartan and Plaid in fashion are, just like all good trends, one those things that refuses to die. Decade after decade the world screams it’s had enough and every one begs their friends to put their cigarette-smoked, coffee-stained-café-hopping-attire to bed, but year after year it rears its checked little head out on to London streets, New York bars and Runways worldwide. As it has well and truly emerged once again, I decided to take the opportunity to dissect the subcultures, designers and the odd film or two that I believe put plaid on the map.

Before we move on a quick history lesson should have us all safe from offending any proud Scottish clans, so what is the difference between Tartan and Plaid:

Tartan: Is a traditional check-patterned woven cloth linked to the namesake of Scottish clans, what initially begun as a toga style one  piece garment known as a Kilt has now become the more modern skirt style (sorry guys).
Plaid: A similar style patterned cloth but these were predominantly worn by the Celts as a Kilt or a blanket.

1960’s English SHARPs

The English SHARPs (Skinheads Against Racial Profiling) fashion movement of the 1960’s has to have left some of the most awe-inspiring fashion statements of street kids to date. After Mod culture began to die, the teenagers of post-war Britain took on a simpler stripped back dress inspired by the working class uniforms that now made up the bulk of society. The working class embraced newly arriving West Indian and African immigrants and they bonded over a mutual love of reggae and ska. Stylised by layered clothing, shaved heads, short fringes and tight pants with suspenders and boots, the SHARPs were never one to dress too loudly and worked tartan and plaid into their every day, as subtle undershirts or a Harrington Jacket lining. It wasn’t until well into the 1970’s as economic decline took hold in England, that the political parties with nationalist views began to take advantage and radicalise those in lower paid jobs and as such their fashion and dress was absorbed in to an easily identifiable moniker that will would forever be hard to shake.


The Sex Pistol’s, Vivienne Westwood and the 1970’s

Nobody can deny the role the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten played in bringing punk culture to the mainstream. The Rock n Roll uniforms of the 60’s were on the way out and the punk effect tore through London almost as fiercely as the drug epidemic that accompanied it. Vivienne Westwood was there for it all and watched on from the doorway of her Kings Road store as the punks took high fashion and brought it down to the gutter with them. It seems that Westwood has never let go of these early punk ties as Tartan still features heavily in almost all of her runway shows today. In one of the best subtle political statements in history the Punk Tartan of choice has always been the Royal Tartan of Queen Elizabeth II, the Red and Green criss crossed pattern has remained an essential colourway on all punk fashion to date.


Hollywood Films in the 90’s

Just sneaking in as one of the first Hollywood memories I have of tartan is the June 95’ Mel Gibson film “Braveheart”. Love him or hate him (and do feel free to hate him), Mel brought traditional Scottish dress to the big screen for the first time and by all accounts, made an absolute mockery of history while doing so, but god damn he looked good while doing it. Unfortunately the fill in William Wallace and his army represented the famous Scottish hero by wearing the skirt like tartan kilts for the entire 3 hours – a fashion that was only to emerge hundreds of years later - it didn’t matter to me though, seeing those fearless Scotts men and their bare butt’s brandishing all manner of traditional Scottish clan colours had me raiding my father’s flannelette collection for years to come.

The second of these memories came coincidentally the very same year by way of the cult hit “Clueless”. When Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash hit the screen swinging their hair and rolling their eyes in matched two-piece tartan skirt-jacket-suits, it sent the 90’s spinning. Silverstone‘s fashionista character Cher Horowitz was so on point, there was no denying that if it was in "Clueless" people were going to want it – nobody guessed that the hangover effect would still linger 20 years on with designers worldwide still buffing out their collections with the two-piece plaid numbers.


With fashions revisited so regularly these days we might not see as many stand out examples like the above but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still make your own statement with the perfectly picked and paired tartan or plaid for yourself – who knows maybe I’ll be writing about you some day.

Enough history lessons, now go shop our mens tartan pants and womens tartan pants to make the look work your way.


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