A tartan’s thread count is like its DNA. It does not change. And this is the data which is officially recorded by the Office of Lord Lyon in Scotland. However, as a tartan wearer you may well have further options.
The terms Ancient, Modern, Muted and Weathered are reproduction colour palettes for a Scottish tartan. The thread count does not change, but the shades of the colours within the thread-count do. This does not make it a different tartan. These are merely more glorious options for the user!
Here are examples of how the tartan colour palettes change for each version:
Ancient: The Ancient colour palette is meant to simulate older plant-derived dyes used before the Victorians invented chemical dyes. They are generally assumed to have been lighter in colour. In the tartan cloth you’ll notice that:
- Red turns to orange
- Blue turns to a light sky blue
- Green turns to a grassy green
- Yellow turns to a pale yellow
Modern: The Modern colour palette for Scottish tartans is widely considered to be the standard. It is meant to emulate the modern chemical dyes invented in the 19th century. They are bold, bright and rich, like primary colours.
- Red is a bold red
- Blue is a navy blue
- Green is a dark bottle green
- Yellow is a bold yellow
Muted: The Muted colour palette is a contemporary concept meant to emulate soft, natural colours. It generally falls between the lighter ancient colour palette and the richer modern colour palette.
- Red turns to blood red
- Blue turns to a stormy sky blue
- Green turns to an olive green
- Yellow turns to a gold
Weathered: The Weathered colour palette (also called “Reproduction” by one mill) is meant to look like the tartan has been exposed to the elements. It uses lots of browns and greys to drive that look home.
- Red turns to a ‘salmon’ red
- Blue turns to bluish grey
- Green becomes brown
- Yellow turns to pale gold
Is there a right or wrong colour – palette choice for my kilt?
It’s simply personal taste. If you want to be 100% sure that everyone can easily identify which clan you belong to, you may want to select Modern. If you want something lighter in tone just because you like lighter colours, maybe you will love Ancient. Or you may prefer non-modern colours because the Modern version of your tartan is strongly associated with something else. For instance, many Campbells choose to wear Campbell Ancient instead of Modern, which is Black Watch. Many Stewarts prefer other versions than the ubiquitous Royal Stewart.
Muted and Weathered tartans can be wonderful options for different seasons or occasions. For example, Muted tartans look great with a tweed set in the Fall. Weathered tartans have a “woodsy” feel and can be just the thing for a kilt you will be hiking in, or want a really subdued, laid-back look.
At Great Scot we have over a thousand gorgeous tartans for you to choose from – even the rare and difficult to find has never escaped us! We are always happy to make sure that you know about all the choices available. If you want to know more, please do contact our Heritage Specialist HERE.