When we think of tartan we almost always think of Scotland and Scottish Pipe Bands marching down 5th Ave. in April dressed in their distinctive Highland dress- the kilt. The tartan pattern is a symbol of their ancestry and passion for their heritage.
In America, the word plaid is commonly used to describe tartan. However, plaid is derived from the Scottish Gaelic language and originally means blanket. A shephard would drape himself in a heavy woolen blanket to stave off the bitter cold of Scottish Highland weather.
Richard Martin of the Fashion Institute of Technology stated that tartan is both structure and story. It's story is the very romance of history, it's structure is the systematic ordering of the world in line and color. Hugh Cheape, a much revered authority on the tartan textile, said that tartan is steeped in social , political and religious Highland history, and is imbued with meaning and intellectual and emotional resonance, elevating it well beyond the realm of the mere plaid.