Who and What? From Vivienne Westwood’s anarchic safe-pinned tartan circa The Sex Pistols, to Alexander McQueen’s haunting Scottish heroines, fashion has a long-celebrated history with tartan. The woven plaid has provided the staple and backdrop to many a fashion moment, particularly the House of Chanel who have grown with the check, moving from Coco Chanel suiting, to 80s popping-red miniskirts to the majestic heavy tweed shown at their Metier’s d’Art 2013 last year.
Why? Tonight across the world people will wear the historical check in celebration of Burns Night, the annual celebration of the life and works of Robbie ‘Rabbie’ Burns, one of the world’s most recognised poets. The Bard of Ayrshire, Burns perhaps represents all that these former fashion houses have depicted through their exploration of tartan: he is remembered as a romantic and a maverick, a womaising hedonist and a artistic hero. A lover, a tyrant and a rogue, despite living just 37 years, he penned some of Scotland’s most iconic poetry and is regarded as a pioneer of his time. His work includes ‘Tam O’ Shanter” and ‘Auld Lang Syne’, one of the most popular songs in the English language. Bob Dylan claimed that Burns’ lyric, A Red Red Rose was his greatest inspiration, while JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye was based on the poem Coming Thro’ the Rye. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was titled after a line in Burns’ ‘To A Mouse.’
His legacy flickers in the fray of a tartan scarf, the clink of whisky bottle or the roll of an R on the tongue. So raise a glass and don your best check this evening for Robert Burns!
Text by Mhairi Graham