Pattern Watch: Black Watch Tartan

Plaid always seems more appropriate, any season.  However, something about the coming cold of Winter blended with the festive brightness of the Christmas season makes us reach more readily for the tartans of the many districts and regions of Scotland.  Plaid looks good on most men, and it opens up lots of opportunities for color mixing.  He should be willing to push the boundaries, however.  Instead of reaching for the very red, and very common, Royal Stewart tartan, he should consider Black Watch, the other great holiday choice, and the more subdued one at that.

Black Watch tartan takes its name from one of Scotland’s most legendary fighting units, the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment.  Officially founded in 1881, the Black Watch as a tradition stretches back further, to the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment of the Foot that served with such distinction throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries defending the Commonwealth from threats foreign and domestic.  Their name came in part from their original role as the ‘watch’ of the Scottish Highlands, and came also from the distinct tartan they were issued by the Scottish government.  Woven from wool, the pattern adorned kilts, sweaters, bagpipes- and still does to this day, in the Black Watch’s modern incarnation as the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.  It consists of a dark green warp and weft woven in crossing over a background of dark blue, with lines of black criss-crossing the united tartan.

The dark colors of Black Watch make it particularly suited for Winter dress, and especially for Winter dress in the evenings.  It can be used as a substitute for black in dinner suit ensembles, appearing in jackets, cummerbunds, or bowties.  Slightly more casually, it is a popular pattern for sport coats, playing well against charcoal gray trousers or dark jeans.  We would give the FashionMR some caution: a little Black Watch goes a long way.  Don’t be afraid of it, but treat it with the respect it is owed.  Don’t go overboard.  A single jacket, one pair of pants, a matching cummerbund and bowtie should be enough for a whole outfit.  You’ll be the talk of your holiday party.