Well, I kind of knew that already. My friend who knows a lot more about fabrics. She could tell me more which would have my head spinning until I passed out. So like the librarian that I am, I decided to do a little research.

First off, what is a tartan anyway? A tartan is woolen or worsted cloth woven with stripes of different colors and widths crossing at right angles, worn chiefly by the Scottish Highlanders, each clan having its own distinctive plaid. In particular, I am interested In them used in kilts.

I remember a long time ago I told my librarian friends that I wanted to get a Kilt and wear it. I didn’t understand the significance of them at the time. It was more of just being fashionable for me. I mean come on, who doesn’t want to look like a badass, like this guy?

tennant in kilt

While I was looking into tartans, I also read on why people wear kilts. I discovered that some wear them strictly for uniform purposes. While others wore them as part of a special occasion. Some wear them as part of their heritage. Then some wear them as a costume just for fun. Lastly, some wear them because they are functional. So which category do I fall is? Certainly, I would like to be the one who wears it for special occasions. Maybe I would like the be the one who wears them because they are functional. I want to wear one as part of my heritage.

The problem for me is what heritage. I am not saying that I don’t have any heritage. Of course, I do. I have a rich one. It spans across two continents and matches up two unique cultures. The problem is that neither of them is Scottish, Irish, or English. So how can I justify wanting to wear something that is not even part of my heritage? The simple answer, I don’t have to.

Sure, I don’t need any justification. But I need to be respectful and take it seriously. I say respectful because I would hope that others would do the same for if they wore something that was part of my Chilean heritage. Taking it seriously just makes sense for me. What is the point of even doing anything if I don’t take it seriously, then I don’t get anything out of it?   

Ok, so getting back the topic of tartans being so complex. It turns out they were not as involved as I thought. I mean at least not when it comes to the colors and symbolism. No one really knows why certain colors were used in the designs of traditional Scottish tartans. It seems the idea of colors and symbolism is something more modern. My friend who knows more about fabrics and tartans than me. She said to me, “well if you are going to wear a kilt it has to have your family colors.” I know she was joking, but she was also sharing some knowledge as well.  

Again, this goes back to taking things seriously and actually learning something. So the big question was “what are my family colors?” Does my family even have a coat of arms? On the Chilean side, I am going to say no. On the German side, I am guessing that we do. Or at least, we have something that resembles a coat of arms with colors. I know this because my cousin has done some ancestry research. Denzer Family Crest

OK, so now I have the color. But what now? What colors do I use? What do they even mean?

Well, I started here “Meaning of Heraldic Colors for Your Custom Coat of Arms” and pulled this list for my colors:

  • White – truth, sincerity, peace, innocence, and purity.
  • Gold – wisdom, generosity, glory, constancy, and faith.
  • Black – wisdom, grief, constancy, and prudence.
  • Red – magnanimity, military strength, warrior, and martyr.

What I found out about tartan patterns is that the colors you use have a different meaning for each clan. In my case it is family. But for me, it is more personal. I could choose the colors and apply the meanings that closest resembles my family. Or I could just say that each meaning represents my family. Instead, I will choose the words that best fit me. So the following colors, I choose:

  • White – sincerity
  • Gold – wisdom
  • Black – constancy
  • Red – magnanimity

So where does this all leave me? It is a start for my next project. Which will be to design a tartan with the Denzer family coat of arms. Then actually weave the fabric and eventually make my very own kilt.

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