Tweed and tartan are similar as they are often both twill fabrics. Twill is a type of weave characterised by visible diagonal lines which are created by an offset in the warp of threads. This type of weave creates a durable fabric and you may be most familiar with its use in denim jeans.
Traditional tartan is always a twill weave but tweed can also be weaved using a plain or herringbone structure. This is the first characteristic that differentiates the two fabrics. The next is the most noticeable difference.
Where tweed is usually of plain design, usually using a solid main colour with flecks to lift the design, tartan is made with alternating bands of colour which result in the chequered pattern we are all so familiar with.
Tweed was born in Scotland alongside tartan. It was a popular material due to its toughness against the unforgiving Scottish climate. In the early nineteenth century, it became popular for English aristocrats to buy or rent Scottish land to use as getaway destinations. Trips to Scotland would consist of hunting, shooting and fishing, therefore the need for robust, weatherproof garments was created. This is where tweed suits grew in popularity and eventually the use of them spread south of the border into England.
Tweed’s popularity eventually filtered down to the middle classes when the cost fell and tweed garments became more accessible. The popularity of tweed has come in and out of fashion over the centuries but has never disappeared. Today, tweed is a very popular choice for formal jackets, not just in Scotland or the UK, but around the world.
Tartan on the other hand is quintessentially Scottish and is steeped in tradition. Tartan can be worn by anyone who wishes to wear it, but it is mostly only worn by Scots.
Tweed and tartan, although different, can be worn together. Our Kilt Outfit range consists of many options that pair a tartan kilt with a tweed jacket. This is a contemporary kilt outfit choice and is very popular at weddings and Scottish events.
So where tartan and tweed are similar in weave and material, they also differ in the way that tartan can be tweed but tweed cannot be tartan.