Tartan Day And Men In Plaid, 1950


In case you hadn’t heard, tomorrow is Tartan Day. To celebrate, we’re sharing a LIFE Magazine article from 1950 (scroll down to page 123) that showcased Yale students in plaid vests and Andover preps in plaid caps.

The article opens with this:

When the British caught wind of the fact that American men were developing a fancy for bright tartan dinner jackets, they were unhappy. In London, tailor and Cutter, the haberdasher’s bible called them “deplorable,” then was forced to backtrack when King George ordered a couple himself.

In this passage, Chipp (whose team is pictured above) and its role in pushing the whole concept of go-to-hell is further cemented:

Tartans have been worn for some time by a few individualists, mainly in the east and mainly customers of a New York tailor called Chipp.

Main Street, or at least urban department stores, soon took notice:

This winter the Florida resort season established them as a real fashion. Now the big department stores are about to break out with plaid dinner jackets for what is expected to be a wide market.

Below are some outtakes from the photo shoot from the LIFE archives. Have a great Tartan Day. I’ll be celebrating with Blackwatch boxers. — CC





13 Comments on "Tartan Day And Men In Plaid, 1950"

  1. Great post.

  2. Agreed! Never knew there was such a thing. I will don a Madras necktie (the first of the season) in observation of Tartan Day. . . but on Monday morning instead.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.

  3. Indeed nice, but that kid in the first outtake picture, with the louche posture and the slack, insolent mouth? I’d like to slap him in the face. He’s everything that’s wrong with trad.

  4. Come to think of it, maybe I’m being too harsh. He seems to be some kind of Truman Capote wannabe, having just read “Other Voices, Other Rooms” (pub. 1948) with T.C.’s deliberately provocative, fawn-like, sexually ambiguous photo on the back jacket. So my annoyance might be better directed at Capote.

  5. I first saw these pictures at this site, and had much the same reaction to that kid as you did, BLS. I also got a sense of “boys playing dress-up,” but that is an admirable trait.

  6. malvernlink | April 5, 2014 at 7:07 pm |

    The Saint Andrew’s Society of Los Angeles will be celebrating National Tartan Day at the Tam O Shanter restaurant. Drop by for a wee dram and a listen to our fantastic piper. She looks just like Marilyn Monroe. (really) Be sure to wear your kilt.

  7. Madras can be considered a sort of tartan for the summer?

  8. Philadelphian | April 6, 2014 at 2:43 am |

    Thanks for the LIFE link.

    The ads were far more interesting than the tartan article.

  9. Richard Meyer | April 6, 2014 at 3:02 pm |

    Unlike the BB picture you just posted days ago, with callow wannabees, this is the real deal.

  10. Christian | April 6, 2014 at 8:33 pm |

    For the sake of argument, could you elaborate? Sounds like we’re dealing with enormous forces of history that make the individuals depicted look rather inconsequential.

    I mean, an enormous social change had occurred between the time of the photos. It’s like comparing real Musketeer duelists to modern fencer and calling the fencers wannabes because there’s no death involved.

  11. Richard Meyer | April 7, 2014 at 8:40 pm |

    Today’s stuff in the BB ad are ill fitted imitations of the classics. There is death involved-the death of good taste in masculine attire. It’s not just a change; it’s a change for the worse.

  12. Dutch Uncle | April 8, 2014 at 12:43 pm |

    @Richard Meyer

    Always a relief to see that there are sensible, civilized gentlemen reading this blog, sir.

  13. PocketSquare | July 3, 2020 at 9:57 am |

    Madras is a plaid, a tartan is a plaid but a plaid isn’t a tartan.

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