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  • Writer's pictureGunn & Grant

Black Watch Tartan Trews: How to Choose The Right Black Watch For You

Updated: Mar 29, 2020

Tartan clothing has been a part of Scottish culture for centuries, with different patterned tartans appearing everywhere in the Highlands and Lowlands. A little bit like national flags made to be worn, these colours were used to distinguish clans among themselves (with one type of tartan even being stolen for exclusive use by British Royals).

Traditionally, not just anyone could wear a particular pattern if they weren’t part of the clan that adopted it. Luckily, times have changed, and fashion has embraced - and forgotten, to embrace it again later - the world of tartans. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were particularly fond of tartans, covering themselves and their castles with it, contributing to its popularity.

In the 20th Century, it left the comfort of palaces and royal figures to dress members of punk culture, imbuing tartan with subversive energy. And nowadays tartan is everywhere - and rightly so.

There are over five thousand different tartan patterns, covering all tastes and occasions. In this article, we will discuss one of the most popular patterns, the Black Watch, along with some tips on how to wear Black Watch tartan trews, and which variations you can choose from.

If you’re new to wearing tartan trews, this will be a perfect entry point. Black Watch tartan trews are a classic choice. We approve.

The Origins of The Black Watch Tartan

General George Wade, with the permission of George I, formed six infantry regiments in 1725 whose job was to patrol the Highlands of Scotland, ridding it of criminals and controlling the violence among the clans. These soldiers were from six different clans, one of which, Clan Grant, produced the military attire worn by all, the dark blue, black and green plaid kilts. As a result, you might find this pattern named “Grant Hunting” as well.

The way they sported their Black Watch tartan at the time was with a scarlet jacket, a waistcoat with buff facings, and, to top it all, a blue bonnet. It is not a style we advise, but you’re free to try it and get a feel for the olden times.

The origin of the name as we know it today might have stemmed from the dark colours of the pattern or, in a more political inclination, to the opinion Scottish people had of this pro-government force, a legion of men with black hearts insensitive to Scottish identity and freedom, always watching the Highlands and quenching the fires of rebellion.

Opinions aside, the Black Watch tartan has a very balanced colour scheme to allow for some flexibility, while still maintaining a strong presence in your look.

Gunn & Grant’s Black Watch Tartan Trews

Your new pair of Black Watch tartan trews can be made in one of five varieties. Apart from choosing the right one for you - we'll get to that in a moment - remember that we need your measurements. You can order our measuring pack which includes a straightforward guide and a tape measure, plus a tartan sample. Or if you're in Edinburgh, we can measure you. Also, any alterations you may need are completely free of charge.

Black Watch Ancient

With a black, light blue (bordering on turquoise) and light emerald green scheme, the Black Watch Ancient has a colourful impact when compared to its brothers, displaying a kind of festive energy. Can be paired successfully with black and dark shades of blue. A good choice if you like bright patterns of soft colours.

Black Watch Ancient

Black Watch Dress Ancient

Based largely on the original Black Watch but with stripes of white, Dress Ancient can be combined with other light soft colours, perfect for warmer days outside. If your highland wardrobe is made of lighter, neutral colours, this pattern can be a great addition to provide some colour to your look.

Black Watch Dress Ancient

Black Watch Modern

The most popular pattern, the modern Black Watch uses black, navy and a dark green scheme to produce a discreet and stylish look. Black and grey colours are great companions to this pattern, with navy blue also being a strong choice. Flexible and a great option for more formal settings. The best choice if you're just getting started with tartan trews, or need a strong piece that is easy to combine with other clothes you already own.

Black Watch Modern

Black Watch Weathered

The blue here leaning on a soft teal, coupled with an earthy-reddish brown, can be paired nicely with other stronger brown colours and other beige shades, while still remaining a good companion for deeper blue tones. If brown is one of your main colours, you might already be combining it with different ranges of blue. With this pattern, you'll be able to marry both of them in a balanced and harmonious way. We love Black Watch Weathered. It's the newest addition to the Black Watch family and is perfect for quieter, more conservative events.

Black Watch Weathered

Advice For Wearing Your Black Watch Tartan Trews

White Victorian Collar Shirt

If you've opted for Black Watch tartan trews you're probably attending a forma event of some kind. This is where a crisp white Victorian collar shirt comes in to its own. A staple of any highland wear wardrobe, the collar is ideal for either a ruche tie or bowtie. In fact if you're in doubt go for a black bow tie with this this shirt and you literally can't fail to impress. The Victorian collar shirt should have concealed buttons on the front and differs in style to a wing collar shirt. Confused by shirt options? We have a separate article on this topic which will set you straight.

Double-Breasted Coat

Arrive to your event with a statement woollen double-breasted coat. This style evokes something of a regal edge that compliments the heritage of Black Watch excellently. Pick one with a solid colour that complements the colour scheme of your Black Watch tartan trews. We're thinking very dark navy or even green.

Toe Cap Oxford Shoes

We've written in other articles about the importance of appropriate shoes when wearing trews. When it comes to Black Watch Tartan trews, nothing even comes close to how good a pair of classic polished oxford shoes will look. Ideally with a tow cap, a pair of these will feel right at home with the nod to the military style of the Black Watch tartan. Plus, their simplicity sits well with the busy nature of the tartan, letting the classic pattern of the Black Watch do the talking. This leads nicely on to our next point...

Multiple Patterns

Be careful trying to mix different patterns in the same outfit, as it rarely produces good results. In fact we'd go so far as to say never wear more than one tartan. 'Double tartan' has yet to catch on in the highland wear community. Black Watch tartan trews are classic enough to truly sing without the addition of a competing pattern. A matching Black Watch bow tie? Perfect.

Head-to-toe Black Watch?

Equally, making your attire exclusively Black Watch from head-to-toe can be risky to pull off. A matching bow tie is one thing, but worn with a Black Watch waistcoat as well? Possibly not. There's a danger it starts to look like you're trying to perform an impression of a Scotsman. Instead, wear your trews and opt for solid colours to go with it.

Remember that your Black Watch tartan trews are the main focus of your outfit. If you try to couple them with equally strong pieces, you might risk overburdening your look.

In conclusion

No longer exclusive to Scottish military regiments, the Black Watch pattern is the perfect place to get started in your exploration of tartan trews. It is a popular pattern for its flexibility, not only in terms of what you can wear with it but also of where you can go with it. Appropriate for any event, Black Watch tartan trews are simply put, a very good choice. If you're looking to get your own, learn how we can make you a custom pair.


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