Priya Elan

The tar­tan shirt – it’s a keeper

The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents -

Have a tar­tan fling

At one point a few years ago, ev­ery shirt I owned was tar­tan. The lum­ber­jack shirt was the ur­ban, met­ro­sex­ual ver­sion of the polo shirt, and

I owned about 20 of them. It’s the kind of gar­ment that says, “Hey guys, at the week­ends I like to whit­tle and play the lute.” Unlike a real fash­ion-fash­ion trend, what it doesn’t sem­a­phore is: “I will prob­a­bly dump you as soon as we get to the party or at the first sight of more in­ter­est­ing peo­ple.” It’s a look that says “sturdy and re­li­able”, as seen on fa­thers at the week­end, baris­tas and mem­bers of Fleet Foxes.

The dom­i­nance of the tar­tan army shows how ver­sa­tile the look has be­come. We no longer look like peo­ple on our way to a Bay City Rollers fan club AGM: 40 years af­ter Vivi­enne West­wood first aligned the cosy pat­tern with punk, it has be­come a sta­ple of main­stream dress­ing, with just enough edge to make it nei­ther staid nor bor­ing.

There were some wilder­ness years: who knew that, come the dawn of the new mil­len­nium, the grunge look would morph from Kurt “I love an unbuttoned plaid shirt” Cobain to the cheap Sk8ter Boi garms pop­u­larised by Avril Lav­i­gne? Tar­tan was re­placed by a strict dress code of three-quar­ter-length trousers and tiny, tiny ties. These days, tar­tan is back where it should be: the re­li­able men’s fash­ion peren­nial. Some­times, it has to be said, at the very, very back of your wardrobe, a fash­ion peren­nial that might be mis­taken for an old blan­ket, but a peren­nial all the same. Still, it was a sur­prise to see tar­tan leap back into cat­walk con­scious­ness at var­i­ous menswear shows ear­lier this year, namely those of fash­ion en­fant ter­ri­ble Charles Jef­frey Lover­boy. Maybe it could be cool-cool again?

Or maybe not. Here, I am wear­ing a tar­tan shirt so soft and lovely to the touch, I might be wear­ing a cloud. In sports ca­sual trousers and T-shirt, I am so re­minded of my dis­gust­ing at-home clothes that I’m per­ilously close to whip­ping out a fam­ily-size bag of crisps and go­ing in on them. When your look is this com­fort­able, who cares if it’s cool?

Priya wears shirt, £49, and T-shirt, £22, both by Reebok, from ur­banout­fit­ters.com. Trousers, £165, by Hart­ford, from mr­porter.com. Train­ers, £90, asics.com

1 Pale green shirt, £215, by Our Le­gacy, from mr­porter.com2 Dark blue, £19.99, hm.com3 Beige jacket, £69.99, zara.com4 Red jacket, £70, week­day.com5 Or­ange check, £59, john­lewis.com 2

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