Rebels rally under a tartan banner
IN RECENT years bandanas, black hoodies and slogan T-shirts have become the sartorial symbols of the anti-capitalist movement.
But now a bid has been launched to persuade fashion-conscious activists and eco-warriors to head to the barricades wearing Highland dress.
An American-based academic has registered a protest plaid which he hopes will be adopted by members of the Occupy movement around the globe.
Dr Giles Jackson has revealed the gold-flecked tartan, which represents the unequal distribution of wealth, will be the first in a range of radical designs. His Liberation Kilt Co has also registered tartans which can be worn by the anti-nuclear movement, supporters of political dissidents and climate change activists.
The Virginia-based business school professor insists he was inspired by Scotland’s long-standing tradition of championing the underdog and supporting progressive causes.
However, the left-leanings designs have already attracted the ire of more conservative kilt-wearers who have branded the designs “distasteful” and criticised the Scottish Register of Tartans (SRT) for accepting them.
English-born Jackson, who is an associate professor at Shenandoah University in Virginia, will launch his range of political tartans this week.
He said: “I’m tapping into a long and glorious tradition. Long before tartan became the garb of royal subjects it was a badge of dissent.”
The environmental campaigner, who has Scottish roots, took inspiration after noting tartan’s popularity and eye-catching potential.
He said: “I wore a kilt to a protest in 2008 and it really got people’s attention.
“I thought it would be cool to create a tartan for the climate change movement”.
Jackson decided to broaden the concept to embrace a wide range of causes and is now looking to create a range of kilts, headbands, caps and seal-friendly sporrans.
Jackson, who has pledged to donate a percentage of profits to non-profit causes, hopes the designs will help to bring campaigners together and project a striking image.
He said: “Tartan’s role as a unifying aesthetic within groups is well known. Less well known is its potential as a unifier between groups and its capacity to cross cultural boundaries on a planetary scale”.
The renewable energy enthusiast claimed he was harnessing an ancient tradition to bring attention to 21st century injustices.
He said: “Since you can now get arrested just for carrying a sign in public, we may need other, more subtle ways of signposting our values.
“If we can help bring more people face-to-face to discuss issues in spite of their differences this can only be healthy in my view”.
Jackson hopes his Liberty Square tartan will prove popular with the anti-corporate Occupy movement which has held protest camps in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and across Europe and the US.
The Scottish Register of Tartan acceptance notes state: “Anyone who identifies with the Occupy movement is welcome to wear or display the Liberty Square tartan”.
According to the Register it: “Symbolises the golden rule of capitalism: ‘Those with the gold make the rules’. The spoils increasingly go to a protected class of global profiteers, represented by the gold stripes, while the ordinary citizen is gradually stripped of freedoms, money and dignity”.
Jackson’s Havel tartan, designed to resemble prison bars, celebrates persecuted dissidents and has been approved by the widow of the late Czech playwright and president Vaclav Havel, who was imprisoned for his belief in freedom of speech and civil liberties.
Other designs include the anti-nuclear Yamaguchi Tsutomu tartan, named after the only person to survive both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, and Tahrir, which honours the pro-democracy Arab Spring, as well as plaids symbolising climate change and the importance of public ownership of water supplies.
However, the company, whose slogan is “Dress to protest!”, has already generated controversy on an online forum for international kilt enthusiasts.
One Texas-based contributor wrote: “I find these tartans, especially the registration notes, distasteful. I believe the SRT should have, at least, worked with the designer to tone down the rhetoric.”
Another, more sardonic, member posted: “Just how many causes can one person espouse in a lifetime? How long before we see one highlighting chronic flatulence and another celebrating social ineptitude?”
But, Rob Gibson, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, gave his support to the idea of tartan being used to promote social justice and environmental causes.
The convener of Holyrood’s rural affairs, climate change and environmental committee said: “There are so many corporate appropriations of tartans that it is not surprising that people will want to reclaim it.
“I welcome this venture and wish them the best of luck”.
The Scottish Government-endorsed SRT has no rules preventing the inclusion of political tartans. Its guidelines state a tartan may only be rejected if it is deemed to be “frivolous or offensive” or if the name is judged likely to mislead the public.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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