A wee primer on the official tartan of the World Championships

An official tartan has been registered ahead of the 2023 mega-event in Glasgow, which is kind of amazing, but what exactly does it mean?

2022 world champion Remco Evenepoel sporting a tartan (not the tartan in question) tam o’ shanter. Photo: © Cor Vos

Kit Nicholson
by Kit Nicholson 22.04.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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In the lull that marks the end of the Spring Classics with Grand Tour season on the horizon, big news has landed ahead of this year’s Cycling World Championships in Glasgow. The organisers of the bigger-than-ever event have designed and registered an official tartan, which is being shown off at The Cycle Show in London this weekend, confirming rumours started by themselves on Tartan Day earlier this month.

It’s pretty much as you’d expect. An open pattern that includes all the colours of the rainbow (all five, including black) laid upon a broad light blue strip, itself against a darker blue base or ‘field’, cut with a single white line reminiscent of the saltire flag of Scotland.

There are some pretty strict rules when it comes to tartan and plenty more misconceptions besides – finally, my Scottishness becomes applicable expertise! This could become a very long, tedious and trivial essay very fast, so instead of doing a huge amount of muddy research, I’ll share the knowledge that I’ve absorbed by osmosis as the child of Scottish and must-have-once-been Scottish parents; my dad grew up in the achingly English heartland of Hampshire, but ‘Nicholson’ is a good Scottish name and he married my mum, where she grew up in Argyll, wearing a kilt.

So. Tartan is a patterned, usually heavy cloth with criss-crossing coloured bands (horizontal and vertical), and each distinct tartan is usually associated with particular families and clans. Most old Scottish families have more than one tartan, at least a traditional and ‘hunting’ variant, often with ‘muted’, ‘ancient’ and ‘modern’ offerings on top of those. E.g. my dad got married in a ‘modern hunting’ tartan the base of which is a smart dark blue-green, and we all have scarves in the ‘modern’ red-based variant.

All tartans must be officially registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans, which is the fun part of this news. Especially as there are – predictably – fairly strict rules according to the err Scottish Register of Tartans Act (2008). Mind you, the specification makes life easy for the UCI World Champs which already has a clear visual identity:

“it must be a new design, unique to the Register, and there must be a clear link between the person registering the tartan and the proposed tartan name.”

Nice and simple. Rainbow. Scottish flag. Job done.

Now the big question. Besides obvious merchandising opportunities, how is the official tartan going to be used?

A kilt for every podium finisher is a bit much to expect – and you might be surprised to hear that they’re pretty warm given the weight of the material, though you have the advantage of *ahem* a good draught up between your legs… – but any staff and volunteers are bound to have it foisted upon them throughout the competition.

Realistically, there’s a good chance that the tartan won’t get closer to the winners than the graphics around them, maybe the ribbon of the medals (although they’re already pretty standard), but I dare the organisers to create tam o’ shanters for each world champion – that’s the daft almost-beret-shaped hat that very often can be seen with novelty ginger hair attached at the seam… With or without comedy wig, pretty please.

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