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Tartan Soul: School Spirit in Plaid

Tartan Soul: School Spirit in Plaid

New Clothing Line Encourages UCR Supporters to Go "Stark Raving Plaid."

(March 12, 2010)

Stark Raving Plaid spirit wear. Photo by Kim Lane

Stark Raving Plaid spirit wear. Photo by Kim Lane

Plaid extra-baggy cargo shorts, hooded sweatshirts with plaid appliqués, even a plaid cummerbund for those formal occasions — the Highlanders have dressed their school colors of blue and gold in a new line of Tartan Wear.

It’s not just any old plaid. It’s the official UC Riverside Tartan, a design of royal blue criss-crossed with bands of black, white and a bold gold.

The official UCR Tartan is among the trademark-protected properties of the University of California. It’s even registered with the official Register of Tartans in Scotland.

University officials say the tartan was developed specifically to be representative of UCR, with the aid of Linda Clifford and contributions by UCR Pipe Band members Mike Terry, Josh Taylor and Robbie Conacher.

Susan Allen Ortega, assistant vice chancellor and dean of students, also was one of the plaid visionaries and was instrumental in spreading the idea of the tartan. She said students needed to understand what it means to be a Highlander.

Just as a tartan is a woven fabric with stripes of different hues, she and other campus leaders wove together UCR Highlander history, traditions, school pride and the University of California ethical core values for students. The result: plaid Highlanders, outside and inside.

The University of California’s core ethical values are embodied at UC Riverside in the Tartan Soul Campaign, which challenges all students to live with these values in mind: tartan royal blue symbolizing the value of integrity; white, accountability; gold, excellence; and black, respect.

And the kilted UC Riverside Pipe Band plays on.

Highland tartans are symbolic in Scotland and woven with powerful traditions. UCR has promoted its Highlander theme since the 1950s, when the “Hylanders” beat out other possible university mascots such as aphids and rocks.

“Highlander” evolved from the university’s geographical elevation relative to the rest of Riverside, and the Scottish traditions followed. Some campus residence halls are named for Scottish locations. In UCR’s athletic logos, a fierce Braveheart-style warrior bear claws toward Highlander victory.

So the official Tartan Wear Collection is a natural, according to Robert Getman of UCR’s Campus Store. The store advertising campaign exhorts: “Don’t just show your school spirit; go stark raving plaid.”

The store began offering the Tartan Wear Collection to the public about a month before February’s Homecoming events. By wearing the tartan one can wear school spirit, Getman said. The UCR Campus Store offers more than two dozen possibilities for doing so. Most can be found at

Along with hats, sweatshirts, and a scarf sporting UCR plaid, there is a sport kilt for women ($49.95) and a mini kilt ($39.95) that has been selling well.

One also can own a UCR Tartan Kilted Teddy bear modeled after UCR’s original mascot logo bear, Scotty, for $21.95. All UCR Tartan Wear bears a label explaining how each color represents the Tartan Soul values of integrity, accountability, excellence and respect.

So far the best-selling Tartan Wear has been a hooded sweatshirt with a tartan appliqué, Getman said. The store has sold so many he has already had to reorder.

In the fall, look for another two dozen Tartan Wear items, he said.

After all, the school fight song begins: “Brave Scots, one and all we stand together, the tartan clan of UCR!”

Spirit wear. Photo by Kim Lane

Spirit wear. Photo by Kim Lane

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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