ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - At the top of a pole behind Paul Wiedorn was a Maryland flag, flapping in the wind.
To shield himself from the bitter cold in Annapolis last week, he slung a wool scarf around his neck.
It was as if the two - the flag and Wiedorn’s plaid winter accessory - were cut from the same cloth.
That was the look he was going for.
Wiedorn, a Severna Park resident, loves the flag and Celtic culture so much he has combined those interests and created a Scottish tartan based on the flag’s color scheme. He’s not a fashion designer by trade - just a high school technology education teacher who has a penchant for civics.
“Besides having nice colors and everything, it’s a proper flag,” Wiedorn said of his textile’s inspiration.
But it’s not enough that he learned how to create an original tartan, with criss-crossed shafts of red, yellow, black and white, evoking the Calvert family arms. It’s not enough that he copyrighted the design and had a weaver produce a dozen yards of it. He’s thinking more grandiose: a designation for the pattern as the official state tartan.
Wiedorn can see it now: A modern kilt for him, made from the custom plaid; University of Maryland students wearing college gear made with tartan prints.
Sen. Ed Reilly, R-Crofton, is trying to help Wiedorn fulfill that dream. The lawmaker has filed a bill in the Maryland legislature that would adopt Wiedorn’s tartan as an official symbol of the state.
In a year when 1,600 bills and counting have been filed, Reilly describes this as a “fun one” that helps promote Maryland pride.
What’s in it for Wiedorn isn’t money, he says. He’s already promised to turn over the copyright to the state if the government endorses his design as an official symbol.
At the age of 60 and his three children now adults, he’s thinking more about a legacy.
“What’s going to go on the tombstone, right?” Weidorn said. “‘Designer of the Maryland tartan’ - that would be nice in an obituary, wouldn’t it?”
The state flag was adopted in 1904, followed by the Black-eyed Susan as the state flower 14 years later. Since then, Maryland has accrued myriad other official symbols, from the state cat (Calico) to the folk dance (square).
Though these may seem like trivial decisions for policy makers to consider, the designations tend to matter a lot to certain constituents. About half of all states have named milk their official drink to support dairy industries. Maryland’s horse is the Thoroughbred, likely to back breeders.
Many states, such as Massachusetts and North Carolina, have adopted an official tartan, either by a governor’s proclamation or legislation, but just how many depends on the source. Reilly believes 28 states have plaids already.
Though traditional, tartans still thrive in contemporary fashion. David Hart, a designer who grew up in Severna Park and now lives in New York, has incorporated scores of tartans in his line over the years. He’s used traditional clan patterns for neckwear.
“I’ve always loved plaid. My grandfather used to dress my dad in plaid, and my dad hated it,” Hart said. “Plaid is such a classical element in menswear, I naturally gravitated toward it. The colors are just incredible.”
The Scottish Parliament got involved in cataloging tartans in 2008 when it launched the Scottish Register of Tartans. The intent of the registry was to protect and preserve the tartan tradition. In order to qualify as an official tartan, the designer must show the agency he has created a unique pattern as well as receive approval from the highest-ranking authority of that state, district or entity it would represent.
That’s where Reilly’s bill comes in. If it passes, Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature is what Wiedorn needs.
This isn’t the first time the Severna Park man has tried to get a governor to sign the dotted line. Wiedorn wrote a letter to former governor Martin O’Malley. Then, he tried a bill last year. It had a hearing but never made it out of the Senate committee.
He clearly hasn’t given up. When the governor and first lady had a recent open house at the mansion, he gave them a tartan necktie and stole respectively, made from his tartan.
But he’s also realistic. In a year when the General Assembly is considering serious issues, such as how to prevent police brutality and balance the state budget, he knows plaids aren’t on most lawmakers’ minds.
Still, he fantasizes about the bragging rights he’d have among coworkers if it works.
“I really want to go into lunch in the Social Studies department . and take a poll and say, ‘So who here has had a bill passed in the legislature and signed by the governor - raise your hands,’” he said with a laugh. “We’ll see. Someday, maybe.”
Information from: The Capital, https://www.capitalgazette.com/
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