Sillitoe Tartan

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File:Sillitoe Tartan black and white.svg
Black and white Sillitoe Tartan, commonly used for police in the United Kingdom (other than the City of London Police who use red and white).
File:Sillitoe Tartan blue and white.svg
Blue and white Sillitoe Tartan, commonly used for police in Australia and New Zealand.

Sillitoe Tartan is the nickname given to the distinctive black and white chequered pattern which was originally associated with the police in Scotland, but which later spread to Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of the United Kingdom, as well as to some other places such as Chicago and Pittsburgh in the United States and in parts of Canada to distinguish members of the Auxiliary Police. Based on the diced bands seen on the Glengarries that are worn by several Scottish regiments of the British Army, the pattern was first adopted for police use in 1932 by Sir Percy Sillitoe, Chief Constable of the City of Glasgow Police.[1]

Sillitoe Tartan may be composed of several different colours and number of rows depending on local custom, but when incorporated into uniforms, or vehicle livery, serves to uniquely identify emergency services personnel to the public.

Usage by country

United Kingdom
Police officers with Sillitoe Tartan on their jackets

The Sillitoe tartan was an exclusively Scottish phenomenon until introduced in South Australia in 1961.[2] From 1972, within the United Kingdom, the original black and white Scottish version began to rapidly spread throughout England and Wales and it is now used by all police forces in Great Britain.

Most forces use black and white chequered hat bands, however the City of London Police is unique in that it uses distinctive red and white chequers. The City of London Corporation also run the Hampstead Heath Constabulary and the Billingsgate Market Constabulary (who are no longer attested as constables but retain the historic title), who both also use red and white chequers.[3][4][5] The Hammersmith and Fulham Parks Constabulary, whom are run by the local authority, also originally used red and white chequers in line with their corporate colours of the council but they reverted to the standard type.[6]

Attested cathedral constables, employed at a number of Anglican cathedrals, have adopted a royal blue and white chequered cap band in order to distinguish them from their Home Office police colleagues.

The now defunct Royal Parks Constabulary originally wore green and white chequers, but later changed to the standard police blue and white chequers. The Royal Parks Constabulary Scotland were a separate force to their aforementioned English counterparts and they also used green and white chequers.[7]

While the Sillitoe Tartan is not used in the dress uniform of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, it does appear on the force's baseball caps, motorcycle helmets and high-visibility jackets.

Blue and white chequers are also associated with the police, and may be used on vehicles and signage. Subsequent to the launching of Battenburg markings on police vehicles in the 1990s, the police introduced retro-reflective versions of the Sillitoe tartan markings to their uniforms, usually in blue and white, rather than the blue and yellow used on vehicles.

Many police force’s have a sky blue and white Sillitoe Tartan hatband as part of their PCSOs uniform. This is as a result of moves by the trade union UNISON to develop a national law enforcemeent uniform within the UK.

As a result of this the blue and white Sillitoe Tartan has been taken up by a number of municipal organisations, including the London Borough of Newham Law Enforcement and Nottingham City Council Community Protection,who are accredited under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme. It is also being taken on by a number of private security organisations (most notably Canary Wharf Security) in recognition that they are now part of the extended poling family.


Blue and white chequers have become the ubiquitous symbol of policing in Australia. The pattern was introduced into the country by the Commissioner of the South Australia Police in 1961, following a fact-finding tour of Glasgow in 1960.[8] The police forces of the remaining states and territories progressively adopted the pattern during the 1970s.[8]

While blue and white chequers denotes police across Australia (with the notable exception of the Australian Federal Police, which uses black and white chequers), other coloured chequered patterns may be used to denote other emergency services and particular usage varies from state to state. For example, in New South Wales (NSW) the Ambulance Service uses red and white chequers on ambulances and paramedic's uniforms, while the State Emergency Service uses orange and white Sillitoe Tartan. St. John Ambulance uses a white and green pattern on their vehicles and operational uniforms in both South Australia and Victoria. In New South Wales the Roads and Traffic Authority Traffic Emergency Patrol have adopted a yellow and purple Sillitoe Tartan[9] whereas the Victorian counterpart, VicRoads have adopted a green and white variant.[10]

File:NSWPF TB Byron Bay Holden SS Commodore.jpg
New South Wales Police highway patrol vehicle with blue and white chequers
File:NZ NF counter-protest.jpg
Police officer in New Zealand with chequered band on hat and stab vest
File:NSW SES Wagga.jpg
NSW State Emergency Service vehicles with orange and white chequers
National patterns
80px State/Territory/Service Police Blue / White
80px Australian Federal Police Black / White
80px State/Territory Emergency Service Orange / White
State patterns
80px NSW: Ambulance Service
Northern Territory: Fire and Rescue Service
Victoria: Country Fire Authority
Red / White
80px NSW: Patient Transport Service
NSW: Volunteer Rescue Association
South Australia and Victoria: St. John Ambulance,
Victoria: VicRoads Transport Safety Services
Green / White
80px South Australia: Metropolitan Fire Service Red / Navy
80px South Australia: Country Fire Service Red / Orange
80px NSW: Corrective Services,
South Australia: Police - Protective Security Services,
Victoria: Police - Protective Services Officers,
NSW: Marine Rescue NSW
Yellow / Navy
80px NSW: Fire and Rescue NSW,

South Australia: Country Fire Service, NSW: Surf Life Saving Australia

Yellow / Red
80px NSW: Roads and Maritime Services Traffic Emergency Patrol

Northern Territory: Department of Transport - Transit Safety Services

Yellow / Royal purple

New Zealand Police

General law enforcement in New Zealand is the responsibility of the country's national police service. The New Zealand Police wear a blue uniform, similar in colour to those found in Australia, and share the same three-row Sillitoe Tartan of blue and white. The pattern is also borne across stab vests and elsewhere.


Use of the Sillitoe Tartan is rare in Canada and is usually limited to auxiliary police services. For example, the Toronto Police Auxiliary wear a red and black chequered band on their caps.

A two-row Chicago-style Sillitoe tartan is borne on the high-visibility vests of the Vancouver Police (along the edges of the horizontal and vertical reflective strips), but not on their high-visibility jackets nor other uniforms.

United States

Only a few police forces in the United States have adopted the chequered pattern: the Chicago Police Department, Cook County Sheriff's Police, Brookfield (Illinois) Police, Forest Park (Illinois) Police, Evergreen Park (Illinois) Police, Hillside (Illinois) Police, and the Pittsburgh Police. The American departments use a two-row pattern, instead of the three-row pattern common in Europe and Australasia. Many other departments in the United States and Canada, while lacking the tartan on their cap bands, have begun using two-row reflective versions as part of the design on high-visibility outer garments and vests.

File:Chicago police with sillitoe.jpg
Chicago Police officers with Sillitoe Tartan hat bands and horse bridle
  • Chicago Police Department's pattern is dark blue and white for patrolmen and detectives, and dark blue and gold for sergeants and higher ranks. Sillitoe Tartan caps were introduced in 1967.[11][12] The band is around not only the department's service caps, but winter knit caps, summer baseball-style caps, the campaign hats and horse bridles of the mounted unit, bicycle helmets, and dog collars as well; it is not worn on the fur trim winter hat nor the light blue riot/motorcycle helmets. The Chicago Police also use the pattern on some signage, graphics, and architectural detail on newer police stations.
  • The police of Brookfield, Forest Park, Hillside, and Evergreen Park follow the same color protocols as nearby Chicago, although Evergreen Park and Hillside use black rather than dark blue, in keeping with their uniforms.
  • The Pittsburgh Police use a dark navy blue and gold pattern, in keeping with their uniform colors. The arms of the city of Pittsburgh derive from those of the city's namesake, William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham; both coats of arms display a "fess chequy argent and azure", or a blue and white checkered band across the middle of the shield. The use of the checkered pattern by the Pittsburgh police is thus not only in keeping with the practice of various police departments, but is also a direct reference to the city's coat of arms and flag.
  • Whilst not part of their standard uniform, officers from the Joliet Police Department (Illinois) have been noted to wear a green and white chequerboard band around their hats during the Chicago's Saint Patrick's Day Parade.[13]
  • In Florida Deerfield Beach Fire Station 102 use a yellow and red 3 tier sillitoe tartan pattern on the sides of their rescue amubulance. This pattern is identical to that used by Fire and Rescue NSW.


Blue and white sillitoe tartan is used by the several local Spanish police forces. Both the Toledo and Mijas local policia use a three tiered version on vehicles in a fashion very similar to Australian police vehicles.[14][15][16] The Ajuntament de Sóller and Barcelona (Guàrdia Urbana) local Policía both use two tiered blue and white versions.[17][18]


The Royal Brunei Police Force use blue and white sillitoe tartan on various police vehicles but not on uniforms.[19][20]


The Royal Malaysia Police use a gold and blue sillitoe tartan on vehicles but not on any uniforms or insignia.[21][22]

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Police Force use to a limited extent both two and three tier blue/white Sillitoe Tartan schemes (Battenburg markings) on traffic vehicles. This pattern appears to be similar to the Australian style of police markings.[23][24]

The Netherlands

The plan for a national uniform for local municipal enforcement officers contains the Sillitoe Tartan patterns on the cap and shirts, sweaters and jackets on a uniform similar to that of the Spanish local police.


The different emergency units of Norway can be distinguished by the colour scheme of the sillitoe tartan, where the checker pattern alternates between a colour and reflective white squares.

  • Police: matte black and reflective white checker - Used only on clothing uniform
  • Fire brigade: reflective red and reflective white checker - Used on clothing and vehicle uniform
  • Ambulance/paramedic: reflective green and reflective yellow checker - Used on clothing and vehicle uniform
  • Civil defence: blue and white checker - Used only on clothing uniform

See also


  1. "Sillitoe Tartan". AFP National Police Memorial Steering Committee. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  2. "South Australia Police Historical Society". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  3. "hampstead heath constabulary - Google Search". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  4. "hampstead heath constabulary - Google Search". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  5. "Picture of Billingsgate Market Constabulary Officers (these are not police officers)" (JPG). Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  6. "Photograph" (JPG). Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  7. "Photograph" (JPG). Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Know your profession". Australian Federal Police. March 2000. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  9. "All sizes - RTA - Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  10. "Photograph" (JPG). Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  11. "Photograph" (JPG). Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  12. "Photograph" (JPG). Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  13. "ChicagoClout". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  14. "Mitsubishi Montero. Policía local Mijas". Flickr. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  15. "All sizes - Policia Local Mijas. - Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  16. "Police Car Photos". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  17. "Policia Local". Flickr. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  18. "Police Car Photos". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  19. "Police Car Photos". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  20. "Toyota Corolla police cars". Flickr. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  21. "Police Car Photos". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  22. "Only half of police weapons lost recovered". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  23. "All sizes - Hong Kong Police Force Senior Constable (SPC) & Mercedes Sprinter - Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  24. "Hong Kong Traffic Police Car". Flickr. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 

External links