Theoretically, this tartan cannot be worn without the express permission of the Queen. However, the Scottish Register of Tartans observes that in practice, due to its popularity, it has become a Universal tartan, which can be worn by anyone who has no own clan tartan. "In the same way that clansmen wear the tartan of their chief, it is appropriate for all subjects of the Queen to wear the Royal Stewart tartan." Colin W Hutcheson attributes this universalization to "commercialisation in recent times"; traditionally, the Black Watch or Hunting Stewart tartan were Universal tartans requiring no permission.
In addition to its use in clothing, such as skirts and scarves, Royal Stewart tartan has also appeared on biscuit tins for Scottish shortbread. In the 1960s the tartan became well known in motor racing circles, as British three-time Formula One World Champion Jackie Stewart from Scotland used a distinctive band of Royal Stewart tartan around his crash helmet. In the late 1970s the Royal Stewart tartan became popular in punk fashion.