A History and Guide to Plaid

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A History and Guide to Plaid

Plaid is one of fashion’s classic designs that is suitable for all ages and genders, but how did plaid come to be? How is it made? And what about it made it so popular in the first place? We hope to answer these questions any many more for curious shoppers looking into the origins of plaid.

History of Plaid

This fabric first came from none other country than Scotland. Though they have had a special plaid pattern known as tartan, a pattern consisting of vertical and horizontal lines crisscrossing each other. Scottish kilts have always adopted tartan patterns. To reiterate, tartan is a type of plaid, and it happens to be the first type of plaid ever known to exist.

Tartan plaid has been known to exist as early as 800 B.C., albeit the fabric didn’t really become a staple of Scottish culture until past 1500 A.D. Tartan had quite an unusual history outside of Scotland. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, Tartan’s influence spread to the United Kingdom, and due to its complex design and appearance, it became a luxury item associated with kings and nobles. This was true in England despite commoners still wearing the textile in Scotland.
Plaid, tartan or otherwise, was banned in England when the Scottish rebelled against the British in the 18th century. Scottish troops wore tartan uniforms of green and navy, thus, it became a symbol of England’s new enemy.

Plaid in Fashion

In the 19th century, however, tartan fabrics had made their way to the United States thanks to groups of Scottish immigrants. This was when other forms of plaid began to take off, such as “buffalo plaid”. Since then, plaid was more available and had been made in more varieties than ever before. In the 1970s, plaid had been made for clothes such as shirts, pants, and even home decor. It also was incorporated in new styles and fads, such as the punk, grunge, and hipster styles.

How to Wear Plaid

There is no shortage of plaid clothing today, available in places from plus size wholesale vendors to big box stores.

Plaid is made today just like other fabrics are, but the threads are dyed in a certain color and are arranged in a way that creates the interesting pattern you see on clothes. It’s really not any different than that.
There are many types of plaid you can buy in clothing today. The popular kinds are as follows:

Tartan is the classic pattern that started it all. There are many variations of this pattern that signify different Scottish armies and tailors at their respective times, such as Royal Stewart, Black Watch, Burberry, and Clan Wallace, the latter has been associated with 3M for a long time. Tartan plaid is often incorporated into school uniforms.

Gingham is a type of checkerboard plaid, using two simple colors to create four colors that alternate with one another. The classic gingham fabric uses white and blue threads, but “buffalo plaid” clothes actually use red and black. The plaid got its name from Scottish trader John McCluskey, who often exchanged the plaid to Native Americans for buffalo. Buffalo plaid had been since then popularized by lumberjacks.
Houndstooth is another common type of plaid, favorable to women in the corporate scene. Similar to a checkerboard pattern, this pattern is commonly made of white and black threads to create an exclusive, gray garment.

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