The Rise of Plaid and its Continued Relevance

 

Plaid is one of those fashion items that have been around for a long time and don’t seem to be going out of style anytime soon. Plaid fashion somehow finds a way to be appropriate for any season and can be styled for any occasion if you do it right. Plaid shirts, plaid winter coats, Plaid Shoes, and most recently plaid blazers have been the trending fashion. It’s all about social media and stylists and models continue to share pictures and fashion tips on how to style it. From the united states to Europe (where it’s called checkers) plaid cuts across countries and cultural boundaries to be a fashion constant. What are its origins really? Not very often des a print becomes so popular and even used as a top design brands brand statement( Dolce and Gabbana Plaid). Let’s explore its origins and history and how it becomes what it is today.

The History and Origins of Plaid

The 16th Century: Plaid didn’t always mean what it does today. The etymology of the word goes back to Scottish in which plaid meant a blanket which served as an outer layer to battle the Highland elements. The unique pattern we know as plaid today was called Tartan which refers to the unique cloth patterns which distinguish one Scottish clan or geographical region from another. Plaid, as we know today,  was coined from the Scottish culture and appropriated by British and American manufacturers, who created a patterned fabric which resembled tartan. Then, plaid was considered a high esteem fabric often used by royals and men and women of high honor. In 1538 King James V, who gifted his wife with several bolts of the material.

 

The 18th Century: In the 18th century, plaid was actually banned in Britain. Fabric rebel uniform association with the Scottish Rebellion of 1745 against the union of Scotland and England, making tartan prohibited in the country for nearly half a century under the Dress Act. The print didn’t really resurface again until 1782 when plaid became legal, and it became in vogue to wear plaid gowns to formal occasions. Given the role played is playing in the current hipster culture, it won’t be such a bad idea to learn from history and ban plaid in Brooklyn at least for a couple of months.

1850-1950: During the 19th century, after the ban was lifted, the plaid pattern became very popular in the US. Partly because of the huge immigration from Europe that was happening. In this time, it became a lot more known and started its creep into modern fashion. A Midwestern company Woolrich Woolen Mills gave plaid’s popularity a boost when they originated Buffalo plaid in the 1850s. Buffalo plaid’s distinctive red and black checkered pattern became a staple amongst those in outdoor professions — most notably, lumberjacks. Clothing company Pendleton debuted a mass-produced plaid shirt for men in 1924, which became an instant casual wear hit. In 1936, flannel caught its next big break: During a particularly bitter winter snowstorm, the little town of Cedar Springs began to produce its own red flannel, and the print began to take root as a winter staple. Pendleton responded to the upswing in interest by debuting a female version of the shirt in 1949.

 

1990s: The plaid flannel shirt became the unofficial symbol of the grunge movement in the early 1990s. Music bands like Nirvana and The Breeders popularized plaid in the grunge scene and wore it as their signature fashion. At this point, fashion brands started to pick up the print too and add it to their collections. For example, Marc Jacobs in 1993 released a grunge-inspired Spring collection. Empire Records followed soon after, and Liv Tyler’s ultra-mini plaid skirt and fuzzy blue sweater became an iconic countercultural image. In 1995, couture designer Alexander McQueen took up Jacobs and Westwood’s gauntlet by infusing his collection with tartan, naming the collection “Highland Rape” in reference to Scotland’s mistreatment by the English in 1800s. And in 1995 in the movie Clueless Cher popularized the print further by wearing plaid and making it her statement style. Since then plaid has been more mainstream and continues to be so despite different social groups trying to identify with it as a their unique counterculture unique fashion statement.

 

Current Times: Plaid today can be seen as an unorthodox pattern but plaid in 2013 is very different from plaid in 2017 in terms of how it’s styled and what fashion statement it makes. In 2013  Hedi Slimane designed Saint Laurent’s Fall 2014 line, critics were aghast at his blatant channeling of grunge. And then plaid increasingly became associated with hipsters who saw wearing plaid as a statement to what they identified with:

lumberjacks, minimalism, coffee, facial hair etc. Plaid is still a major print for hipsters and in 2017 it again has been reinvented what it means. Plaid for many is not a high fashion print. With its emergence in Instagram style and fashion industry leaders wearing plaid skirts, plaid dresses, plaid jackets and even plaid shoes.

Looking at the history of plaid and the journey so far it’s safe to say that plaid will continue to reinvent itself in order to stay relevant with the times. Its unique ability to blend with anything you style it with doesn’t hurt either. No matter what you pair it with plaid always finds a way to make you look completely in control and natural while wearing it.