As the temperatures slowly drop and the days darken and shorten, away goes pastel and out comes plaid. But though we gravitate towards plaid in the warmer months, the pattern is not only meant for wool blankets and overcoats. Plaid can have many different personalities, and it has a long but less well-known history in the world of classy, sophisticated fashion.
The History of Plaid
It turns out that plaid has a rich past dating back thousands of years, as early as the 8th century. As reported by Smithsonian.com, “plaids” were actually originally not a pattern at all but the type of heavy winter cloaks worn by the Scottish long ago. The cloaks bore tartan patterns, which look similar to the plaid patterns we know today. Tartan colors were specific to different regions of Scotland based on which food dyes were available, so they came to represent the people and clans who lived in those areas.
In the 1700s, the Scottish army revolted against Britain. The Royal Highland Regiment, known also as the Black Watch regiment, led the rebellion while donning a specific green and blue tartan pattern known as Black Watch Plaid. For the next several decades afterward, plaid was actually banned in England. During the 19th century, as people immigrated out of Scotland and brought with them their tartan patterns, plaid became popular again in both England and the United States.
Clan and family tartans survived through the ages until today. Rick Paulas writes in The Pacific Standard that in 1969, Commander Alan Bean, who was part of NASA’s Apollo 12 mission, actually brought his family’s tartan with him to the moon.
Plaid Gains Class
Though plaid is known for being part of the dress code for lumberjacks, the British punk movement in the 1980s, and 90s American grunge, it also began being used in classy, more refined dress. After Britain legalized the pattern again in the late 18th century, fashionable women actually started wearing plaid gowns to parties.
In the 1800s, the Prince of Wales started to wear a particular black, white, and gray plaid pattern now known as the check of the Prince of Wales. The pattern has four dark and light alternating stripes crossing with eight dark and light alternating stripes in a reserved yet sophisticated looking pattern. Until today, this pattern is considered refined and formal, worn by successful men. It was famously used for the character of James Bond, as well as other classy character-types in cinema.
In the 1920s, Burberry, the high-end designer brand, came out with their signature plaid pattern, used originally as lining for their trench coats. Princess Diana further popularized plaid’s classy style in the 1980s, even while the punk movement was going on in England. The plaid pattern only continued to gain popularity after that by the fashion world, used as preppy schoolwear in the iconic movie Clueless, and featuring in Marc Jacobs’ 1993 Spring Collection.
Why Wear Plaid Today?
Plaid will always be classic, no matter if your style is preppy or relaxed. In the 2000s, plaid made a major fashion comeback and became immensely popular on the runway and in stores. Every closet should contain at least one plaid article of clothing. Whether you want to show off your classy or your casual side, there is a plaid style for you. At High Bar Shirt Co., we carry a variety of plaid patterns to satisfy your every plaid craving. Embrace the long, deep history of plaid and pick out your favorite today!