Plaid was not always the country’s pattern of choice. It was not always the totem of everything hipster and independent. In fact, it was not always Alexander McQueen or Vivienne Westwood’s favourite preppy and punk connotation. Before all this popularity, it distinguished clans and regions apart.
A Highland Element
Plaid was originally a Celtic kilt or blanket used by Highlanders to battle the weathering elements of the region they lived in. It was only later that British and American manufacturers appropriated it into a patterned fabric resembling tartan.
Before it reached your favourite online shops like 5Pointz.co.uk and before your hipster-adjacent friends began wearing them, plaid went through distinguishing phases. During the 18th century, it was literally forbidden in Britain. Later, it resurfaced and became in vogue to wear plaid to formal occasions.
The Lumberjack and Other Aesthetics
The credit for plaid becoming the moniker we know today goes to Woolrich Wolen Mills. It was in the 1850s when the distinctive red and black chequered pattern became the staple among outdoor professions, most notably, of lumberjacks.
Other than the lumberjack aesthetics which began again recently among millennials, the devil-may-care style also flourished, thanks to the checked print. Paired with daring hot pants, plaid became a sexualised symbol. But when paired with Chuck Taylors, eyeliner and messy hair, it becomes soft grunge.
Plaid Goes Where You Want to Go
It could be its long drawn out history or its humble versatility, but plaid can basically assume any image. It can be notoriously grunge or appropriated with high-society. It can champion its counterculture reputation or become accessible to large mass.
It is both mainstream and idiosyncratic. It could be a Marc Jacobs or a thrifted and brandless piece. Either way, it is plaid and it is representative of your style. Today, it is a maverick pattern that can do well paired with pearls, a hipster knapsack or the latest Air Max.