It’s Part Of A Pattern.

Paisley is sort of my signature. Whenever I’m going to a special event at work or elsewhere I like to wear a paisley shirt. Once when I was going out with some friends they were waiting in their car and I came out wearing a paisley shirt and one of my friends said, “Where does he find those wonderful shirts?” If I remember correctly that particular one was from a secondhand store because a lot of paisley gets thrown away, and I’m okay with that because if paisley isn’t popular then I don’t have to worry about anyone stealing my style. I didn’t even tell my friend my secret, although if he reads this he’ll probably figure it out, but that’s another story.

For my birthday and Christmas, which come close together, my wife bought me a bunch of paisley shirts and she said the store had so many of them she had to limit herself to just the ones she really liked which was good news because it meant I now have several new shirts and possibly bad news is paisley is becoming so popular everyone’s going to start wearing it. And I beg you: please don’t.

Anyway it got me wondering about the pattern’s origins; it turns out paisley has a pretty colorful history. In India the pattern was called boteh, a word meaning “flower”, where it was used in ceremonial robes given as rewards for various favors. In the 18th century it was imported to Europe, specifically to the town of Paisley, Scotland, hence the name, and the difficulty of producing a paisley pattern prompted the adoption of the Jacquard loom. The town of Paisley became an important manufacturing area and paisley shawls took off in popularity. There were even legal battles over copyrighted paisley patterns although the Persian and Indian weavers who produced many of the designs that Europeans copied never got a cut.

Paisley wearing paisley. Source: IMDB

In the early 20th century cheap cotton bandanas with paisley prints made their way across the American west, but the pattern fell out of vogue until the psychedelic Sixties. John Lennon had his Rolls Royce painted with paisley designs, a bit of a callback to its regal history, and it’s probably not a coincidence that the antihero of Roger Corman’s A Bucket Of Blood, in a not-so-subtle jab at coffee shop culture, is named Walter Paisley.

And that’s a brief history of the paisley pattern and why it’s one that I’ve picked.

10 Comments

  1. mydangblog

    Cool. My dad is from Paisley and I still have a lot of family there, as well as a Paisley scarf that he gave me years ago😊

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That is really cool that you have a Paisley scarf from Paisley. One of the books I read for research on the paisley pattern said that for a time because of shawls and things it became associated with older people and only became hip again in the ’60’s, but I think paisley has always been cool.

      Reply
  2. Bryce Warden

    I love paisley – thanks for the history on it.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It was really fascinating looking into the history of paisley and I’m glad you and other people enjoyed it too.

      Reply
  3. Allison

    I tell people my favorite color is paisley. I love prints in general, but I own a lot of paisley.

    So, good for you! Keep being zazzy!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s funny that I’m often shy or reserved but also enjoy talking to people, and the zazzy style can be a conversation starter. Although there’s also the saying that clothes make us, so I like to think bold designs will make me a bolder person.

      Reply
  4. Ann Koplow

    Thanks for the colorful rewards of this post, my paisley friend.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you for another colorful comment.

      Reply
  5. Jay

    I never knew!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      When I started digging into the history of paisley it was amazing to me that it was almost as deep and complicated as the things people see in the pattern itself.

      Reply

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