All those who are interested in retro or vintage clothing will be aware of the popularity and cultural significance of mens paisley shirts. Nowadays, this pattern is frequently worn on shirts and ties as an additional element that brings some colour to any outfit. Paisley is most often worn by men, and comes in a range of shades and styles that can be bold and vibrant or soft and subtle.
So, how exactly did this pattern come to be on shirts and ties and what made it so popular? These are all questions often asked by those who are interested in its history, and this pattern does indeed have a detailed and surprising past.
Where did it come from?
The paisley pattern started in the 11th century in India at a place called Kashmir. Originally, it featured a cypress tree with a floral spray which represented life and fertility, a lucky charm to all those who wore it.
Later on, in the 16th century, it grew in popularity when kashmir shawls were made with the pattern printed on a fabric which was woven with goat’s hair. These quality pieces were often worn by people of importance as they were not cheap to produce. As time went on, these garments were worn by royalty and considered as robes of honour, and slowly made their way into European cities.
These garments were often given as gifts to European officers by those travelling from India which meant that those of high status would likely have one in their wardrobe. As these were so rare to find, they held a very high value and were too expensive for the average person to afford.
Finally, in the 19th century, the pattern gained its name ‘paisley’ as they were mostly made in the town of Paisley in Scotland, where many mistakenly believe that the garments originated from. Here, these Kashmir-inspired shawls became accessible to any and so its popularity grew even further.
When did it peak in the UK?
In the 60’s and 70’s, the loud and bright colours of Paisley were worn by anyone and everyone following the influence of the psychedelic era. This period was heavily influenced by popular music genres of the time that favoured love and peace, complemented by clothes of all textures and colours.
During this time, flared trousers, mens paisley shirts, womens dresses and suits became popular as people made a statement with their clothing about their beliefs.
Its popularity faded as the use of bold colours became less common, however it did make a comeback in the 1990s when mod culture and rock ‘n’ roll celebrities regularly wore it to keep the pattern alive and nod to the era during the 70’s of making a statement with clothing.
Because of its colours, the pattern was often used to accentuate an outfit as part of a suit, a bandana or tie and this trend has continued through to the current day with famous designers still featuring the paisley pattern on the runway each season.
Currently, mens paisley shirts are the most frequently worn item that features this iconic pattern, although it can be hard to find the design as it would have originally been. There are plenty of online retailers who have replicated this style, but it has been diluted by high street retailers significantly.
Who wears paisley?
Made popular in the 60’s by celebrities such as The Beatles, Mick Jagger, David Bowie and many more who wore this pattern during their shows on mens paisley shirts or as statement trousers, it’s no wonder this pattern was popular among the masses.
John Lennon, a famous member of The Beatles even has his car painted in the iconic paisley print, while the other members often wore paisley scarves and men’s shirts to symbolise 70s culture and the political attitudes of that time.
Later on, in the 90s, band members from Oasis often revived the print by wearing paisley mens shirts as part of their mod style that symbolised rock ‘n’ roll during this period.
How is it worn?
Wearing paisley can be tricky for those who are not familiar with it. Most will choose to wear subtle pieces such as accessories featuring the pattern but some will make a bold statement with a printed jacket or trousers. For a look somewhere in between extreme and subtle, choose a paisley shirt with easy-to-wear colours such as block, white or burgundy.
For a formal occasion, a dark blue colourway could be a great way to bring some colour to your outfit without being too bold, and is a great way to show understanding of retro and vintage fashion. Alternatively, a paisley tie looks great on top of a plain white shirt and can be worn in any colour of your choice without stealing the show.
The best thing about paisley is that it is adaptable for any occasion and can be worn as a show-stopper or a simple accessory. A paisley waistcoat peeking through a suit jacket adds some personality to your look, while a mens paisley shirt worn on its own is enough of a style statement.
There are not many prints that have stood the test of time that paisley has, and even after its lengthy history, most who wear it will have no idea where it came from or how it came to be so popular. Hopefully, now, you will have a clearer understanding of the paisley patterns and what it represents, so that next time you wear it you will have an interesting story to tell about your paisley piece.