Plaid fabric has long been associated with fall for a very good reason: it’s warm and cozy as the temperature drops! Weather in Scotland, where plaid originated, can notoriously blustery and harsh. During the 1500s, a “plaid” simply meant a kilt or blanket meant to keep the wearer warm. “Tartan” refers to a specific, unique pattern in the weave of a plaid that signified a particular clan, group, or home territory . . . “team colors,” you might say. Highlanders wore, and still wear, their tartan-bearing plaids with great pride. In fact, the wearing of tartan was banned by the English government for a time in the 18th century, as it was considered sign of rebellion against British rule.
During the 19th century, American importers and manufacturers applied the term “plaid” to any tartan-patterned fabric. “Buffalo plaid,” the red-and-black fabric long associated with lumberjacks and other hardy outdoorsmen, is distinctly American, first produced by the Woolrich company in the mid-1800s. Oregon’s Pendleton Woolen Mills began mass-producing their iconic buffalo-plaid shirt for men in 1924 and for women in 1949.
Plaid enjoyed another flirtation with rebellion in the 1990s, when it was favored by grunge rockers.
The fashion world has once again proclaimed plaid “new” again. But this classic never really goes out of style.