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3 Fashionable Prints We Can Thank Scotland For

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

I am currently living (quarantining) in Scotland and since I can’t hike the Highlands right now I have decided to explore the country's fashionable history. I did some research on three classic and famous prints that got their start right here in bonnie Scotland!

flag scotland travel blog

Enjoy this read and, as always, click the numbers in square brackets to check out all the references!


Obviously the first one we think of!

tartan plaid fashion style blog chic pattern print scotland

Tartan is an ancient print with the oldest known Scottish tartans dating back to the 3rd or 4th centuries A.D. [i] It is mainly associated with the Highland region of Scotland but has been worn traditionally in other parts of the country as well. Tartans were first made with only two or three colours, dyed using plants, berries, and other things found in the area. These tartans were worn by the local people and so became associated with them, later becoming their “clan tartans” [ii]. Over time tartans have become more complex with a wide range of colours to choose from.

Many owners of larger estates would have tartan weavers create custom patterns using colours commonly found on the estate. This fabric would then be used to make uniforms for their staff (how chic!).

bagpipes scotland travel blog

Classic bagpiper

Royals were known to use tartan as early as 1471 when King James III bought the cloth for himself and the queen [iii]. The Highlands region has been exporting the fabric since the 16th century but it had a dip in popularity by the end of the 1700s. Many people believed this was because the British parliament banned tartans from public but this is only partially true. "Highland Dress" (most famous piece would be the kilt!) was banned in the Dress Act of 1746 which meant people ended up wearing much less tartan even though the cloth itself was never banned [iv]. In 1822 there was a “great tartan revival” where the popularity of the print took off again and a registration process for tartans was created [v].

Many contemporary designers love tartan including Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, and maybe most famously, Burberry.

high fashion ysl style tartan print pattern



Chic and preppy, a sock and sweater staple

socks boots fashion argyle print pattern blog chic

Here for the mismatched socks

The inspiration for argyle originally comes from Argyll, Scotland where the Campbell Clan had a family tartan with a similar square print [vi]. Scottish Highlanders also wore socks that had a similar diamond pattern which were often called “tartan hose” [vii].

In the 1920s luxury company Pringle of Scotland used the tartan and socks as the inspiration for the diamond motif we now know and love! It was initially worn by the Duke of Windsor and apparently all the stylish people of the day loved it. Since then it has been a popular staple around the world and designers like Molly Goddard, Victoria Beckham, and Chloé have used versions of it in many collections.

dog jacket argyle print pattern blue fashion style blog

Also popular with dogs


Not just for your dad’s ties!

necktie ties paisley print colours fashion mens blog

Your dad is pretty stylish though

This mesmerizing design is originally a Persian motif that can be traced back to the Sassanid Empire from 221 A.D. [viii] It was designed as a representation of the Cypress tree and signifies life and eternity in Zoroastrianism (one of the world's oldest religions) [ix]. The pattern spread all over Asia and South East Asia and could be seen everywhere from royal outfits to carvings on buildings.

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Ornate ceiling of a mosque

In the 1600s paisley started to show up on shawls that the East India Company brought throughout Europe [x]. The price of these scarves was extremely high so in the early 1800s weavers began using the print to create more affordable accessories [xi]. The main producer of these shawls was a little city just outside Glasgow, Scotland called, you guessed it, Paisley! There is a Thread Mill Museum in Paisley that once made paisley cotton thread and was established in 1812, click here to get the details on visiting!

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Paisley has endless design possibilities

The pattern continued to remain popular until it exploded in the 1960s, mainly because of The Beatles. The band rocked paisley (pun absolutely intended) constantly and John Lennon even painted his Rolls Royce with it [xii]! It has continued to be a symbol of Rock n’ Roll and bohemian vibes and has been used by most major fashion houses like Yves Saint Laurent, Etro, and Hermès.

fashion chic paisley scarf outfit style

Personally I love a good print and the fact that these classic and beautiful ones are all from my adoptive home just makes them that much better!

viaduct scotland travel inverness blog

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland

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