A brief history of Paisley.

Feb 03, 2013

Paisley bow tieThe great thing about paisley is that you no longer need a country estate and a hereditary seat in the House of Lords to wear it. What used to be the quintessential gentleman wear to show off your foreign tours over a cigar has now filtered down to the rest of us. Nothing screams success and after-eights mints more than paisley bow ties, smoking jackets and cravats.

Like the chicken tikka the British Empire knicked this design off an oriental country and paraded it around it as our own. The classic twisted teardrop paisley design is Iranian in origin, often weaved into carpets and wallpapers rather than clothing and had a special spiritual significance among Hindus. India and Persia can also claim to be the birth places of paisley where the design was crafted for a variety of uses from paintings, textiles to garden landscaping for around 2000 years.

All this was before European powers began to capitalise and exploit it for profit. The British word paisley is owed to the Scottish town that shares its name which was a major site of import and manufacturing for the design. One of the French words for Paisley palme derives from the palm tree thought to have originally influenced the pattern.

Paisley could have remained in higher echelons of society for all time; stuck beyond the reach of average joe belonging to some bygone era before it petered out.

Paisley John Lennon

But like a lot of cultural things The Beatles managed to bail us out. After the foursome’s 1968 pilgrimage to India they were rarely seen out of paisley, Lennon in particular. Since then the pattern has had more of a psychedelic contemporary significance that is as relatable as their music.

Even in this modern age I remain a fierce advocate of the paisley dressing gown. No matter how hung over you happen to be or how miserable the weather is outside you can tackle any morning in a paisley dressing gown.  It has that power. All round chap Fred Astaire, star of 1951 Royal Wedding and 1935’s Top Hat, was so committed to the paisley dressing gown he requested to be buried in his favourite number.

Other worthwhile items include the bowtie. Don’t worry about looking like Doctor Who. Throw caution to the wind. It has versatility. Use that to your advantage.Cravats are also a paisley possibility. As is the waistcoat and most especially the scarf. Don’t be afraid of them.You are now armed with the rich history and significance of this design: now get out there and sport it.

James Fredrick Gray
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