A Brief History of Paisley

Paisley: you’re familiar with it, and you’ve probably got at least one paisley shirt or tie lurking in the back of your wardrobe. But do you actually know where the print comes from? Well, wonder no more. Here are six little-known facts about the history of paisley.

  1. It references a design motif originating in Persia.

The teardrop-shaped motif used in the pattern is called a boteh in Persian. The word means bush, a flower bud or cluster of leaves. It is thought to be a stylised reference to floral arrangements or cypress trees, possibly relating to symbols in Zoroastrian religion.

  1. The fabric has origins in India.

While the boteh motif is of Persian origin, it’s incorporation into the fabric design known as paisley is thought to have originated in India, where many iterations of the boteh were fitted together to form a rich pattern.

  1. It was introduced to Europe in the 17th century.

In the 1600s, fabric featuring the design was manufactured in France, England and Holland using fabric printing techniques for mass production. The fabric became popular across the Baltic region in the 1700s.

  1. The word ‘paisley’ is of Scottish origin. 

The fabric became popular in Scotland in the 1800s, to the point that it came to be named (in English) after the Scottish town of Paisley. Paisley was a key centre for the weaving of this fabric in the English-speaking world, and so the town’s name was adopted as the name of the fabric.

  1. It’s an icon of psychedelia.

In the late 1960s, paisley became associated with psychedelia. This is perhaps due to a mainstream revival of the pattern in the early to mid 60s, partially thanks to The Beatles. Such was its popularity during 1967’s Summer of Love that it is commonly identified with psychedelic fashion to this day.

  1. It has been used as a national emblem for Azerbaijan. 

At the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Azerbaijani team’s uniforms incorporated pants with a boteh design. The motif also featured in the logo for the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, which was held in Azerbaijan.