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What’s with the U.S.’s love affair with plaid? (OP-ED)

Plaid clothing has been a consistent staple in the closets of many Americans throughout the years. Some might see it as another tacky trend, but its longevity within popular culture would be outrageous to ignore. So, why has plaid remained so popular in the U.S.? 

The pattern first made its way to the U.S. sometime within the 19th century from Europe. Plaid comes from the iconic tartan pattern from Scotland used by Scottish tribes. According to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the term “plaid” referred to a specific blanket or cape using the tartan pattern. It’s likely that the use of the term plaid changed when people in the Americas began to fashion clothing out of these blankets to stay warm. The pattern quickly gained popularity among those with outdoor professions and the working class.

With that said, it is unsurprising that the pattern was picked up by the Woolrich Woolen Mills company in 1850. This company produced the well-known Buffalo plaid shirt that has become a signature look for many outdoor professionals, specifically lumberjacks. Plaid saw another spike in popularity in the 1920s when the Pendleton clothing company debuted their plaid shirts for men, eventually producing women’s clothing in plaid in the late 1940s. The pattern wasn’t strictly for the outdoors anymore, and it quickly was adopted by the wealthy.

However, as time moved on, plaid slowly crept away from its roots in the outdoors to more countercultural styles like grunge. According to Bustle, bands like Nirvana, The Breeders, and Pearl Jam co-opting the pattern in their style continued the popularity of the pattern with the youth. 

That said, in the current day, plaid isn’t regulated towards one specific fashion style. According to “Sex and the City ” and “The Devil Wears Prada” costume designer Molly Rodgers to Refinery29, plaid is “bold” but also “subtle” at the same time. It’s a versatile style that for some represents the rustic style of the outdoors and for others is another stylish vintage wear. In recent years, plaid has also become a signature look for the fall season within the U.S. and Canada.

With how intertwined plaid has become within U.S. culture, it’s unlikely that it will ever go away, and why should it?


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