I saw a person with a plaid shirt and the thought popped into my head: that is so old-fashioned and out of date. Probably from the back of the closet looking for a cold sort of day.
I find out that the etymology of the word is unclear - Scottish - perhaps from the past participle form of ply. Scottish gaelic plaide meant blanket. I hadn't realized that 'full plaid' is actually a tartan.
The British made it important in the 1500's where it was considered a fabric of high esteem amongst royalty. Then it became associated with the Scottish Rebellion of 1745 so was banned in Britain.
The North American usage is around plaid shirts, typically flannel. What we know of as the lumberjack shirt - the red and black checkered pattern - was the well-known pattern of the U.S. during the late 1800s. Named the Buffalo plaid, it supposedly got its name after the herd of buffalo owned by Woolwich Woolen Mills' designer. It became popular with outdoor workers - hence the lumberjack association.
Not until the 1920's did it move into casual men's wear. The little town of Cedar Springs began its own plaid, today celebrated in the Red Flannel Festival. Plaid was very popular in the 1970s, and became appropriated by the punk movement with ripped layers and shredded shirts. Vivienne Westwood popularized her punk-inspired plaid, and it became a symbol of rebellion - this time cultural. Into the 1980s and then the 1990s the plaid flannel shirt became the unofficial symbol of the grunge movement. Nirvana, The Breeders, Pearl Jam all wore plaids.
So back to my reaction to a fellow in a plaid shirt yesterday. I can now say it was the lumberjack association that came to my mind and not Pearl Jam.
Here is that buffalo plaid that is so familiar to us all.
So where is plaid most popular today? Look at the Christmas decorations below. Looks like buffalo plaid is here to stay.
Our pictures show the Michigan sky and the scenic tree-lined road along the Lake.