25 Facts about Plaid That You Didn’t Know Before

There’s nothing better than expressing our love for plaid than to know more about this great pattern. Despite it being all too familiar, way too many people still mistake the plaid for flannel and vice versa. In this article, we’ll try to get to know more about this fabric pattern being worn by almost everyone! We’re giving you 25 facts about plaid to give more reasons why it has become the pattern of choice with a loyal following from royals to hipsters, plumbers, lumberjacks, and to even the grunge rock music fanatics.

25 Facts and Trivia about Plaid

1. The OLDEST tartan plaid found dates back to 245 AD.

fabric of the oldest tartan

The oldest piece of tartan ever found was found buried amongst what is now known as the Falkirk Hoard, discovered on 9 August 1933. The tiny piece of tartan cloth was found in the mouth of a pot containing some amount of Roman Coins. According to Dr. Fraser Hunt, the main curator of the “Iron Age, Roman, Early History” from the National Museums of Scotland, the Falkirk tartan (named after the place where it was discovered), might have belonged to a local with a high status in the vicinity. Dr. Hunt also had assumptions that the Romans might have bribed the owner of this tartan.

2. Plaid is the Welsh word for “party.”

It’s worth noting that the word plaid is also a Welsh word for “party.” Therfore, when someone says “Plaid Party” it’s a little redundant!

3. 672,000,000 results for the word “plaid”

Just try it. If you input the word “plaid” in the google search bar, this will yield you about 672,000,000 results… and counting! Plaid is so popular; it’s no wonder that the search results will come up with this value.

4. Decided to wear plaid, you’ll be caught for rebellion.

It all started when the first Hanoverian king, King George I took over Scotland. A group of locals called, Jacobites took up arms and started a rebellion in 1715. When they were defeated, the Jacobites started again, four years later yet the Jacobite peoples remained persistent. The Jacobites took up arms again, and as a result, the Disarming Act of 1725 was enforced. Twenty years then, the Jacobites decided to rise in support of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. This rebellion of the Jacobites in 1745 resulted in the enforcement of the Act of Proscription and part of the said act was a clause known as The Dress Act.

battle of culloden
jacobite rising of 1745

The Dress Act of 1745 states that: ‘That from and after the first day of August, one thousand seven hundred and forty seven, no man or boy, within that part of Great Briton called Scotland, other than shall be employed as officers and soldiers in his Majesty’s forces, shall on any pretence whatsoever, wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland Clothes (that is to say) the plaid, philibeg, or little kilt, trowse, shoulder belts, or any part whatsoever of what peculiarly belongs to the Highland garb; and that no tartan, or partly-colored plaid or stuff shall be used for great coats or upper coats’
Long story short, the Highland men who were caught wearing kilts with tartan plaid during the years when The Dress Act of 1746 was in effect were accused of rebellion. Four years later, the Highland men were free again to wear their clan’s tartan plaid.

5. The FIRST EVER subject for a colored photograph

james clerk maxwell tartan ribbon first photograph
Tartan ribbon first photograph

Color photography came about thanks to the suggestion of the Scottish physicist, James Clerk Maxwell. This thought of using three colors for photography was based off on the Young-Helmholtz theory that the human eye has three different cone cells, each susceptible to very different kinds of “lights” from the spectrum; one cone cell was responsive to red, one cone cell to green, and the other cone cell to blue. Upon knowing this, James Maxwell asked his friend, Thomas Sutton, to follow his lead. Thomas took a picture of a tartan ribbon and followed James Clark Maxwell’s prescription in terms of printing the photograph and the rest, as they say, was history.

6. The official Tartan Day

april 6th official tartan day
Official tartan day

The official Tartan day is celebrated on the 6th of April by all Scottish and other Scottish people all around the world. Similar to the Jacobite rebellion in 1746, April 6th is relevant as it wasn’t only the celebration of the pattern but a nation’s history. April 6th is the day that the Declaration of Arbroath was signed. April 6th also marked the independence of Scotland.

7. An ode to the King of Rock and Roll

If you checked the Scottish tartan registry, there are two entries created as an ode to the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Unbeknownst to many, King Elvis had Scottish roots. Being the popular icon of rock music, I guess it can be expected that fans would create tartan plaids for him.
According to his heritage, Elvis Presley has some roots in Lonmay, Aberdeenshire. In 2004, a local designer named, Mike King created the Presley of Lonmay. The Presley of Lonmay has three variations since it came to be and are specifically called the Presley of Lonmay – Ancient Colors, Presley of Lonmay – Modern Colors, and the Presley of Lonmay – Reproduction Colors. The ancient version has distinctive colors in green, black, yellow, and blue. The modern version has purple instead of white, and the reproduction colors are predominantly brown.

elvis presley tartan presley of lonmay
Presley of Lonmay tartan

Another entry in the official Scottish Register of Tartans is the Presley of Memphis. Brian Wilton created this design. This particular sett is predominantly colored with the American flag. The Presley of Memphis ensured that it carried a lot of Elvis Presley. Among which are: (1) the addition of the Rock and Roll king’s favorite color which is pink, (2) the use of gold to symbolize his hits that achieved gold status, (3) the number of thread count is 42 to symbolize the age at the time of Elvis Presley’s death, (4) 8 white narrow bands to symbolize the day in the month in which he was born, and (5) 8 blue bands to symbolize the month in which he died.

8. Another famous icon, Hello Kitty!

Before the popularity of the internet cats like Nyan cat, I Can Has Cheezburger?, and the grumpy cat, there was a cat named Hello Kitty.
Hello Kitty is part of the Sanrio community. Hello Kitty became famous all over the world that one Japanese designer decided to create a tartan as an ode to the popularity of the Japanese cartoon. This Hello Kitty tartan, registered in the Scottish Tartan Registry in 2004, combined pink, red, green, black, white, and yellow, all of which is Hello Kitty’s colors in the cartoons.

9. “Tartan” may have some French origins

Like most of the other Old English words, the word “tartan” is among those that were borrowed from the French vocabulary. It was presumed that the word “tartan” has roots from “tiretaine,” a Middle French word meaning “strong, coarse fabric” (middle of 13th century).
The spelling, however, may have been influenced by the Middle English word “tartaryn” which meant “a rich silk cloth from Tartare, the Central Asian people.”

10. Madras pattern is part fashionable wear

madras plaid pattern
Indian Madras Plaid Pattern

During the expeditions of the British to Asia in search of goods and lands, they landed in a place somewhere in India called, Madras. In the said place, people were making plaids as part of their traditional outfit. The madras cloth is part of their headwear and even as pants of their military people.

11. The old name of Chennai is Madras

Since we’re also in the Madras plaid history, did you know that the old name of Chennai is Madras?

12. The tartan even traveled to space

moon landing tartan
Moon Landing Plaid Tartan

The American astronaut, Alan Bean, brought a little piece of his family heritage when he went to the moon aboard the Lunar Module Intrepid in November 1969. The said family heritage was the MacBean tartan.
He brought back a piece of the tartan with him when he came home to earth. This piece of MacBean tartan was auctioned off on October 2016.

13. Tartan Day is also celebrated in the United States

united states tartan day
United States Tartan Day

The late President George W. Bush, who passed away recently, signed the resolution to celebrate the Tartan Day in the United States officially. The said Senate resolution 155 was passed on March 20, 1998. The first official Tartan Day in the United States was celebrated on April 6, 1999.
Later on in March 2005, House Resolution 41 was unanimously adopted by the US House of Representatives which officially designated April 6 as the National Tartan Day.

14.  Kilts are expensive.

If you’re looking to add genuine kilts to your wardrobe, you better prepare a lot of money.
Kilts, the traditional garb of Scottish men, will cost its wearers about £300 to £600 ($490 to $980) depending on the weight of the cloth and the rarity of the sett.

15. A museum dedicated to Tartans.

The Scottish Tartans Museum and Heritage Center, Inc. is the home of a lot of historical information about the tartan located in North Carolina.
The organization is not only house historical tartans, but also maintain the information regarding them. If you’re of Scottish descent, they may be able to help you find your Scottish clan’s tartan. They also keep the registry of tartans, free of access on their website thanks to the Tartan Ferret.

16. A mummy with Tartan clothing

A group of archeologists went to the Tarim Basin, which is known as the present-day Xinjiang in China, only to discover mummies perfectly preserved. Among their most significant discoveries was the one they named, The Cherchen Man.
One might think what the significance is of a Mummy, but the Cherchen Man is significant thanks to its Tartan plaid clothing. The discovery of this cloth was so shocking it made them question why a European man was in China.
Why the Cherchen man traveled to China, we may never know. But, thanks to the Tartan he was wearing, a part of his identity was discovered.

17. Maple Leaf tartan

The Maple Leaf Tartan, which officially became a National Symbol in 2011, exhibits all of the colors that the humble maple leaf changes into through the different seasons. The colors included in the Maple Leaf Tartan sett are green (representing the maple leaf’s colors during spring time), gold (for early autumn), red (during the early days of winter), and brown (after it has fallen off from the tree).
The Maple Leaf Tartan isn’t the only tartan in Canada. Each of the provinces of this beautiful country has their tartan sett, except for Nunavut. The colors included in each of the provinces’ tartan sett are symbolic of their locality.

18. Where did plaid come from?

The Word “plaid” came from the Gaelic term “plaide” which means blanket.

19. Popularity of the plaid in pop culture.

In the United States, the 1990s era was a fruitful time for fans of the pattern. Thanks to the era’s icons, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Cher from the chick flick and cult movie, Clueless!
But not only in the United States, as in the place where the tartan plaid originated, punk rock fans also wore the patterns as pants as it was symbolic of the rebellion in 1746.

20. The J. Crew gingham fanpage

j. crew gingham plaid shirt
J. Crew Gingham Plaid Shirt Instagram Fan-page

Plaids are so popular that way too many people purchase it. Case in point, a fan-made Instagram account dedicated to the J. Crew Gingham Plaid shirt.
The account pokes fun at people who are caught on camera wearing the J. Crew Gingham plaid shirt. This versatile and stylish shirt is available for men and women. I honestly wouldn’t blame the wearers on this Instagram account. The shirt looks nice on anyone!
If our website is all about the plaid, this Instagram account is just as dedicated as we are!

21. Flannel, A perfect fall/winter outfit

flannel shirt jacket for the winter
Winter Flannel Shirt Jacket

The reason why flannel is the perfect match for making plaid the best fall or winter outfit is all thanks to wool.
Wool is an amazing, naturally-produced, fabric made from sheep fur. The science behind why wool is warm lies in its cellular structure. How the cells of this fabric are arranged creates a “crimp.” The crimp then adds to the bulk of the material and allows the fabric to trap air thus creating insulation for its wearers.
It’s no wonder this material was first used as sheep blanket in Scotland during wintertime! You can read more about our discussion on “Why and how do flannel shirts keep you warm?” in another post!

22. When was plaid invented?

Blanket for the Sheep

That is right! Ever since the beginning of this material, the plaid has served many functions, and it all began as a way to help keep the sheep in Scottish Highlands warm during the winter season.

23. There are about 7,000 tartan patterns

tartan patterns
7,000 tartan patterns

It is estimated that there are about 7,000 tartan setts created all over the world and this number is still growing.
With that number of different patterns, it’s not much of a surprise just how many of these patterns are being used commercially in the market.

24. The plaid is a symbolism of many different things

The plaid, specifically the tartan, has a vibrant history. If you begin tracing it, the plaid can symbolize loyalty or even rebellion (as in the case of The Dress Act of 1746).
The fact remains, the plaid is not just a simple pattern of the fabric, it’s a symbol of a country’s identity and rich history.

25. All tartans are plaid, but not all plaids are tartans

There are many misconceptions to the term plaid. People mistake plaid for flannel and vice versa. People also mistake tartan for plaid and vice versa. Although technically, the people who misunderstand that tartan is plaid aren’t wrong, there still needs to have a clarification that the tartan, the patterns that we see on Scottish Kilts are all plaid, however, not all plaids are tartans.
If you wish to get more clarification on the difference between plaid and flannel and maybe get a little history lesson on the topic, do visit our other article on the difference between plaid and flannel.
Plaid is fun and knowing all of the 25 facts and trivia about the plaid can sure add to the beauty of this pattern. If you enjoyed reading through this article, feel free to share it with another plaid lover. It’s always nice knowing little things about plaid!