It’s thought that paisley dates back to 1700 BC Babylon (in present-day Iraq). Another theory suggests it came from Persia (now Iran) between 200 AD to 650 AD. Woven onto silk using silver and gold materials, the teardrop-shaped motif was often worn by royalty.
Kashmiris fell for its beautiful shape and used it in the production of luxurious shawls, many of which were brought over to Europe by the East India Company in the 18th century.
An increase in demand found the British textile industry reproducing the shawls at a fraction of the price. Around 1805, in the small Scottish town of Paisley, there were 6,000 weavers making the shawls, which is how the pattern got its British name (the French call it “Palme” while the Americans call it “Persian Pickles”).
The popularity of paisley waned over the years until it returned to its former splendour in the 1960s with designers like John Stephen and Michael Fish – and boutiques like Hung On You and Granny Takes a Trip – producing colourful, stylish clothes for men during the so-called “peacock revolution”.
Paisley was incorporated into many of the designs, used for wild, colourful ties, cravats, shirts and even suits – the more outrageous the better, and many pop stars of the day embraced the pattern, including The Who, the Rolling Stones and Small Faces, as paisley and bright psychedelic colours became synonymous with hippies and rebellion against the norm.