Scottish Studies: Paisley & Argyle

There’s nothing quite like the sight of a bold argyle sock or a whimsical paisley tie in contrast to an otherwise muted ensemble. The stylishly discerning know how to express themselves through subtle sartorial touches.

You may not know that some of our favorite patterns are Scottish in origin. Further, they’re not just Scottish patterns — they’re Scottish places. Let’s take a look at paisley, argyle, and Argyll and Sutherland, all sophisticated yet playful in their placement of color and pattern.

An Intimate Relationship: Scotland and Brooks Brothers

First, a little background. Our connection to Scottish heritage has manifested itself in many of our creations over our long history. Our exclusive Signature Tartan, for example, combines elements of the traditional Scottish Campbell tartan with our BB#1 stripe pattern, resulting in a unique tartan registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority. In its array of color variations, it has appeared on everything from shirts to shoes to umbrellas and more. (Shout-out to Lavinia Brooks, née Lyon, who brought her Scottish heritage into the brand’s aesthetic in her marriage to Brooks Brothers founder Henry Sands Brooks.)

Drawing of Scottish shepherd, by Paul Brown. 1941

Ask a Scot

We had the pleasure of discussing these expressive patterns with several Scots. Who better to offer a distinctive viewpoint on these well-known Scottish exports?

First, we sat down with a native Weegie, which is to say, a Glaswegian — someone from Glasgow, Scotland. “I think paisley is much more common than argyle throughout the world, not just in Scotland,” he says. “It’s trendy on items such as shirts, ties and scarves — things that have everyday-wear possibilities. Argyle, on the other hand, is more common on traditional outfits rather than everyday wear.” His favorite? “I think paisley wins hands down!”

Next up, a gentleman who lives in Edinburgh. In contrast to the Weegie, this fellow reports that he wears argyle frequently, saying that a fine pair of socks is his preferred means of style expression. (Scotland, he says, has a love of great socks.)

Next, a lawyer from the West End of Glasgow: “I didn’t realize paisley was a globally recognized pattern!” 

Paisley

Paisley is a small city to the west of Glasgow with an impressive textiles history — and, of course, a teardrop motif popular throughout the world. This shape proved so popular that the name of Paisley became synonymous with the design style.

“The actual Paisley pattern is derived from ancient Persia and latterly India,” explains Stewart Roxburgh, Specialist, Scottish Enterprise. “The motif is believed by scholars to be a stylized cypress tree with the top bent by the wind. A large collection of these cypress motifs in the form of woodblocks was sent to Paisley to influence the Scottish weavers and can still be viewed at their local museum.”

Roxburgh charmingly refers to paisley as a “revered symbol of decadence and non-conformance to society rules. Its use today in ties, scarves, robes and more underpins this desire for uniqueness, difference and a snubbing of conformity, but perhaps in a more subtle and personal way.”

Today, we offer paisley in a wide range of items, including silk ties, pocket squares, crew socks, polo shirts and Luxury Collection Sport Shirts, to name just a few.

Argyle or Argyll?

Argyle is an archaic spelling of Argyll, a county in western Scotland. Loved by golfers the world over, argyle is a diamond-and-raker pattern commonly appearing on socks and sweaters.

None other than the creator of the Brooks Brothers Signature Tartan would like to have a word here. Brian Wilton, former director of the Scottish Tartans Authority and founder of Tartan Ambassador Designs, lets us know: “The design is said to have been commercialized in the 1920s and based on a simplified version of the Campbell regimental tartan, whose west coast territory happened to be Argyle. The Argyle look was adopted and popularized by the Duke of Windsor (Edward the 8th) in the 1920s to accompany his treasured golfing jerseys from Fair Isle as long socks to accompany the popular baggy plus-four and plus-two trousers of the day. The Prince’s social popularity created a trend.”

If socks are your preferred way to display your love of this eternal pattern, you’re not alone. We recommend our best-selling Italian-made cotton-blend argyle socks and cashmere argyle socks.

Argyll and Sutherland

As part of our tradition of adapting British regimental ties, Brooks Brothers appropriated the classic Argyll and Sutherland stripe pattern for civilian use. The signature pattern was derived from the legendary Argyll and Sutherland Highlander regiment of the British Army. At first produced only in its original green, we offer Argyll and Sutherland silk neckties and bow ties in several color combinations for true versatility.