Learning what is plaid and how it differs from check and tartan will make you a better dressmaker, tailor, interior designer, or certified fashionista. Whatever your reason is for learning these different patterns, correctly identifying them is a piece of knowledge worthy of gaining. That is most especially since plaid has a long history and is one of the most popular patterns for a long time.
What Is Plaid?
The plaid pattern generally features color bands or stripes that intersect each other, forming a particular shape. You can find plaid patterns that are either part of the fabric weave or printed on the fabric.
The most commonly used fabrics with plaid patterns can either be types of cotton, wool, or a combination of both. On the other hand, flannels with plaids are usually used for making cozy and casual shirts for men and skirts for females. Lastly, thicker fabrics with woolen yarn are usually used for plaid kilts and jackets.
What Is Plaid vs. Check vs. Tartan
Having a square shape and stacked appearance, people often confuse the terms plaids, checks, and tartans. They only have minor differences, so you need to have a keen eye for detail to identify them.
Checks or checkered patterns are simpler than plaids and usually appear like tiles or miniature boxes. In comparison, regular or modern-day plaid patterns typically consist of vertical and horizontal stripes that don’t usually have the same colors. The squares don’t have to be symmetrical all the time, as they may vary in the bands' widths.
On the other hand, you can consider tartan as a sub-category of plaids and have perfectly symmetrical stripes. It is regarded as the original plaid type and originated from Scotland. It’s actually a traditional Scottish outfit worn by males. Each of these outfits looks different; others even have emblems.
What Is Plaid - The Different Types of Plaid
Now that we’ve already determined the difference between what is plaid, check, and tartan, let’s talk about the various types of modern-day and tartan plaids. Unlike the checkered pattern, there are only a few types of plaids, even if there are two primary sub-categories.
What Is Plaid - The Modern-Day Plaid Types
There are five various kinds of modern-day plaids, and they’re quite similar to some check patterns. The most famous ones are:
The gingham plaid pattern dates back to the mid-18th century and originated in England, specifically Manchester. It has thick and large lines that create small, transparent squares. Thus, when you wear fabrics with gingham plaids, you portray a casual and fun personality.
Believed to have originated in Scotland, the houndstooth plaid pattern dates back to 300 B.C. It’s one of the most popular when it comes to what is plaid types and is the easiest to identify since it’s one-of-a-kind. Each square has layers of sharp edges.
Originated in the 1800s and named after the old name of the City of Chennai, India, Madras is a regular plaid made of off-kilter, quirky, asymmetrical patterns. It is very colorful and bright, thanks to its colors, such as orange, white, and yellow, that represent its origin. The pattern is also commonly found on lightweight, airy cotton fabrics, perfect for summer clothes and blankets.
This type of modern-day plaid has its roots dating back to the 1700s and got its name from Tattersall's horse markets in London. It was popularly used in the blankets used on horses, but today, it’s more famous in casual garments. It’s one of the most common plaid patterns you can find, and if you want to imagine how this looks, think about the plaids worn by bands such as Business Men, The Beach Boys, and Fairfield Country Bros.
What Is Plaid - The Tartan Plaid Types
Also known as Scottish or traditional plaid, tartan is perfect for a classic look and style. The six different kinds of tartan plaid are:
- Black Watch
- Clan Wallace
- Royal Stewart
- Scotland Forever
Black Watch Tartan Plaid
Also known as Campbell and one of the most popular types of tartan plaid, you can easily identify the black watch from the rest of the variations. It comes in navy blue, hunter green, and black tones that exude the Scottish Army vibe. It has a dark, moody look and subtle depth that make it perfect for womenswear, menswear, and fabric-made items for your home or office interior.
Clan Wallace Tartan Plaid
In terms of what is plaid with a great history, the Wallace is one of the types that will come to mind. Wallace is a Scottish term that originated from “waleis”, an Ancient French word. This pattern has small squares and common in 3M brands. You’ll find several variations, but there are five common ones, namely:
- Wallace Red Modern: This Wallace tartan plaid dates back to 1842 and has vibrant scarlet red, yellow, and black combinations of colors. Although the ancient version has more of an orange tone than red.
- Wallace Green or Hunting: The Wallace hunting sub-category of the tartan plaid has muted colorways, as it’s commonly worn in the past for hunting adventures. The modern variety has yellow stripes with bottle green and navy blue squares, while the ancient one is mossy green.
- MacFarlane White and Black: The MacFarlane is the dress variation of the Wallace tartan plaid and has been around since 1842. Although the older version comes in red. When used in clothes and accessories, this type of Wallace tartan plaid is perfect for special and formal evening events or occasions.
- Wallace Blue Dress: As another dress variation of the Wallace tartan, this is also perfect for special occasion and formal evening wears, thanks to its bright or light tone. Aptly named, it has a blue color mixed with white and is popularly worn by highland dancers.
- Wallace Memorial Centenary: Although not recognized by the Wallace Clan, Christine MacLeod, born in the same village as William Wallace, designed this plaid. Thus, it’s also known as MacLeod of Lewis, loud MacLeod, or MacLeod dress tartan. It is one of the boldest patterns that will make you stand out in the crowd when you wear clothes with this design.
Lindsay Tartan Plaid
When it comes to what is plaid, one of the easiest to recognize is the Lindsay tartan pattern that has a flexible and sophisticated style. It was first seen in 1120 and is a famous pattern for many types of skirts, uniforms, and jackets and used for home interior fabrics. This tartan plaid has maroon and deep green colors.
Royal Stewart Tartan Plaid
You can also easily recognize this type of tartan plaid because of the contrast provided by the red base color and blue, white, green, and bright yellow stripes. It was initially designed for the British and Scottish monarchies; hence, the word Royal in its name.
Like the clan Wallace tartan plaid, the Royal Stewart also has a variation: the Dress Stewart tartan plaid. It’s a popular pattern for school uniforms, but you can find clothes meant for classy, dress-up events, as well as traditional and fashion-forward interior fabric-made items.
Balmoral Tartan Plaid
Since commoners were soon able to wear the Royal Stewart to express their loyalty to the Royal clan, the Balmoral tartan plaid was born in 1853. Historians say that Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, designed it. Only them and the queen’s piper were allowed to wear it for a long time.
Nowadays, you can find multiple items with this pattern. You can easily recognize it because of its gray, red, and black colors and background with twisted white and black yarns, giving it a rough granite texture.
Scotland Forever Tartan Plaid
Aptly named, this type of tartan plaid screams Scotland. Its white and blue color is indicative of one of Scotland’s flags, while the purple and green colors represent Scotland’s glens and hills or mountains.
Compared to the other tartan plaids, this is more modern and produced in the country’s weaving mills. It is also more universal in nature since even in the past, anyone, whether they have Scottish blood or none at all, can wear it anytime and anywhere. There is also an older or antique variety that has muted gray shades instead of navy blue.
What Is Plaid - In Conclusion
Many fabrics exist, and some of them have patterns, including checks and plaids, that can add color and style to your home or office interior and attire. Plaids and checks are often confused because they both have square patterns. However, plaid patterns appear more complex than checkered ones.
Plaid also has two categories, namely regular or modern-day and tartan or traditional plaids. You can differentiate them through their line symmetries and colors. These two main kinds of plaids are further divided into several sub-types. The traditional or tartan plaid types were usually first worn by certain clans or royal families, while modern-day plaids got their names from either their place of origin or how they were used initially. That said, all plaids have a long history that makes them one of the most exquisite patterns. In fact, even famous individuals, such as bands and royal family members like Kate Middleton, have been seen wearing plaids.