Where Did Paisley Come From?

Kara Kovalchik
Thinkstock / Thinkstock

The design that looks like a lopsided teardrop or stylized tadpole is called “paisley”, but it didn’t originate in the Scottish town of the same name. The design got its start on shawls made in Kashmir some 2,000 years ago. (The traditional explanation for the paisley shape is that it’s supposed to be a pine cone; we can only presume that pine trees in India look really different than the ones we’re used to.)

The East India Company began bringing paisley shawls from India to Britain in the 18th century, and soon the exotic garments were all the rage. The actual imported shawls were very expensive, however, so local textile mills started producing their own versions of the fabric. One of the largest producers of the material was the town of Paisley in Scotland, which was famous for its textile mills. Eventually, the fabric took on the name of the town that produced so much of it.