An Abbreviated History of Paisley
While the mention of paisley might conjure images in your brain of the 1960s and 70s, the bright floral pattern has been around much longer than that. The paisley pattern is thought to have originated in Iran during the Persian Empire somewhere between 224 and 651 AD. According to some scholars, the paisley design, known in Persian as the Boteh Jegheh, is a Zoroastrian symbol of life and eternity and is a combination of a floral spray and cypress tree.
The name paisley comes from the Scottish town of Paisley. From around 1800 until the 1850s, Paisley was famous for the colorful shawls produced by its weavers. Because of a special addition to their handlooms and Jacquard looms, weavers in Paisley could produce the design with five colors while other weavers were limited to two.
We can at least partially thank the Beatles for paisley’s popularity in the 1960s. Paisley (known in the Tamil language as Mankolam) was a common pattern in the Kanchipuram sarees and in jewelry made in Tamil Nadu, India. After the Beatles visited India in 1968 to study transcendental meditation, all things Indian became very popular, including (and especially) paisley.