Paisley (design)

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Shawl made in Paisley, Scotland, in imitation of Kashmir shawls, c. 1830

Paisley or paisley pattern is an ornamental textile design using the boteh (Persian: بته) or buta, a teardrop-shaped motif with a curved upper end. Of Persian origin, paisley designs became popular in the West in the 18th and 19th centuries, following imports of post-Mughal Empire versions of the design from India, especially in the form of Kashmir shawls, and were then replicated locally.[1][2][3]

The English name for the patterns comes from the town of Paisley, in the west of Scotland, a centre for textiles where paisley designs were reproduced using jacquard looms.[4][5]

Persian silk brocade with gold and silver thread (golabetoon), woven in 1963.

The pattern is still commonly seen in Britain and other English-speaking countries on men's ties, waistcoats, and scarfs, and remains popular in other items of clothing and textiles in Iran and South and Central Asian countries.


Shawl fragment, India, 20th century

Some design scholars[who?] believe the buta is the convergence of a stylized floral spray and a cypress tree: a Zoroastrian symbol of life and eternity.[6] The "bent" cedar is also a sign of strength and resistance but modesty. The floral motif originated in the Sassanid dynasty, was used later in the Safavid dynasty of Persia (1501–1736), and was a major textile pattern in Iran during the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties. In these periods, the pattern was used to decorate royal regalia, crowns, and court garments, as well as textiles used by the general population.[citation needed] Persian and Central Asian designs usually range the motifs in orderly rows, with a plain background.

Ancient Indo-Iranian origins[edit]

There is significant speculation as to the origins and symbolism of boteh jegheh, or "ancient motif", known in English as paisley.[7] With experts contesting different time periods for its emergence, to understand the proliferation in the popularity of boteh jegheh design and eventually Paisley, it is important to understand South Asian history. The early Indo-Iranian people flourished in South Asia, where they eventually exchanged linguistic, cultural, and even religious similarities.[8] The ancient Indo-Iranian people shared a religion called Zoroastrianism.[9] Zoroastrianism, some experts[who?] argue, served as one of the earliest influences for boteh jegheh's design with the shape representing the cypress tree, an ancient Zoroastrian religious symbol.[9] Others[who?] contest that the earliest representation of the patterns shape comes from the later Sassanid dynasty.[10] The design was representative of a tear drop.[10] Some[who?] will argue that boteh jegheh's origins stem from old religious beliefs and its meaning could symbolize the sun, a phoenix, or even an ancient Iranian religious sign for an eagle.[7] Around the same time, a pattern called Boteh was gaining popularity in Iran; the pattern was a floral design, and was used to represent elite status, mostly serving to decorate royal objects.[10] The pattern was traditionally woven onto silk clothing using silver and gold material.[10] The earliest evidence of the design being traded with other cultures was found at the Red Sea, with both Egyptian and Greek peoples trading from the 1400s.[citation needed]

Islamic control in South Asia and spread of the pattern[edit]

In Persian language, Boteh can be translated to shrub or bush, while in Kashmir it carried the same meaning but was referred to as Buta, or Bu.[11] One of the earliest evidence of the pattern as it relates to Islamic culture has been found at Noh Gumba mosque, in the city of Balkh in Afghanistan, where it is believed that the pattern was included in the design as early as the 800s when the mosque was built. In early Iranian culture, the design was woven onto Termeh, one of the most valuable materials in early Iran where the design served to make clothing for the nobility. At this time, the Iranian nobility wore distinct uniforms called Khalaat, historically, the design was commonly found on the Khalaat uniforms.[12] It is stated that at some point in the 1400s, Boteh was transported from Persia to Kashmir.[11] In the same century, in the 1400s, some of the earliest recorded Kashmir shawls were produced in India, records from the 1500s, during Emperor Akbar's reign over the Mughal people in this area indicate that shawl making was already fashionable in India prior to Mughal conquest which took place in the early 1400s.[13] It has been stated that during Emperor Akbars reign over the Mughal empire, boteh jegheh shawls were extremely popular and fashionable. While one shawl was traditionally worn previously, it was during the rule of Emperor Akbar that the emperor decided to wear two shawls at a time to serve as a status symbol. Along with wearing the shawls frequently, Emperor Akbar also used the shawls as gifts to other rulers and high officials.[13] It is believed that by the 1700s, Kashmir shawls were produced in the image that someone today would associate with modern paisley.[11]

Introduction of boteh jegheh to Western culture[edit]

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the British East India Company introduced Kashmir shawls from India to England and Scotland, where they were extremely fashionable and soon duplicated.[14] The first place in the Western world to imitate the design was the town of Paisley in Scotland, Europe's top producer of textiles at this time.[15] Before being produced in Paisley, thus gaining its name in Western culture, the paisley motif was originally referred to by Westerners simply as "pine and cone."[11] European technological innovation in textile manufacturing made Western imitations of Kashmir shawls competitive with Indian-made shawls from Kashmir.[16]

The shawls from India could be quite expensive at the time, but, with the industrial revolution taking place in Europe, paisley shawls were manufactured on a large scale, so lowering their price that they became commonplace among the middle class and boosting the design's popularity even more.[11] While the Western world appropriated much of Eastern culture and design, the Boteh design was by far the most popular.[16] Records indicate that William Moorcroft, an English businessman and explorer, visited the Himalayan mountains in the mid-1800s; upon his arrival, he was enthralled by Boteh-adorned Kashmir shawls and tried to arrange for entire families of Indian textile workers to move to the United Kingdom.[13] The earliest paisley shawls made in the United Kingdom, in Paisley, Scotland, were of fleece, a material with a soft, fluffy texture on one side.

In Asia, the paisley shawls were primarily worn by males, often in formal or ceremonial contexts, but in Europe they were primarily worn instead by women.[citation needed] While still closely resembling its original form, the paisley design would change once it began to be produced in Western culture, with different towns in the United Kingdom applying their own spin to the design.[12]

Local manufacturers in Marseille began to mass-produce the patterns via early textile printing processes in 1640. England, circa 1670, and Holland, in 1678, soon followed. This in turn provided Europe's weavers with more competition than they could bear, and the production and import of printed paisley was forbidden in France by royal decree from 1686 to 1759. However, enforcement near the end of that period was lax, and France had its own printed textile manufacturing industry in place as early at 1746 in some locales. Paisley was not the only design produced by French textile printers; the demand for it which created the industry there also made possible production of native patterns such as toile de Jouy.[17]

In the 1800s, European production of paisley increased, particularly in the Scottish town from which the pattern takes its modern name. Soldiers returning from the colonies brought home cashmere wool shawls from India, and the East India Company imported more. The design was copied from the costly silk and wool Kashmir shawls and adapted first for use on handlooms, and, after 1820,[18] on Jacquard looms. The paisley pattern also appeared on European-made bandanas from the early 1800s, the patterns imitating Kashmir shawls.[19]

From roughly 1800 to 1850, the weavers of the town of Paisley in Renfrewshire, Scotland, became the foremost producers of Paisley shawls. Unique additions to their hand-looms and Jacquard looms allowed them to work in five colours when most weavers were producing paisley using only two.[18] The design became known as the Paisley pattern. By 1860, Paisley could produce shawls with 15 colours, which was still only a quarter of the number used in the multicolour paisleys then still being imported from Kashmir.[18] In addition to the loom-woven fabric, the town of Paisley became a major site for the manufacture of printed cotton and wool in the 1800s, according to the Paisley Museum and Art Galleries.[20] In this process, the paisley pattern was printed, rather than woven, onto other textiles, including cotton squares which were the precursors of the modern bandanna. Printed paisley was cheaper than the costly woven paisley, and this added to its popularity. The key places of printing paisley were Britain and the Alsace region of France.[21] The peak period of paisley as a fashionable design ended in the 1870s,[22] perhaps as so many cheap printed versions were on the market.

Modern use[edit]

The 1960s proved to be a time of great revival for the paisley design in Western culture. Popular culture in the United States developed a sort of fixation on eastern cultures, including many traditionally Indian styles. Paisley was one of them, being worn by the likes of the Beatles; even the guitar company Fender used the design to decorate one of their most famous electric guitars, the Fender Telecaster. Today, Brad Paisley plays a Telecaster decorated in that pattern, and the design remains common, appearing on jewellery, suit ties, pocket books, cake decorations, tattoos, mouse pads for computers, scarves, and dresses. Paisley bandanas, long a fixture of cowboys,[23] came in the latter twentieth century to be worn by many blue-collar and labor workers as protection from dust and were sported by entertainers popular with such workers, such as the country musician Willie Nelson.[24] The motif also influences furniture design internationally, with many countries applying paisley decoration to wallpaper, pillows, curtains, bed spreads, and like furnishings.[11]


In the mid- to late 1960s, paisley became identified with psychedelic style and enjoyed mainstream popularity, partly due to the Beatles.[25] The style was particularly popular during the Summer of Love in 1967. The company Fender made a pink paisley version of their Telecaster guitar by sticking paisley wallpaper onto the guitar bodies.[26][27]

Modern men's tie, before 1996

Prince paid tribute to the rock and roll history of paisley when he created the Paisley Park Records recording label and established Paisley Park Studios, both named after his 1985 song "Paisley Park". The Paisley Underground was a music scene active around the same time.


Paisley was a favorite design element of British-Indian architect Laurie Baker. He has made numerous drawings and collages of what he called "mango designs".[28] He used to include the shape in the buildings he designed also.[29]


At the 2010 Winter Olympics, Azerbaijan's team sported colorful paisley trousers.[30] It was the emblem of the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, held in Azerbaijan.[citation needed]

It was part of the emblem for the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, held in India.[31]

Other languages[edit]

The modern French words for paisley are boteh, cachemire ("cashmere"; not capitalized, which would mean "Kashmir, the region") and palme ("palm", which – along with the pine and the cypress – is one of the traditional botanical motifs thought to have influenced the shape of the paisley element as it is now known).[6][32][failed verification]

In various languages of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, the design's name is related to the word for mango:[33]

In Chinese, it is known as the "ham hock pattern" (Chinese: 火腿纹; pinyin: huǒtuǐwén) in mainland China, or "Amoeba pattern" in Taiwan (Chinese: 變形蟲; pinyin: biànxíngchóng).[citation needed] In Russia, this ornament is known as "cucumbers" (огурцы).[37][38]

Boteh is a Persian word meaning bush, cluster of leaves or a flower bud.[39]


  1. ^ Dusenbury and Bier, 48–50
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  • Ashurbeyli, S. [Ашурбейли, С.] "New research on the history of Baku and the Maiden Tower" [«Новые изыскания по истории Баку и Девичьей башни»]. Almanac of Arts [Альманах искусств]. 1972. In Russian.
  • Ashurbeyli, S. [Ашурбейли, С.] "On the dating and purpose of Giz Galasy in the fortress" [«О датировке и назначении Гыз галасы в крепости»]. Elm [Элм]. 1974. In Russian.

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