Ever since my parents bought our family matching plaid pajamas in elementary school for cold winter holidays, I have loved adding touches of plaid to my wardrobe. When I first became interested in style, I often confused argyle patterns and plaid patterns. After all, they seemed to look similar to the untrained eye.
In this article, we will explain the differences between plaid and argyle so that you don’t have to make the same mistake I did. We will also discuss which pattern is better in our opinion.
What is Plaid?
Plaid is a classification of fabric patterns based on right-angle intersecting squares. Checkers, gingham, tartan plaid, buffalo plaid, and similar patterns with multiple colors of threads intersecting at right angles are considered plaid. Besides tartan, gingham, and checkers, other fabrics that fall under the plaid umbrella category include checkered Madras, windowpane, Houndstooth, glen plaid, or the Prince of Wales check, and the Tattersall pattern.
Related: What to Wear with a Plaid Dress?
Plaid features checkers or intersecting lines in multiple colors. It usually also features spaces of solid color peeking through the intersecting lines.
Tartan plaid is a woolen type of fabric that has been woven into a variety of different colored checks and lines that intersect one another. Plaid itself is very similar to this type of pattern.
The main difference between the two patterns is mostly cultural. In certain parts of Europe and especially the United Kingdom, Tartan is a specific type of lengthy woolen fabric that people of the Highlands wear over the shoulder as a cultural feature.
Plaid was initially created in the 1700s in Scotland. The pattern has survived many centuries and has been worn by the likes of punks, Scotsmen, and surfers alike.
Some may wonder if plaid is merely a style of pattern or if plaid refers to a specific kind of fabric. To answer that question, plaid is a little bit of both. Plaid can be a style of pattern that involves intersecting lines and squares at a right angle.
It can also be a type of fabric, as demonstrated by tartan plaid, which is a specific type of fabric with a plaid pattern. Some folks use the words “plaid” and “tartan” interchangeably. This is far more common in North America than in places such as Europe, where cultural differences give different meanings to the words “tartan” and “plaid.”
In terms of types of fabric, plaid can either be wool, as it is traditionally in tartan plaid, flannel in the case of buffalo plaid and similar styles, or cotton in the case of classic plaid flannel button-ups. Certain types of clothing that are traditionally plaid, such as plaid skirts or plaid shirts, might need to be a specific type of fabric so that they suit their needs and hold their shape.
A plaid skirt would look weird if it was a jersey type of material, for example, and it would lack the structured pleating that plaid skirts most popularly feature. A plaid shirt in a polyester material would disqualify it from the professional use for which it is most frequently used. While plaid patterns can be on any kind of clothing material, certain fabrics are more suitable for certain uses or traditional requirements.
Depending on the type of fabric used, plaid can be incredibly durable. Woolen plaid garments, for example, are known to have lasted for decades, if not centuries. Plaid garments today can last for several years at the very least without showing signs of disrepair.
Plaid garments can range from relatively inexpensive, under $20, to almost $100 for a higher-end plaid garment.
What is Argyle?
Argyle is considered by some to be a form of a plaid pattern while others disagree and classify argyle as an entirely separate style of pattern for fabric.
The main difference between argyle and strictly plaid patterns is that argyle squares are rotated at an angle to diamond shape and checkered through the fabric.
When socks are knitted in the argyle pattern, it means that they have a geometric knitting pattern composed of a variety of colored diamonds. These diamonds can either be filled in or merely an outline. The Argyle diamond shapes usually are knitted on a backdrop of a solid color such as gray, white, cream, or black. They could also be knitted over top of another color such as pink or olive tones.
The term “argyle” originates from a Greek word called “arge,” which means silver. The ability to create geometric patterns in solid colors is called “argolism.” These offer hints as to the origins of the argyle pattern’s name. It is believed that the term “argyle” was initially utilized in the late 19th century by C.B. Anderton to denote the art of professional yarn crafters in his published work Modern Knitting. Argyle patterns came into popularity around 1915 in Great Britain and quickly spread in popularity overseas to the United States.
Argyle can be knitted into socks, sweater vests, sweaters, and more. Traditionally, argyle is a popular pattern for both menswear looks and womenswear looks. Argyle socks are a classic style for preppy and professional styles alike.
Argyle patterns are made of yarn or thread through a knitting style called “intarsia.” Essentially, intarsia is a knitting style of colorwork with threads twisted together as the knitter is working row by row. This prevents loose threads from sticking out of the back of a knitted work and keeps the finished product neat and tidy both at the front and the back.
Argyle sweater vests can range between $20-$30 or escalate in price to top $100 and approach $200.
Differences Between Argyle and Plaid
For starters, argyle is a pattern composed of diamond shapes whereas plaid is composed of squares at right angles. Secondly, argyle items are usually knitted while plaid patterns are woven or printed onto fabric. Price-wise, argyle items and plaid items are comparable.
Historically speaking, plaid found its origins in the Scottish hills in the 1700s, while Argyle has only been around since the First World War.
In terms of durability, argyle is about as durable as plaid. Since plaid items can be constructed of wool, this might be more durable than knitted argyle items since knitted argyle items may unravel or pill over time.
A benefit of plaid is its versatility and edgy style, while a huge benefit to the argyle as a pattern is its preppy, professional vibe.
I enjoy having both argyle and plaid items in my wardrobe. However, if I had to choose a preference of one over the other, I would prefer to have more plaid items in my closet. Plaid has stayed on-trend for centuries and is incredibly versatile. As a result, plaid items can stay with me for decades and evolve with changes in my style.