The Origins of Classic Buffalo Plaid

Posted on October 24 2019

Woman in checkerboard outfit

Everybody loves buffalo plaid.

What do Paul Bunyan, Roy Rogers, the Marlboro Man, and Christmas all have in common?

Buffalo plaid!

The classic red and black buffalo plaid usually brings images of lumberjacks chopping down trees, but did you know it can be found on so much more? From Christmas tablecloths to scarves, or decorations, and even cozy pajamas to keep you warm on cold winter nights. But where did this plaid design come from? When in the history of buffalo plaid and women’s checkerboard outfits, did it take the nation by storm?

Buffalo Plaid History

Buffalo check (or plaid) was first designed in the 1850s at the Woolrich Woolen Mills in Pennsylvania. When the Woolrich Woolen Mills closed its original Pennsylvania mill, it still had a buffalo check plaid shirt dated 1856. The Woolrich Woolen Mills are the oldest wool-producing mills in the country, and they are still in operation today. Their outdoor clothing line still features attire and accessories in the classic buffalo plaid from their history.

Copied from the “Rob Roy” tartan of Scotland, legend has it that the Woolrich Woolen Mills in Pennsylvania had a designer who named the plaid after his herd of buffalo. In the early days of buffalo plaid, John Rich, the founder of Woolrich, would take his mule cart and sell the buffalo check flannel shirts to the wives of lumberjacks. These flannel shirts were made of thick, warm wool, helping to wick away moisture with its natural oils and hold in the body heat of lumberjacks during colder months. Buffalo plaid became a go-to for all outdoorsmen, cowboys, and sportsmen who needed an extra layer of warmth and protection against the elements. Because the women liked the plaid so much, they would wear their men’s hand-me-downs. This is how women’s checkerboard outfit was born.

Smiling woman in checkerboard outfit

Modern Buffalo Plaid

Throughout the past century, many famous women have rocked checkerboard outfits successfully. Marilyn Monroe began “borrowing from the boys” with her plaid shirts. Modern women wear checkerboard outfits for a classic fall look that never goes out of style. Today, you can find buffalo plaid in any color, but original red, blue, and green are still the most popular.

Buffalo check mug and hat

Americans love buffalo plaid so much that it’s not just for women’s checkerboard outfits anymore! It has found its way to our blankets, clothing, wrapping paper, ornaments, table settings, and even bathing suits. From humble beginnings keeping outdoorsmen warm over 150 years ago, to fashion sensations that return every fall and winter, the history of buffalo plaid is still being written. Fashion, gifts, home—it looks like buffalo plaid is here to stay. You could say it’s almost as American as apple pie.

A Corner Cottage, Too loves buffalo plaid and women’s checkerboard outfits, too! Check out our buffalo plaid pullovers, vests, and sweaters in our cardigan collection. They are perfect for layering up in fall and winter. Keep yourself cozy while you are outside enjoying the fall foliage, or curl up by the fire and have some cocoa with the family in classic buffalo plaid. Buffalo plaid women’s checkerboard outfits and accessories also make excellent Christmas gifts. Surprise your loved one with a buffalo plaid outfit this year!

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