Buffalo Plaid in America
From lumberjacks to Biggie Smalls, the buffalo plaid shirt has been a men’s clothing staple for decades. The tartan patch design originated 100 years earlier but varied in color. Color signified what region of the country a man was from and the tartan design was worn to symbolize a man’s home. Eventually, as men began traveling abroad, they would proudly wear their tartan plaid as a “coat-of-arms”.
During the mid 1800s and the Western expansion, a man named Jock McCluskey began trading his thick checkered wool blankets (in deep red and black hues that symbolized his homeland) with the Native Americans in exchange for buffalo – which gave way to the popular Buffalo plaid terminology.
The pattern became known as the uniform of the West but it wasn’t a national craze until 1916 when a pamphlet advertising the Red River Lumber Company featured a lumberjack named Paul Bunyan was decked in buffalo plaid.
Eventually Cowboy westerns became popular in Hollywood and the hero of the film seemed to always wear buffalo plaid. Manufacturers began producing the design like crazy and men and women who wanted to emulate the characters from the big screen scooped it up.
To this day, no matter the brand or manufacturer, it seems that every retail company has some time or another, produced a buffalo plaid design. Even though the tartan check originates from centuries ago, its evident that there is no other company that is more closely related to the pattern than Woolrich Woolen Mills who has produced the style since the mid 1800’s.