A complete guide to plaids with names and pictures explains what plaid is and how it differs from checks and tartans. Plaid is not just a style of fabric used in the textile industry. It has a rich history, especially in Scottish culture.

Collage of plaid fabrics

What is Plaid?

A plaid fabric is composed of stripes that cross at right angles, each with varying widths and colours. Plaids come in many colours, materials and sizes. Plaid fabric can be found with plaid printed on it or woven into it.

Learn more about woven and knit fabrics in my guide to types of fabrics.

Plaid patterns can be found on many fabric types, including wool, cotton, and flannel. Fabrics are chosen based on the final product’s intended use and feel.

Wool, for example, is warm and durable, making it a popular choice for clothing like jackets and scarves, while cotton is breathable and lightweight, making it suitable for plaid shirts. Cotton and wool flannel is soft and brushed, making them perfect for shirts and pyjamas.

Pictures of plaid garments

What is the Difference Between Plaid, Tartan, and Check Fabrics?

Patterned fabrics such as plaids, tartans, and checks feature intersecting lines and squares in various colours but are all different and can be easily confused. Let’s look at the differences between the three styles:

  • Plaid is the over-branching term for many pattern fabrics like modern-day style plaids. Plaids feature intersecting lines and squares of different colours and can be arranged in various ways.
  • Tartan plaid is a traditional type of plaid associated with Scottish history and characterised by crisscrossing stripes of different colours and widths. The different combinations of colours and stripes can convey different meanings depending on the cultural context.
  • Check is a plaid made up of small, even checks or squares like a checkerboard in one colour or more colours.

Types of Plaids

Now that we have discussed the difference between these three plaids let’s dive deeper into the types of plaids found within these categories. There are many styles of plaids within modern-day plaids and tartan plaids.

Modern Plaid Types

While plaid patterns exist in many variations today, modern plaids are more contemporary and updated. Modern plaids often use bold colours, unique colour combinations, and new arrangements of the traditional intersecting lines and squares. Modern plaid designs vary greatly, from abstract and geometric to more traditional and classic.

Popular modern-day plaids include:

  • Buffalo plaid
  • Windowpane plaid
  • Glen plaid
  • Houndstooth
  • Gingham

Buffalo Plaid

In buffalo plaid, large, bold squares are arranged in a checkerboard pattern, typically black and red or black and white. The squares are usually equal in size. You will find shirts, jackets, and blankets made in flannel, wool, or cotton buffalo plaid.

Windowpane Plaid

Modern plaids such as windowpane plaid are characterised by large, rectangular squares in different colours arranged in a grid pattern, creating a windowpane appearance. Shirts, jackets, tailored skirts, and suits are commonly made of windowpane plaid.

Glen Plaid

Modern plaids like Glen plaid feature small, overlapping squares in different colours. There is a criss-cross pattern between the squares, creating the appearance of woven fabric. Also known as the Prince of Wales plaid as it was named after Prince of Wales Edward VIII, who liked this plaid for suits. Suits and other formal clothing items, as well as curtains, are often made from Glen plaid.


For many decades, houndstooth has been a classic and timeless pattern. This pattern originated in Scotland in the 19th century and was originally used for outerwear and suits for men. This pattern is made up of small, broken check shapes of black and white or other contrasting colours. During the 1920s and 1930s, the houndstooth became a symbol of sophistication and elegance.


Often associated with summer and country living, gingham is a classic pattern with large, even-sized squares in one or two colours. Typically, gingham squares range from 1/4 inch to 1 inch in size. Since the 18th century, gingham has been popular in various forms for many decades. Country life and rural life are associated with gingham, an original fabric used for men’s shirts.

Top Left to Right: Gingham, Houndstooth. Bottom Left to Right: Buffalo Check, Windowpane.

Tartan Plaid Types

Tartan plaid is a type of plaid pattern associated with Scotland and has a rich cultural history. It is characterised by crisscrossing stripes of different colours and widths that cross each other at right angles. The combinations of colours and stripes can represent Scottish clans and family histories. Some of these are famous and well-known, such as:

  • Blackwatch Tartan
  • Lindsay Tartan
  • Royal Stewart Tartan
  • Clan Wallace Tartan
Variety of different plaid fabrics draped

Blackwatch Tartan

Known for its distinctive stripes of dark green, blue, and black, the Black Watch Tartan is a traditional Scottish plaid pattern. In 1725, the Black Watch Regiment was formed to patrol the Highlands, and it is one of the most recognisable Scottish tartans. In its origins, the Black Watch Tartan is associated with the Highlands of Scotland and its clans. Initially, the Highlanders used this pattern to distinguish themselves from other clans and for various clothing items, such as kilts, scarves, and hats.

Lindsay Tartan Plaid

As one of Scotland’s oldest and most prominent clans, the Lindsay clan dates to the 12th century and is maroon and green colours. As one of the most distinctive tartans in Scotland, the Lindsay tartan is associated with the Crawford and Balcarres lands in Scotland. In addition to being a symbol of the clan’s proud history, the Lindsay Tartan is widely recognised as a symbol of Scottish identity. Many people wear Lindsay Tartan for traditional Highland clothing, such as kilts, and modern accessories to show their heritage and connection to Scotland.

Royal Stewart Tartan

Known as the Royal Stewart Tartan, a traditional Scottish plaid pattern, it has been associated with the Royal House of Stewart, one of Scotland’s oldest and most prominent families. One of the most widely used tartans in Scotland, the Royal Stewart Tartan is considered the personal tartan of the Royal Family, and it is well known and widely worn worldwide. A striking and eye-catching pattern is created by the bold red, blue, and green colour scheme, complementing white and yellow stripes. The Royal Family began using this tartan in the 16th century to distinguish themselves from other clans and families in Scotland.

Clan Wallace Tartan

White and yellow stripes add a striking and distinctive touch to the Wallace Modern Tartan, a bold blue, green, and red colour scheme. According to legend, this tartan is influenced by the green hills, blue lochs, and red heather of Scotland’s natural landscape that dates back to 1842.

Many variations exist of Wallace Tartan, which may differ in colour, size, and arrangement of the stripes and other design elements. Some of the more common variations include:

  • Ancient Wallace Tartan – an older version of the modern Wallace Tartan, this variation features muted colours with more earthy tones. The red is more orange.
  • Wallace Hunting or Green Tartan – this variation of the modern Wallace tartan was designed for remaining camouflage while hunting. The modern version has navy blue, bottle green, and a yellow stripe, while the ancient version is a softer, mossy green.
  • MacFarlane Black and White Modern Tartan – originally designed in 1842, the MacFarlane version of the Wallace tartan plaid is suitable for special and formal evening events and occasions. It is a black and white tartan known as a Wallace Dress.
  • Wallace Blue Dress Tartan – a variation of a dress tartan, the Wallace Blue Dress is suitable for special occasions. The colours consist of lots of white and blue tones. Highland Dancers typically wear the Wallace Blue Dress.
Types of tartan plaids

To Sum Up – Plaids

In conclusion, plaids are a versatile and popular style of fabric that comes in various colours, materials, and patterns. Plaids have evolved into different styles with a rich history and cultural significance, including modern-day plaids and tartan plaids.

Whether you’re looking for a bold buffalo plaid, sophisticated Glen plaid, or classic gingham, there is a plaid pattern to suit everyone’s taste. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the different types of plaids with names and pictures, helping you make an informed decision when choosing plaid fabric for your next project.

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