What is a Shepherd’s Plaid?

What is a Shepherd's Plaid? The Newest Textile from Spey

At Spey, we love reimagining classic elements for a fresh, contemporary feel. We fashion, after all, lustrous pearl jewelry for the world’s most powerful women. So it must come as no surprise, given the adoration we have for our namesake River Spey and the launch of our new line of little luxuries, that this holiday season we introduce an exciting new textile to market inspired by the sartorially elegant Scot of lore: the shepherd’s plaid. What is a shepherd’s plaid? Why, my dear, it simply is the most fashionable way to stay comfortably cozy – and to bring home lost lambs.

Until the early twentieth century, a gentle traveler could survey the landscape of the Anglo-Scottish borderlands and see, dotted amongst a flock of sheep and a spray of heather, the lone shepherd standing firm against the elements. His cloak of choice, as had been his father’s and his grandfather’s before him, was the rugged shepherd’s plaid. Simple in construction, the shepherd’s plaid (or maud, to some) was a length of woven wool measuring three to four yards in the traditional border check. This elegant pattern, and its iconic variation called houndstooth, was woven in crosscheck bands of black and white wool – the colors being relative to the natural, un-tinted sheep’s wool that could be had. At a distance, the checks blend together and create a camouflage against the craggy terrain.


The Traditional Scottish Shepherd with Lamb and a Shepherd's Plaid


Not only could our hero the shepherd wrap this length of wool in any manner about his torso (and create a most striking and elegant drape), but he could also use the natural ‘pocket’ created by the folds of the textile to protect young lambs and carry them back to the fold. How gallant. Leap forward to the celebrity of Sir Walter Scott who favored the alternating dark and light check, and one may easily see how this honest, peasant’s garment gained international acclaim. He gives us this insight into how one styles the shepherd’s plaid: “worn over one shoulder and then drawn round the person, leaving one arm free.” Today, the tailored structure (and generous size) is paired with a sophisticated palette to produce a sumptuous wrap that both sexes may enjoy.

The Spey tartan makes a particularly lovely shepherd’s plaid, with the rich color mélange of midnight, scarlet, grey, sky and pearl. When wrapped about an elegant woman and arranged with a good deal of taste, there is neither wind that may rustle nor gentleman that may resist. Enjoy a glass of Champagne during intermission on the veranda of the Kennedy Center with no thought to the evening chill, or bundle-up against the January winds to take in the quadrennial inauguration. Whatever your motivation, the shepherd’s plaid from Spey is a perfectly elegant accessory that gets even better: a portion of all proceeds support the conservation of a perilously threatened freshwater pearl mussel in the River Spey. It certainly is a good day to wear Spey.