Paisley print has been a staple in fashion for decades. Known for its intricate, swirling patterns usually in vibrant colors, paisley has long been associated with hippie and bohemian styles. However, in recent years, paisley has taken a turn towards the mod aesthetic. This unique blend makes for an exciting new trend that pays homage to the past while looking ahead to the future.

The Origins of Paisley

To understand how paisley took a mod turn, it helps to examine the origins of the distinctive print. Paisley has its roots in Persia, where weavers created lush, teardrop-shaped motifs inspired by the cypress tree. These designs were called “boteh” and were used to decorate shawls and textiles.

When the paisley shawls made their way into Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, the patterns became highly sought-after by nobility and the upper classes. Manufacturers in England and Scotland began replicating the look, eventually naming it “paisley” after the town of Paisley, Scotland known for its textile production.

Over time, paisley migrated from the realm of the elite to mainstream fashion. By the 1960s, it became emblematic of the psychedelic era and was a defining print for bohemian styles. Hippies and rockers sported paisley in bold colors, cementing its reputation as a symbol of counterculture and creative expression.

The Mod Style Movement

While paisley took off among hippies and bohemians, simultaneously, the mod subculture was also on the rise. Short for “modernists,” the mods were a youth movement influenced by modern jazz, European art films, Italian scooters, and distinctive fashions.

The mods had an edgy, avant-garde aesthetic that differed dramatically from the earthy, flowing styles of the hippies. They favored sleek, minimalist clothing often in black, white, and bold pops of color. Some of their key looks included tailored suits, trench coats, polo shirts, miniskirts, and dresses.

Instead of free-spirited and natural, the mod style exuded sophistication and polish. Many mods rode sleek Vespa or Lambretta scooters, further amplifying their sharp, modern image. The movement originated in London in the 1950s and soon spread to other parts of England and the United States. Musically, the mods were into R&B, soul, and early rock.

The Marriage of Paisley and Mod Fashion

At first glance, paisley and mod designs seem like unlikely companions. However, when blended thoughtfully, they create an intriguing juxtaposition of patterns, textures, and eras.

In the mid-1960s, forward-thinking designers began incorporating paisley motifs into mod-inspired creations. The billowy paisley took on a sleek new look when cut into mod-style shifts and tailored dresses. Designers like Yves Saint Laurent artfully integrated paisley into structured, modern silhouettes with stunning results.

Paisley popped up in women’s mod fashion on fabrics like cotton, velvet, and chiffon. It provided the perfect accent on otherwise minimalist dresses, adding a psychedelic edge to an outfit. Both men and women in the mod scene wore rich paisley patterns on slim ties, pocket squares, and button-downs. The intricate paisley stood out against dark mod suits in a creative, non-conformist way.

Mod fashion also utilized paisley in innovative, unconventional ways. They might cut paisley patterns into interesting geometrical shapes or use it unexpectedly as an lining or accent. Pop art of the 1960s further cemented paisley’s connection to the mod aesthetic by using it in bright, graphic ways.

The British Invasion and Monkees

The British Invasion brought mod influences and paisley stateside. Bands like The Beatles and The Who cemented the mod look in American pop culture. Musicians sported slim-fitting paisley suits and embroidered tunics that resonated both musically and fashion-wise.

The Monkees in particular embraced the marriage of paisley and mod styles. In their television series and film, band members wore paisley shirts, vests, and jackets that perfectly blended kitschy, psychedelic patterns with their mod clothing. Album covers like Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. feature vivid paisley designs that became iconic of the era.

Paisley Today: A Continuing Trend

So how did this 1960s style fusion remain relevant over fifty years later? While paisley ebbs and flows in popularity, it never fully disappears from the fashion landscape. The pattern reliably reemerges, whether it’s in the free-spirited 90s or the renewal of retro styles.

However, the modern paisley style still carries touches of its mod glory days. Today, you’ll see paisley patterns integrated into structured, tailored pieces that artfully echo the mod aesthetic. Contemporary designs combine the elaborate quality of paisley with sleek, minimalist modern lines.

Designers like Stella McCartney, Etro, and Alberta Ferretti have created collections marrying boho paisley with streamlined forms. The contrast between organic lines and geometric shapes gives depth and interest to the look. Sophisticated takes on mod paisley also pop up regularly in fast fashion retailers like Zara and H&M.

On the men’s fashion front, paisley continues to embellish sleek suits, shirts, and ties. Paisley offers subtle psychedelic flair to an otherwise refined, reserved outfit. Modern renditions tend to use less vivid palettes like navy, gray, and ivory. Men can also incorporate smaller-scale paisleys into formal outfits without looking over-the-top.

Some staple ways paisley maintains its mod edge today include:

  • Tailored paisley blazers or suit jackets
  • Slim-fitting dresses with paisley hems or accents
  • Cropped paisley pants or smart shorts
  • Crisp button-downs with small-scale paisley print
  • Skinny paisley ties in bold accent colors
  • Short sleeve polo shirts with paisley collars or pockets
  • Subtle paisley details on cuffs, pockets, or seams
  • Paisley shoes – loafers, boots, or oxfords

By selecting clean, structured garments and adding a touch of elaborate paisley, the modern user can capture the spirit of 60s mod while looking current.

How to Style Mod Paisley Fashion

Want to try the mod paisley look yourself? Here are some tips for both women and men:

For Women

  • Pair a paisley shift dress with tall boots for a mod-inspired look.
  • Combine a paisley pencil skirt with a simple black sweater or turtleneck.
  • For a touch of retro flair, wear a Barbie pink blazer with white buttons and bold paisley lining.
  • Make paisley the star by selecting a brightly patterned fabric. Or use it as an accent by opting for paisley trim or collar on a solid dress.
  • Go for ankle-length cropped pants in a vibrant paisley print. Combine them with a black top and stylish flats.
  • Choose mod accessories like a thick headband, geometric earrings, or a colorful circle handbag.

For Men

  • Layer a tailored paisley blazer over a black turtleneck and trousers for 60s flair.
  • Slip on oxford shoes with a small-scale paisley pattern for a hint of retro style.
  • Pair a micro-paisley button-down with straight leg chinos and loafers for vintage sophistication.
  • Go bold with a mod-style thin tie in swirls of orange, yellow, and green paisley.
  • Opt for a crisp pocket square or scarf with a muted paisley design.
  • Try a fitted polo, crew neck, or scoop neck tee with an allover micro paisley pattern.

Paisley Photography & Decor Ideas

Beyond fashion, paisley remains a popular print for home decor and photography backdrops. Here are some creative ideas for using mod paisley aesthetics in design and decor:

  • Choose paisley patterned fabric as a background for mod-themed photo shoots. Hanging bold paisley drapes creates drama.
  • Upholster a retro armchair or bench seat in a lush velvet paisley. Use sparingly to make it pop.
  • Find wallpapers with enlarged paisley patterns reminiscent of the psychedelic sixties era. Use as an accent wall or shelve lining.
  • Blend paisley with mod geometrics. Try squares, circles, or chevron stripes mixed with softer paisley.
  • Add a paisley rug with bright colors like orange, hot pink, and turquoise. The vividness evokes retro style.
  • Pair polished chrome midcentury furniture with sixties paisley cushions and throw pillows.
  • For table settings, use paisley napkins, charger plates, or placemats combined with sleek mod dishes.
  • Look for ceramic planters, vases, candles, and trays etched in swirling paisley motifs.

Paisley’s Ever-Changing Allure

Paisley remains one of the most versatile and adaptable prints. Its elaborate swirls and tear drop shapes transform to fit the era’s prevailing mood and styles. In the 1960s, designers married traditional paisley with mod minimalism for a novel look symbolic of the times.

Today, paisley continues to evolve. Modern fast fashion and high-end runways reimagine paisley yet again – this time blended with sleek, contemporary forms and accessories. Through each iteration, paisley retains an allure that pays homage to its heritage while feeling fresh and current. The blend of retro and modern keeps paisley eternally chic.

FAQ About Paisley’s Place in Mod Fashion

Paisley and mod style may seem like odd bedfellows at first, but their fusion in the 1960s created an iconic look that continues to inspire fashion today. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about how paisley took a turn for the mod.

Q: Why did paisley become popular among mod youth culture?

A: Although paisley originated from traditional Persian textiles, the psychedelic rock era transformed it into a symbol of counterculture and creative expression. Mods seeking a way to incorporate this freewheeling attitude into their minimalist aesthetic adopted paisley as an edgy, artistic accent piece.

Q: How did musicians like The Beatles influence the paisley mod trend?

A: Musicians that young mods looked up to started sporting paisley accents on their slim tailored suits and uniforms. Seeing paisley on modern, “cool” bands like The Beatles validated the print as part of the mod style.

Q: Where would you see mod paisley fashion in the 1960s?

A: Paisley mod style could be seen on the streets of London and Liverpool, in television shows like The Monkees, and on celebrities like Twiggy. In the U.S., youth wearing paisley mod looks congregated on Sunset Strip and Haight-Ashbury.

Q: What key mod pieces did paisley accentuate?

A: Paisley livened up mod staples like dress suits, slim ties, tunics, dresses, and trench coats. It added a unique touch on collars, hems, linings, embroidery, and accessories.

Q: How do modern designers keep the paisley mod look current?

A: Contemporary renditions focus on integrating paisley motifs into sleek, minimalist silhouettes. Smaller scale paisley and muted color palettes give a subtle mod twist to today’s styles.

Q: Who tends to wear the modern paisley mod aesthetic?

A: The mod paisley look appeals to various groups including artists, musicians, fashion forward youth, and professionals seeking vintage sophistication. It fits many personal styles.

Q: What are fun ways to use paisley prints in home decor?

A: Paisley makes a lively accent on wallpapers, rugs, pillows, fabrics, and tableware. Pair with midcentury shapes and metallics for a mod vibe.

Q: Does paisley work for both men’s and women’s fashion?

A: Definitely! Paisley adds flair to both traditional men’s pieces like blazers, button-downs, and neckties, as well as women’s dresses, skirts, and jackets.


Paisley’s blend with mod style in the 1960s created an iconic fusion that brilliantly captured the era’s revolutionary spirit. By merging elaborate paisley shapes with minimalist forms, designers struck the perfect balance between past and future. Musicians like The Beatles and The Monkees rapidly spread the craze internationally through their embrace of the paisley mod aesthetic.

Today, paisley continues to reinvent itself while offering glimpses back to its bohemian and mod days. Fashion consistently returns to this eclectic print as a way to inject color, retro flair, and artistry into any look. With its timeless appeal, paisley holds a special place in the worlds of music, fashion, and design. The mod movement showed how paisley could move seamlessly from being a symbol of the establishment to one of youthful rebellion. That versatility and ability to transform ensures paisley never goes out of style.