Choosing a paisley pattern for a tattoo is an interesting answer to that age-old conundrum: “I really like tattoos, but I can’t think of something I’d want to have on my body forever.”
What do you think of when you imagine paisley print?
Maybe a bandana, the lining of a jacket or a tie, an intricate pattern on a woven carpet, the Mehndi designs on a bride’s hands… you may not think about paisley much in your day-to-day, but the pattern is everywhere and has been for centuries!
Many people experience this when they think of tattoos in the literal sense.
If you get an image from your favorite movie, a line from a well-loved book, or the name of someone you love, you may live to regret the choice.
What’s cool about something like a floral print, a geometric tattoo pattern or a paisley tattoo is the abstract nature of it.
You can enjoy the beauty of your tattoo without having the image tied to one specific thing.
And you can adjust the tattoo design to your liking.
Paisley is so versatile.
When we refer to “paisley print” we are talking about that curvy teardrop shape that appears on so many fabrics and wallpapers.
The teardrop is usually surrounded by dots, circles, or curlicues, and most paisley designs feature several of these shapes mingling with one another in all kinds of dazzling ways.
Paisley tattoos can be one color, a wild burst of colors, or black and white.
You can have one teardrop shape or several intersecting ones.
The possibilities are endless and there are no rules.
But that doesn’t mean paisley doesn’t come with its own history and significance.
Unless you have a degree in fashion design, textiles, or come from their country of origin, you’ve probably never thought about the story behind most patterns we know and love today; but they are often fascinating!
The History of Paisley
If you call it paisley print, you’re probably from a Caucasian corner of the world.
This print has been around since 221 AD and has its roots in Persia.
In the Middle East, this print is still extremely popular and typically goes by the name boteh jegheh, or mankolam in the Tamil culture because of its resemblance to a mango.
The reason the print has become so wildly popular worldwide is because of the silk trade.
During the 17th century, the East India Company began exporting shawls with paisley designs throughout the UK.
People in the UK fell in love with the design but realized it would be expensive to import.
The original shawl and pashmina designs would also take a long time to make, as they were fashioned from an intricate mixture of tapestry and weaving.
The boteh jegheh, or mankolam, got its new name when weavers began producing it in Scotland.
The town of Paisley in Renfrewshire took up the task of mass-producing the print for the people of the UK, and from there it was known colloquially as paisley print.
What Does the Boteh Jegheh Mean?
The print was inspired by the flowers of the cypress tree, a symbol of life and eternity for followers of pre-Islamic Zoroastrianism, a religion that has survived in remote areas to this day.
This religion is said to be the basis for belief systems in Christian and Judaic traditions as it is a monotheistic faith.
This may also be where the seeds for the Judeo-Christian concept of the tree of life were planted.
One of the central concepts in Zoroastrianism is dualism, put simply the struggle between good and evil.
This struggle is somewhat reflected in the boteh jegheh, as it looks similar to a Yin-Yang, another Eastern symbol that represents the duality present in all things.
Because it is a symbol for life and eternity, it is also naturally a fertility symbol.
There are those who find humor in the fact that paisley print is often seen on ties, which are essentially an arrow pointing to a person’s groin.
Interesting how symbols find a way of retaining their original meaning…
The pattern has also been embraced by the Tamil people because of its resemblance to a mango.
The mango fruit has a special place in this culture and is seen as a symbol of peace, prosperity, and good health.
Paisley in Pop Culture
Since its 17th century spread, paisley has been seen on many celebrities.
From Oscar Wilde, to Jennifer Anniston!
The Beatles enjoyed this print, and John Lennon famously made over his Rolls Royce with a groovy design inspired by paisley.
Common Themes In Paisley Tattoos
There are so many ways to express your love for this playful tattoo.
- Paisley Peacock Tattoos
Many people incorporate paisley tattoos into the tail feathers of a peacock tattoo, which already somewhat resemble the paisley print.
- Paisley Tree Tattoos
Take the pattern back to its roots by getting a tree tattoo with paisley leaves.
- Floral Paisley Tattoos
Paisley tattoos blend with any tattoo design, so if you want to emphasize the feminine power of the shape, you may decide to surround it with flower tattoos.
- Small Paisley Tattoos
- Paisley Tattoo Sleeve
Paisley Tattoo Ideas
Paisley, like so many things, is something with a rich history that has blended into our cultural mood board.
If you’re going to get a paisley tattoo- reflect on the majestic history you’re drawing from before taking the plunge.
Looking for some gorgeous inspiration?
Check out our gallery for some paisley inspiration!