It will come as little surprise that the ‘paisley’ pattern, most
famously used for silk ties and handkerchiefs, is named after the
Scottish Lowland town of Paisley where it was first designed. This
would be enough of a contribution to place the small Scottish town
on the sartorial map of excellence, except it is also the home of
one of the world’s most respected weavers and scarf-makers too.
Begg & Co was established in 1866, when founder Alex Begg
began producing woollen shawls with his small team of trusted
weavers. The town was an important weaving hub in the Victorian
times, and Alex Begg himself can be amongst those credited with
some of the earliest uses of the iconic teardrop pattern –
particularly on the luxurious paisley shawls which survive today.
Two examples of these Begg & Co shawls remain. To see them you
will have to make a pilgrimage to the Paisley Museum, only a short
trip from Glasgow (amidst all the scotch-sampling and hiking that
the region offers, it’s a worthwhile trip).
Begg & Co is no longer based in Paisley but in Ayr on
Scotland’s enigmatic south-west coast – a move that led to the
family investing in new machinery, allowing them to develop
cutting-edge weaving techniques. Over the past 150 years, Begg
& Co has continued to innovate, producing the most gorgeous,
light, delicate, and warm scarves – the product they are now best
known for – in Scottish cashmere or lambswool.
Each item is made in Scotland, produced by expert weavers in
Begg & Co’s Ayrshire factory, put through contemporary and
traditional methods of manufacture that ensure each piece is as
luxurious and durable as it can be. After all, these are not only
scarves ‘to be seen in’ (we’ll come to design a little later) but
to keep the wearer warm and snug on a frosty day.
Each piece of cloth is pummelled for a softer hand-feel using
the same wooden device created by Begg employees themselves 70
years ago. Their characteristic ripple effect (the sign of a good
Scots scarf) occurs from gentle brushing with Italian teasel plant
heads, dampened in mineral-rich Scottish water.
The Scottish landscape is indeed a part of the composition of
each Begg & Co piece. The distinctive earthy tones of each
scarf are themselves drawn from Scotland’s magnificent natural
countryside: the wide expanse of the skies over rolling hills,
valleys and sea. A Begg & Co scarf is more precious than those
imitators picked up over on Princes Street. It is a true product of
Scotland, and the other - arguably more timeless - pride of Paisley