How To Wear Plaid Pants

  We would say plaid is back, but actually, it never left.

image for article How To Wear Plaid Pants

We would say plaid is back, but actually, it never left. Keep reading to discover how to wear this evergreen trend with fun, sophistication, and confidence. 

Why Is Plaid So Popular?

Plaid is a print that has permeated our culture, whether it be on scarves, blazers, or even couches. While the print is still in frequent use by modern fashion designers today, it has a rich history both within the U.S. and beyond:

  • Originating in Scotland as early as the 1500s, plaid (also known as tartan) made its way to America through the clothing of lumberjacks in the 19th century.
  • Plaid became commonplace in the 1970s and was also associated with the punk counterculture in Britain.
  • In the ‘80s, plaid got a bit of a makeover, transitioning from its rebellious connotations to a more preppy style.
  • Later, during the 1990s, plaid cemented itself in each of these separate categories, existing both as a staple print for grunge and band culture and as a classy pattern thanks to films like Clueless.  

The Benefits of Vintage Plaid

Since plaid is still trending today, why should you take the time to look for vintage pieces? There are several reasons, actually. Shopping vintage means shopping more sustainably, as well as often finding higher-quality options at lower price points.

Not only that, but it’s just plain fun. Plaid has a rich history, after all, so getting your hands on a good, vintage find means that you're snagging a part of the past. Whether you style some ‘70s punk plaid or some ‘80s preppy plaid in your outfit, you can strut your stuff knowing that you own a part of history.  

Styling Your Black Plaid Pants

While something as simple as black plaid seems pretty straightforward, it actually comes in many variations, and depending on what you pair it with, you can change the entire mood of your look.

We’re here to take you through your best black plaid outfits for different occasions, using some of Thrilling’s awesome vintage pants. When planning your next look, start by identifying what level of formality you’re going for, and then build your outfit accordingly.

Let’s take a look:

Business Casual

Wearing the same three pairs of solid-colored slacks to the office can get a little mundane, to say the least. Plaid is super versatile and totally appropriate for your next business meeting, especially in neutral shades like black and white. 

Types of Plaid To Look For:

  • These black and white plaid pants from the ‘50s are a perfect addition to a business casual look. Like we described earlier, plaid can be preppy, and a pair of simple plaid pants can make for a classy pattern. This look can spice up your office wear while still looking sleek and professional. 
  • On top of that, they’re high-waisted, which aligns with the modern trend that we see in a lot of pants today. Something like this wool material will also keep you warm and cozy, especially if your office is prone to that icy, corporate air conditioning.   

What To Pair It With:

  • These types of plaid pants would pair wonderfully with a solid black or solid white blouse tucked into the waistband. They will look great with classic button-down shirts and flowy tops alike. While pairing with a black or white top is a natural choice, you can definitely explore a pop of color as well. 
  • For example, throw on this ‘70s maroon blazer for some added vibrance to your look. If you choose to go with a fun color in your outwear, keep your base blouse in shades of nice black or white to stay looking extra sharp.     

Super Punk

On the completely opposite end of the spectrum from business wear lies a grungy, electrifying punk outfit. We constantly see punk fashion bursting at the seams from our culture, especially in the styles of hipsters or musicians. Just this year, Willow Smith and Avril Lavigne filmed a music video dressed in fun, colorful plaid pants

The combination of black and bright colors within a plaid pattern makes for an especially punk print, and playing around with pants like these can really let you unleash your inner grunge.  

Types of Plaid To Look For:

What To Pair It With:

  • Just pair these with an oversized, graphic t-shirt or cropped, black tank top to complete your look. When it comes to shoes and accessorizing, boots and chain jewelry will give you that punk flair.  
  • Another way to wow yourself, and everyone else at the club, is by pairing colorful plaid with a matching blazer. If you go with an awesome pantsuit option, we recommend leaving the blazer open over a fitted, black top. 

Classic, Leisure Wear

In the middle ground between business attire and punk is everyday, casual wear. We all need something simple to wear out to lunch with a friend, don’t we?

Types of Plaid To Look For:

  • Something like these classic black, navy, and green plaid pants from the ‘80s are the perfect item to elevate your look above jeans or sweatpants as you go about your day. While still colorful, they have a nice subtlety about them.

What To Pair It With:

  • We may sound like a broken record, but you really can’t go wrong by pairing plaids like this with a tucked-in, black top. If you want to branch out, match your top with other colors in the print and pair these pants with something like a cropped navy t-shirt.

Out on the Town

Any of the options we have looked at thus far have the potential to be either dressed up or dressed down, but let’s look at what kind of style is especially well-suited to going out on the town. 

Types of Plaid To Look For:

  • These ‘70s plaid bell bottoms make for an awesome statement piece, marked by their signature wide leg. A fit like this adds a bit of fun and intrigue to your outfit.

What To Pair It With:

  • When you want to dress up your pants, try pairing them with something like this ‘60s black velvet jacket with white trim. A slight spin on the blazer pairing we looked at earlier, this jacket can be worn over black and white plaid with some sharp, black heels.

Velvet, in particular, is a great material when you're looking to dress up, and it will ensure that you look polished and classy.

The Perfect Pattern

In a lot of ways, plaid really is the perfect pattern. You can dress it up, you can dress it down, it can be styled for business, and it can be styled for punk rock. That’s a lot of versatility. 

If you know what to pair them with, black plaid pants really can suit any occasion. And what’s a more exciting way to find a pair than by shopping vintage? Finding special, unique pieces can be really personally rewarding.

Whether you wear a black and white print to your next lunch meeting or a bright red pantsuit out to a concert, you hold the potential to walk with poise, preppiness, and spunk. 


How Did Plaid Become Popular? | Bustle 

5 Reasons To Shop Vintage | Reader’s Digest 

Willow Smith Teams Up with 'Idol' Avril Lavigne for Her New Pop-Punk Music Video | People 

Back to Style Archive