Irish Poplin is a woven fabric that combines silk and worsted wool. Not to be confused with cotton poplin, a common weave for business shirts, Irish Poplin is a historic fabric with the smoothness of silk and the luxurious, soft hand of fine wool. Instead of the glossy shine of a conventional silk tie, it has a warm lustre and a matte finish.
The weaving process for Irish Poplin combines a silk warp and a woollen weft, producing a strong but luxurious woven fabric. It’s been made in the same way in Ireland for three centuries, using the hand looms and know-how passed from one generation to the next. There had long been substantial wool and linen weaving in Ireland, but the crucial event in the story of poplin was the arrival of French Huguenots—essentially religious refugees—around the end of the seventeenth century. French silk weavers revitalised the Dublin weaving trade, focused at the time on linen and wool. This combination of expertise led to the invention of poplin, which became a rapid success. In the nineteenth century, Irish linen and wool manufacturers were severely challenged by imports, but poplin, that uniquely storied cloth, would survive.
Poplin has a long connection to academic institutions. It was used to make the gowns of Dublin’s ancient university, and poplin ties became a favourite on Ivy League campuses in the 1950s, paired with Shetland sweaters and tweed jackets. Now, as then, poplin suits classic designs: club and regimentals stripes, paisley motifs, and small repeated prints, sometimes referred to as ‘neats’. Paisleys combine a storied cloth with a classic pattern and are natural partners to other ‘country’ clothing: tweed, tattersall shirts and knitwear. Club stripes are a traditional way to add colour and interest; they complement odd jackets and blazers in any season.
The deep appeal of Irish poplin can be seen on its surface: a smooth, luxurious cloth with a muted finish. It’s rich yet understated, innovative yet deeply traditional.