Posted on by Ashley Pinchev

The herringbone pattern originated during the Roman Empire. Herringbone is an adaptation of an older pattern called Opus Spicatum, or "spiked work." Although we most commonly see herringbone as a textile pattern or interior design concept nowadays, it was first a construction method for olden day roadways created by the Romans. It was originally inspired by and named for the shape and pattern of the bones of the herring fish. The Romans arranged pavement stones in a herringbone pattern as it was much more sturdy under compression than a simple straight line as the chevron shape allowed for pressure to be spread over more bricks. Though the Romans created the herringbone shape for construction purposes, the Egyptians used herringbone patterns in their jewelry.

In terms of herringbone patterned textiles, the herringbone pattern first emerged in fabrics in ancient day Ireland dating back to 600 B.C. One of the oldest known examples of herringbone fabric is the Shroud of Turin, currently housed in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Northern Italy. Some believe that the shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth. 

After the fall of the Roman empire, these herringbone and chevron patterns became virtually extinct in society until resfurfacing again many decades later in architecture during the European Renaissance. Brunelleschi's Duomo in Florence helped to spur the resurgence of the herringbone pattern across Europe. Brunelleschi used the herringbone method of laying bricks in the cupola in order to add extra strength and solidity to the structure.

 


Herringbone patterns are most often found in woven fabrics of various natural fibers (wool, linen, etc) and utilized to make apparel products such as men's suits and other woven accessories. Though herringbone has a long history in Irish textiles, it also gained popularity in Italy which is where it became a staple fabric for suiting and clothing.