A DEEP DIVE INTO… TIE DYE   

From packet dyes to peace signs, we break down the history of tie dye and why we love it so much today.

WORDS BY REBECCA RHYS-EVANS

When you see tie dye, what do you think of? Hippies at Woodstock? How hot Heath Ledger looked in Lords of Dogtown? The fact you need to get your eyes tested? So drenched in nostalgia, tie dye is one of those trends that has you yearning for a by-gone time, one that maybe you weren’t around for in the first place.

Here at KOIBIRD we champion print and propagate colour, so it will come as no surprise that tie dye is a staple. It’s vibrant, one of a kind, and possesses a free-spirited attitude. The unofficial emblem of being chill, it’s not something you’ll find in the wardrobes of those that consider themselves serious. In fact, you can only really think of laid back, fun-loving people who wear it. Gigi Hadid? Yes. ASAP Rocky, Rihanna? Uh-huh. But Donald Trump? Definitely not. A trend that has gone in and out of fashion favour over the decades carries a rich history. It’s not just packet dyes and your dad’s Grateful Dead records lurking at the back of the loft, although yes, these are an integral part. It’s a symbol of freedom.

ANCIENT HISTORY


But let’s go back before a bit, because believe it or not, it wasn’t born 60 years ago when people were ‘dropping acid, not bombs.’ Actually, earliest records of tie dying date back to ancient Asia. Appearing in China and Japan as early as the 6th century – during the T’ang Dynasty and Nara Period – berries, leaves, roots and flowers were used as natural dyes for clothing, which were then boiled with fabrics to colour them with different hues. Soon after a similar technique appeared in India, with a practice known as Bandhani. A method still commonly used today, threads are embroidered into bindings to create intricate patterns before being dipped dyed.

ANCIENT HISTORY


But let’s go back before a bit, because believe it or not, it wasn’t born 60 years ago when people were ‘dropping acid, not bombs.’ Actually, earliest records of tie dying date back to ancient Asia. Appearing in China and Japan as early as the 6th century – during the T’ang Dynasty and Nara Period – berries, leaves, roots and flowers were used as natural dyes for clothing, which were then boiled with fabrics to colour them with different hues. Soon after a similar technique appeared in India, with a practice known as Bandhani. A method still commonly used today, threads are embroidered into bindings to create intricate patterns before being dipped dyed.

SWINGING 60s


DIY tie dye made its biggest impact in the USA in the 60s, a decade characterised by civil unrest, racial inequality, political scandal, war and ultimately, change. With the introduction of Rit packet dyes in 1964, the process was cheap, creative and colourful, which appealed to a younger generation fighting against the uniform of uptight 50s America. Sold at Woodstock festival (1969), as well as Grateful Dead concerts in Oregon, tie dyed garments soon became synonymous with hippies, the exploration of sexuality, love, peace and liberty.

GOING GRUNGE


But don’t just consider the cast of Almost Famous when considering tie dye’s musical influence, because 90s grunge went there too. Actually, when a Deadhead and a Rock N’ Roll groupie had a love child (and no doubt they did….), it probably came out as Kurt Cobain. In the early 90s surf and grunge subcultures in SoCal and Seattle began reclaiming tie dye in pastel hues, swapping out bell bottom jeans for acid wash and flannel shirts, and free-love psychedelica for angry electric guitar. Ultimately, tie dye is so deeply connected to music culture and youth, you can’t attend a festival anywhere in the world – be it Coachella or Glastonbury – without witnessing it.

TODAY


So enough about the past and into the present. Why are we so obsessed with it today? Thanks to luxury labels such as Prada, Dries Van Noten and Stella McCartney, tie dye reemerged in 2019. Even Starbucks offering a wellness-influenced tie dye Frappuccino, with turmeric, spirulina and beetroot (yuck!). Everyone from Rihanna, J.Lo and Jonah Hill were donning it, and not just as oversized t-shirts, but jeans, sweats, hats… you name it, 2019 did it! If it wasn’t for the pandemic, perhaps tie dye would have waned like many other trends. But with its fun, DIY nature, cheap process and ability to transform 2020’s most-loved staple, loungewear – it was an inevitable hit when we were all stuck at home. And we’re not mad about it! Because what’s not to love? It’s timeless, it evokes happiness, it’s invariably gender-neutral, oh, and it’s really unapologetically colourful.

MORE FROM THE BIRDWORD

INSIDE THE STUDIO WITH LA DETRESSE

We go behind the seams with Emily Perlstein and Alana Hadid, the power-duo behind LA loungewear label, La Detresse.

KOIBIRD BREAKS A SWEAT

KOIBIRD’s new season is here... You better get ready to sweat!

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2021:
A Q&A WITH OUR FEMALE-FOUNDED BRANDS
 

From their biggest business highlights to the hurdles they’ve overcome, we ask some of our female-founded brand leaders about being a woman in business.

Shopping Bag

We ship worldwide. Free express delivery on all orders over ${currency_symbol_input}${cart_note_currency_value}.

close Created with Sketch.
Group 10 Created with Sketch.

YOUR CART IS CURRENTLY EMPTY.
BAD TIMES.

Subtotal
£0

Shipping calculated at checkout.